Andreas' History of the State of Nebraska

Hall County
Produced by
Kaylynn Loveland.

Hall County | Early History

Wild Game in the County | Indian Depredations | The Great Storm
Grasshoppers | Old Settlers | Saw and Grist Mills
Agriculture | Public Improvements


Grand Island:  Early History of Grand Island | U. P. Railroad Shops
Grand Island Buildings | Newspapers | Churches | Schools | Societies

 4 ~ 5:
Biographical Sketches:


Doniphan:  Doniphan Biographies
Wood River:  Wood River Biographies

List of Illustrations in Hall County Chapter

Part 6


   This is a young and thriving little town situated on the south side of the Platte River, on a level and fertile prairie about twelve miles south from Grand Island, and on the line of the St. Joseph & Western Railroad. It has a population of about 200.

   The town is a new one, having been started in 1879. At that time the settlers on or near the town site were W. J. Buyer and Henry Dennam, who had been living on farms here for some tine. The railroad station and town were named in honor of Col. Doniphan, of St. Joseph, who was attorney for the St. Joseph & Western Railroad.

   The first settler in the town was Samuel Beidelman. He was soon followed by others. Among them were Charles Dufford, S. H. Lakins, S. Gibson and E. Upson.

   The first store in the town was opened August 25, 1879, by Upson Bros., on Plum Street.

   The postoffice was established sometime during the fall of 1879, and Samuel Beidelman was appointed postmaster.

   The first school taught after the location of the town of Doniphan was in the fall of 1879, and was taught by Miss Emma Smith, in the old district schoolhouse, which had been built in 1874. The school is still taught in the above mentioned schoolhouse, but arrangements are now being made to erect a large building, on the townsite at an early date.

   The first birth occurred on February 9, 1880. The child was named Jennie M. Stout, but she lived but a short time.

   The first marriage in the town took place October 30, 1881, and the contracting parties were L. M. Brewer and Miss Anna M. Wharry.

   The Doniphan flouring mills were erected in the year 1881, and began operations in November of that year. The mill was erected by W. J. Buyer, on the public square.

   The first sermon preached in the village was by Rev. Rockway, Presiding Elder of the Methodist Episcopal Church, at Buyer & McCulloch's hall, and took place on Monday evening, July 18, 1881. On the Sunday following, sermons were preached there by Rev. E. A. McCullum, of the Presbyterian Church; Rev. Mr. Sweeney, of the Christian; and Rev. Mr. Thurber of the Methodist Episcopal Church.

   Church societies of the three above named denominations were at once organized. There has not yet been any church building erected, but all these societies are making preparations to build at an early date.

   The Doniphan Index is the only newspaper published here. It is a bright and newsy weekly, edited and published by Charles Kelsey. It is lively and enterprising, and has done much to aid the substantial progress of the town.

   Charles Kelsey came to Nebraska, December 28, 1879, and located at Hastings. Worked there as a printer until April 1, 1881, when he removed to Doniphan, and began the publication of the Index. He was born at Aurora, Dearborn Co., Ind., June 13, 1853. When fifteen years old he removed to Neillville, Wis., and began learning the printer's trade. In 1874, he went to Chicago, where he worked on the Chicago Times two years. In 1876, he removed to Victor, Iowa, and bought an interest in the Victor Index, on which he worked until coming to Nebraska. He was married in Victor, Iowa, November 29, 1877, to Miss Frances E. Brown. They have two children--Paul F., born in Victor, Iowa, November 20, 1878; and Lillie B., born at Hastings, Neb., February 18, 1881.


   W. J. BURGER, firm of Burger & McCulloch, dealers in general merchandise, agricultural implements and all kinds of grain. Mr. B. also deals largely in live stock. He located in Doniphan in 1864; followed ranching, farming, and stock raising; opened the merchandise trade in May, 1881. He owns the town site of Doniphan, 240 acres on Section 36, Town 10, range 10, 160 cultivated; 240 acres, all cultivated, on Section 12, Town 9, Range 10 joining town site, 60 acres joining town site on north Section 5, Town 10, Range 9, with 20 acres under cultivation. He is Notary Public in the village of Doniphan. He was born in Cedar County, Mo., February 12, 1844. His parents moved to Glenwood, Iowa, in 1849. He lived there until 1860, when he went into the stock business in Colorado, Denver and that vicinity, for three years; then came to Doniphan, Neb. He was married in Glenwood, Iowa, in 1864, to Miss Martha A. Creason, of Eastern, Iowa. They have four children--Flora A., Jeanette, Albert Doniphan, and Mary Menota.

   SAMUEL FRY, firm of Fry & Beidelman, dealers in groceries, boots and shoes, and farmer's produce. Opened business in the fall of 1880. Carries a stock of $1,500. He first came to Doniphan, Neb., in 1880. Born in Holmes County, Ohio, February 1, 1839; lived in his native State until 1850, when his people moved to Winterset, Iowa. Enlisted December 11, 1862, in Co. H, 11th Regiment Illinois Cavalry. Was in several skirmishes; taken prisoner at Holly Springs, June 21, 1863; held sixteen days as prisoner. Mustered out in Memphis, Tenn.; paid off in Springfield, Ill. Went to St. Louis, Mo., and engaged in the grocery trade until he came to Nebraska. Was married in the latter city in 1870 to Miss Madeline Enders, of Baden, Germany. Have one son, named Joseph Albert. Mr. Fry owns a farm of eighty acres of land joining the town site, all under cultivation, and has a brick yard on the same.

   DR. C. T. POE, physician and surgeon, Doniphan, Hall Co., Neb. He first located on a homestead on Section 2, Town 9, Range 10, South Platte Precinct. Farmed there for five years and practiced medicine. Then moved to Grand Island, where he continued practice. Was County Physician three years. He relocated in Doniphan village in the fall of 1880, where he has since practiced. He attended a practitioners' course of lectures at the St. Joseph Hospital Medical College in the winter and spring of 1882, where he received the degree of M. D. Born in Richmond, Va., March 27, 1830. Parents moved to Cincinnati, Ohio, when he was a child; moved to Galesburg, Ill., in 1845 and lived two years. Attended a preparatory college school; then moved to Morgan County, Ill., where he made his home until he came to Nebraska. Began reading medicine in 1842. Graduated from Cincinnati Medical Institute in 1853. Practiced medicine in various places in Ohio and Illinois. Attended a course of lectures in Michigan University, Ann Arbor. Was employed as pharmacist in the Insane Hospital at Jacksonville, Ill., three years. Married in Beardstown, Cass Co., Ill., 1862, to Stella A. Beard, of Ohio. They have three children--Frederick W., Margaret B., and Ella L.

   C. F. RAYMER has charge of the lumber yard of C. N. Paine & Co. He first located in Doniphan, Neb., March, 1875, and engaged in the lumber business. He is now Notary Public in Doniphan. Was born in Geneseo, N. Y., September 11, 1838. Parents moved to Stephenson County, Ill., in 1845. He enlisted in Co. B, Twenty-sixth Regiment Illinois Volunteer Infantry. Was with Gen. William T. Sherman in all his campaigns in the Southern States, participating in twenty-five hard fought battles, besides many skirmishes. Mustered out in Louisville, Ky.; final discharge in Springfield, Ill., 1865. He then went to Ackley, Iowa, and clerked in a lumber yard until the spring of 1866. Returned home, and lived until he came to Nebraska. He is a member of G. A. R. of Doniphan, Neb.


   This town is pleasantly located but a short distance from the banks of the river whose name it bears, on the level bottom lands and on the line of the Union Pacific Railroad. Surrounded by a fertile and well settled country, it is a prosperous little town, and is making steady progress in building, and each year the amount of business done here increases to a considerable extent.

   In the very early history of the county, previous to the building of the Union Pacific Railroad, there was quite a number of settlements in this locality. The first of them was made by a number of Irishmen, among whom were Patrick, Anthony, and Richard Moore, Edward O'Brien, and the Crane brothers, all of whom lived here with their families. They were soon followed by a number of others, all thrifty and industrious farmers. Near them quite a settlement of Americans was formed. Among these were O. D. Montgomery and James Jackson. These were all farmers, and soon fine farms were opened up and considerable many improvements made. Jim Jackson, as he is familiarly called, was one of the leading spirits in this new settlement, and being quite a genius, many amusing stories are told of him. He began life here in a dug-out, and being too poor to own a team and buggy, he took the front axle off his wagon invented a rough sort of seat and shafts, and whenever he wished to ride he would hitch up a fast-trotting ox and drive off over the prairies. He has since been County Commissioner for several years, and is one of the wealthy and prosperous merchants of Wood River.

   The town of Wood River was first laid out in 1868, about two and one-half miles west of its present site, but it grew very slowly at first. A depot was located here and James Jackson kept a store. A few other buildings were erected, but the town achieved no great importance. A Catholic Church was built here and has a very large membership.

   The present town of Wood River was laid out in the summer of 1874, and settlement soon commenced. The first settlers were James Jackson, W. B. and A. G. Hollister, F. J. Bowman and James Kennedy, who located early in the fall of 1874. The railroad company removed their depot from the old site. James Jackson removed his store to the new point arriving in September, and opened it with a new stock of goods in October.

   The post office was established in September, 1874, with A. G. Hollister postmaster.

   The first school in the new town was taught the same fall by John Allan in the school house now used as the high school department of the Wood River school. The house was built adjoining the present town site in 1872.

   The first sermon was preached soon after the settlement of the town was commenced by Rev. J. N. Allen at the old school house.

   The first birth was that of Charles Horn in 1875.

   The first death was that of Hannah Jackson in August, 1876.

   The first marriage in the village of Wood River was that of Fred Riesland and Miss Rosa Jessup, in August, 1876.

   Until the year 1880 the old school house was used for religious as well as educational purposes. In May of that year the Methodist Episcopal Church was completed. It is a fine building and is the only house of worship yet erected.

   In December, 1881, Thorp Brothers completed a large and substantial flouring mill in the western part of town. A good quality of flour is manufactured and the mill is already well patronized.

   The Wood River Gazette is the lively and progressive newspaper published here. It was established the 9th of September, 1881, by R. H. Miller, who published it until March 2, 1882, when it was purchased by James Ewing, the present editor and proprietor. The paper is a five column quarto, weekly and Republican in politics.

   James Ewing came to Nebraska in May, 1871, and located near Wood River where he engaged in farming and teaching school, which he followed until January 1, 1878, when he entered upon his duties as county superintendent of schools, to which office he was elected the preceding November. Here he served two terms, retiring January 1, 1882, when he was appointed deputy county treasurer, which office he still retains in addition to editing and publishing the Gazette. He was born in Allegany County, New York, July 7, 1850. His boyhood days were spent on a farm with his parents. They removed to Cedar County, Iowa, in March, 1866, he went with them, and remained at home, working on a farm until he came to Nebraska in May, 1871.

   At the present time the town of Wood River is in a prosperous condition, growing steadily and having the trade from a large scope of country, well settled by an industrious and thriving class of farmers. The population of the town is now about three hundred.


   N. T. BRITTIN, Postmaster and dealer in merchandise. He opened business in Hall County in June, 1880. He carries a stock of $3,000; has been Postmaster since 1880. He located on a homestead one-half mile south of Wood River in 1871, where he followed farming and stock raising until he began trade in the village. Was born in Madison County, near London, Ohio, October 4, 1838. When he was eighteen years old his parents moved to Clinton, Ill., where he lived until he came to Nebraska. He enlisted August 7, 1862, in Co. B, One Hundred and Seventh Regiment Illinois Volunteer Infantry; participated in the siege of Atlanta, Resaca, Ga., Franklin and Nashville, Tenn. He was mustered out in Washington, D. C., May 20, 1865. He returned home, and followed farming until he came West. Was Precinct Assessor in 1873. He was married in Clinton, Ill, in 1862 to Miss H. J. Colwell, of Mechanicsburg, Ohio. They have five children--Letitia, born 1869; Benjamin L., born 1872; Edward E., born 1875; Frederick M., born 1878; Mamie E., born 1881.

   F. C. DODGE, stock raiser and dealer, also farmer. Located in Wood River, Neb., in 1867. Took a homestead about a mile north of the village; now owns 640 acres on Sections 7 and 18, all improved; has about 400 head of stock cattle; fed about 380 head of steers during the winter of 1881-82; shipped hogs and cattle to the amount of $40,000 in the season of 1881, and sold in Chicago; during the same time raised 16,000 bushels corn and 3,000 bushels wheat. He came to Wood River in March, 1866, $5,000 in debt. This is a good illustration of what brains and labor will do in Nebraska if well used. He was born in Croyden, N. H., October 13, 1840, lived in his native State until 1865. In early life he worked in factories in the east. In 1865 he went to Cattaraugus County, N. Y., and followed various occupations a short time, then went to Oil city, Pa., and boated lumber on the Allegheny River during the summer. He then went to Sheffield, Ill., remained a short time, and then came to Nebraska. Married in Wood River, May, 1867, to Miss Ellen Abbott, of Canada East. They have one daughter--Gertrude.

   JOHN S. DONALDSON, farmer and stock raiser, first came to Hall County in 1869, and worked at the dairy business three years. In 1872, he located on Section 10, Town 10, Range 11, a pre-emption of 160 acres, now he has 150 acres under cultivation. There was not a house on the north side of Wood River at that time in his vicinity until he erected a house of logs in 1872. He was born in the Western Reserve, Ohio, November 20, 1843. He lived in his native State until seventeen years of age, when he went to California, where he lived nearly all the time for fourteen years; was about one and a half years of that time in Oregon, Washington Territory, and British Columbia; followed mining six years, and the balance of the time in various other occupations. He returned to the Eastern States, where he remained two years, and learned how to manufacture cheese. Was married at Sloan Station, Iowa, in 1869, to Miss Delia D. Lovell, formerly of Vermont. They have four children--Cora Belle, Neva Lida, Eva May, and Lillie Maude. He was a member of the Butte Rangers of California three years during his life there.

   DR. CORODON D. W. GIBSON, physician and surgeon and dealer in a general line of drugs and medicines, oils, etc. He located in Wood River in the fall of 1878, and began the practice of his profession. He began the drug trade in March, 1880, in Wood River. Was born in Avon, N. Y., November 17, 1840; lived in his native county until 1847, and moved to Genesee County, Mich., where he lived some time with his parents. He entered the Genesee M. E. College as a student. Studied medicine in New York City in 1863-64. He then returned to Detroit, Mich., in the pursuit of his medical studies with Drs. G. W. Booth, C. S. Smith and Soper for some time; then went to Rossenville, Milford, and in various other places until 1874, when he went in company with Dr. J. Camp, and practiced medicine in Bangor, Mich., until he came to Nebraska. He was married in Michigan, January 1, 1861. His wife died in 1870; He again married in 1872 to Miss Mary E. Watkins, of Lima, N. Y. He has three children by his first wife--Horace G. W., Willie F., Winnie F., and Howard R. by his second wife.

   WILLIAM B. HOLLISTER, dealer in a general line of hardware and agricultural implements, opened trade June 1, 1882. Carries a $4,000 stock of hardware and all kinds of implements. He is also agent for Randolph, Hedder & Nichols' Shepard Thresher. Employs two men. He first came to North Platte May 1, 1868, and took charge of the Union Pacific Company's telegraph office a year. Then went to Wood River as station agent, and remained in the employ of the Union Pacific Railroad Company at that place until May 1, 1882. Born in Hartford, Conn., July 1, 1845. Parents moved to Cleveland, Ohio, where he lived until the rebellion broke out, when he enlisted as musician in the Forty-second Regiment Ohio Infantry, under James A. Garfield. Served until a general order disposed of regimental bands. He then became a member of a brass band, and was stationed at Gen. Thomas' headquarters in Nashville, Tenn. Remained until the close of the war. Mustered out in Columbus, Ohio, in the spring of 1865. Returned soon home; went to Pithole, Penn., where he engaged in contracting. Took charge of an oil well, remained a year, and went to Detroit, Mich., in the employ of the Western Union Telegraph Company; then to Owosso, Mich., as operator and ticket agent until he came to Nebraska. Married in Flint, Mich., February 14, 1870, to Miss Carrie M. Smith, of Milan, Ohio. They have one son--Freddie M. Mr. H. has a farm one and a quarter miles south of Wood River village consisting of 450 acres, 200 of which are under cultivation and 250 meadow land; he also has 240 acres on Section 21, 200 of which are under cultivation; also a farm of eighty acres, one mile north of village, forty of which is under cultivation.

   JAMES JACKSON, dealer in general merchandise, Wood River, Hall County, Neb. He opened the business in 1864, beginning with a stock of $2,000; he now carries a stock of $6,000; he also deals largely in grain and coal. He was born in England, April 21, 1837; came with his parents to America in 1844, and settled in Bureau County, Ill. Lived there until 1849, and moved to Alamakee County, in Northeastern Iowa, where they lived until 1855. They then moved to Floyd County, Iowa, until 1860, when he moved to Wood River, Neb.; he built the first store building and opened the sale of the first goods; he rebuilt his present large store in 1870. When he first located he farmed and raised stock until 1874; he sold 450 head of cattle when he closed out stock business; he now owns 320 acres of land five miles from Wood River, eighty acres of which is improved; he served as County Commissioner since 1870, being the second Commissioner elected in Hall County. He was married in Floyd County, Iowa, in 1858, to Miss Mary J. Clark. they had two children--Henry J. and Anna D.; his wife died February 18, 1880; he is a member of the Masonic Order of Grand Island. Mr. Jackson is one of the enterprising men of Wood River, and has done much to aid in building up his village; he was one of the early pioneers of Hall county. In 1869 he killed a wild buffalo on the ground where the village now stands.

   ROBERT KERR, dealer in all kinds of grain and produce, opened the business in the fall of 1881, in Wood River, Neb., under the firm name of Johnson & Kerr. They have a large warehouse, and handle nearly 10,000 bushels of grain per month. Mr. Kerr first located in Wood River in the fall of 1869; worked for the Union Pacific Railroad seven years as foreman of track repairs, farmed six years, and then went into the grain trade. Born in Rochester, N. Y., April 17, 1833; moved to Canada in 1848, where he lived six years, then mined in California some time. Went to Port Austin, and engaged as engineer. Followed that and lumbering until he came to Nebraska.

   N. M. LEWTON, dealer in a general line of household furniture, also dealer in livestock; he first located on the island near the Platte River in 1872, where he remained for a few months; he then moved on a farm four miles northwest of Wood River village on Section 2, Jackson Precinct, consisting of 320 acres, 250 of which is under cultivation, with good barn, 24x40 feet, costing $350; he was born in Pike County, Ill., May 15, 1841; he lived in his native State until 1872 where he followed various kinds of business; he was raised on a farm; followed photographing, and kept hotel; he enlisted in Co. C, One Hundred and Thirty-eighth Illinois Volunteer Infantry in 1863; in 100 days' services, and served about six months; he then embarked in the grocery business a few months; he then went into the picture business, after which he went to Davenport, Iowa, and farmed; he returned to Illinois, and followed different occupations, and finally located in Nebraska; he was married in Hancock County, Ill., August 1867, to Miss Sarah Nesbit, of Kentucky. They have three children--Emma, Charley, and Salina.

   JOHN MAHER, farmer and stock raiser, came to what is now Jackson Precinct, formerly Wood River, June 28, 1862, and settled on Section 23; he now owns 240 acres, 180 of which are under cultivation; he also owns eighty acres on Section 36, forty of which are improved; he located close to the old California emigrant wagon road. There were only a few settlers in the whole county; herds of buffalo, deer, antelope, wolves, and bands of Indians roamed the plains in undisputed control of the vast sea of prairie land. They were obliged to leave home for fifteen months at one time on account of the Indian troubles; he was born in Ireland March 12, 1822; came to America in 1847; he was married in 1852 to Elizabeth Collins, who was born in Ireland, January 28, 1826. She came to America at the same time, and married in Springfield, Mass. They have six children--Honora E., Patrick, William A., Dennis A., John L., and James M. They are all members of the Catholic Church; he has been a member of the School Board of his district.

Top of Page   First Page   Back

County Index