Andreas' History of the State of Nebraska

Harlan County
Produced by
Connie Snyder.


Location and Natural Features | First Settlements | Organization
Early Events | County Seat Troubles


Alma:  Settlement of the Town | The Press of Alma | Local Interests
Biographical Sketches


Orleans:   Early History | Biographical Sketches
Republican City:   Early History | Biographical Sketches

Part 3


   This town is beautifully located on the north side of the Republican river. Situated as it is, on the crest of a sloping wave-like terrace, and extending toward the river down this slope, a more pleasant location could not have been found. It is not very far from the centre of the county, and has, as a business point, a location that for commercial and other business pursuits is excelled by no town in the valley, in its natural adaptibility. It is situated opposite the point where the Sappa Creek enters the river, on the other side. Therefore the broad and fertile valleys of the Sappa and Beaver are naturally tributary to this town. On the west and northwest is the Republican Valley itself. Again south of the river it is but a short distance to the fertile Prairie Dog Valley. This gives Orleans a farming territory sufficient to maintain a small city, to say nothing of its natural advantages for manufactories.

   The Burlington & Missouri River Railroad extends through the southern part of Orleans. Its depot and grain elevators are only about one-fourth of a mile from the business portion of the town.


   The first settlement in the county was in the vicinity of Orleans. The old stockade, built by F. A. Bieyon and his associates, in the fall of 1870, was located not very far from where the Orleans depot now is. During the winter of 1871-72, a party of twenty-four, comprising all the settlers at that time in the county, with the exception of J. W. Foster at Alma, spent the winter here. Five of these still reside in the county. This settlement continued for some time to be the most important one in the county. A town was started, but it was a very short distance from the town of Orleans and called Melrose.

   The history of the beginning of the present town of Orleans is about as follows: In December, 1871, when Judge Gaslin returned to his homestead, from Omaha, he was accompanied by a young man named Warren M. Fletcher, who took the claim where Orleans now is. D. N. Smith, the noted town site locater for the Burlington & Missouri River Railroad, decided to locate a town somewhere in this vicinity, and selected this as the most favorable location. Fletcher therefore proved up on his claim in the fall of 1872 and sold it to Smith, who at once laid out and platted a town.

   During the following winter John R. King, who was the first resident of the new town, erected a small building to be used as a hotel. This is now a portion of the hotel building occupied at the present time by G. A. Webb.

   The first sermon was preached in 1872, by Rev. Jno. E. Whiting, who held religious services in a tent.

   The first school was taught here in 1872, by Mr. Pound, in his own house.

   The first post office was established early in 1873, and F. A. Bieyon was appointed Postmaster, he having removed from Melrose.

   The first flouring mill was built near the mouth of Sappa Creek, by Carl Boehl, in 1873.

   At the time the town of Orleans was laid out, there was a great rush of settlers to the county; much attention was attracted to the new town, and it was but a short time before several buildings had been erected. A conflict had already begun to determine which of the two towns should survive; it was plain that one must go down, for they were too close together for both to succeed, and yet too far apart, to consolidate.

   In the struggle for existence Orleans soon outstripped her rival, and as soon as the latter town lost the county seat it rapidly went down. By the year 1876, Orleans had won the victory, and in a few years the town grew to a respectable little village.

   But it was not until the year 1879 that the town began to assume any great proportions. This year the railroad was in process of construction up the valley, and attention was attracted to Orleans as one of the towns destined to have a prosperous future. During the year and the following winter, building and improvements went on rapidly. Many business and professional men located here about this time, and all was lively. A large number of business houses and residences were erected. In the spring of 1880, the railroad was completed and regular trains were put on.

   In 1880, Orleans was incorporated as a village, with the following named officers: J. E. Wood, M. Manning, D. E. Bomgardner, H. C. Williams, and J. H. McKee, Trustees.

   The village has continued to flourish, and is now a thriving business point.

   There is a plow and wagon factory here, established in 1880, by Manning & Bowman. This factory carries on the manufacture of plows on quite a large scale. The plows made are of the Clarke square cut patent.

   There is a flouring mill with four run of buhrs, located here. It is a water power mill, and manufactures a good grade of flour, and does a large business. O. K. Olmstead is the proprietor.

   The Press.--The first newspaper here, as well as the very first one published in the county, was the Sentinel, established in April, 1873, by W. C. Holden, now editor of the Kearney Press, and Webster Eaton, now a resident of Lincoln.

   During the next two years there was an unceasing struggle between the two towns, but Orleans continued to progress, though but slowly; indeed, it sometimes seemed as if the town would go down. her rival having secured the county seat.

   In 1874, W. C. Holden, who had purchased Eaton's interest in the Sentinel, removed it to Melrose, and for a time Orleans was without a newspaper to advocate her cause; but it was not long until the material was moved back to Orleans, and the Sentinel was once again established and its publication has ever since been kept up. It is now known as the Republican Valley Sentinel. The most of the time, until 1881, it was ably edited by G. L. Laws. At this time it was bought by L. E. Martin. It is a large weekly newspaper, well edited and well patronized.

   L. E. Martin, the present editor and proprietor of the Sentinel, was born in Columbia, Lancaster Co., Penn., October 4, 1852. He removed with his parents to Indiana in 1866. His boyhood days were passed in school. After a five years' scholarship in college at Goshen, Ind., he, in 1877, began to learn the printer's trade in the office of the "Goshen Democrat." He came to Nebraska in 1869 and began work at his trade, in the office of W. H. H. Waters, at Nebraska City. He was editor of the "Southern Nebraskian" in Arago, Neb., in 1872. After that time he worked on several Nebraska papers until 1879, when he began work on the Sentinel, which he purchased in 1881, and has since continued its editor. He was married March 7, 1880, and has one child named Orleans, born December 25, 1880.

   Churches.--The church societies are well represented, though there is but one church edifice. That is a good and substantial building, erected by the Catholics in 1878. This church has a large membership and is in charge of Father Glauber.

   The Methodist Episcopal Church was organized at an early date and has a good working society with Rev. Gibson, pastor.

   The Presbyterian Church was organized in 1879. This is a quite strong society and Rev. Edward Conett is pastor.

   The Episcopal Church was organized in 1882, and starts out with good prospects.

   Societies.--The Masonic fraternity are represented by Melrose Lodge, No. 60, A. F. & A. M. The society is in a good condition, D. E. Bomgardner is Master, F. H. Manning, Senior Warden, and L. H. Kent, Junior Warden.

   The Independent Order of Odd Fellows have a large and strong organization here. D. E. Bomgardner is Noble Grand, and D. W. Figgins, Secretary.

   The population of Orleans is about 500. The citizens are of an exceptionally intelligent and enterprising class. They are moral and industrious and do everything in their power to contribute to the building up of their town. Education in all its name implies, is fostered and encouraged. The citizens are reading people and books and newspapers find a place in nearly every home. The greater portion of the people are members of some church society, and those who are not, are of a moral and liberal minded class.

   The citizens are public spirited and nothing is neglected that will tend to advance the interests of their town. When the town was laid out a public square was formed in the center. On this square a large building designed for a court house was erected in 1882. This was built by private donations of the citizens, with the expectation of obtaining the county seat, by a vote of the people, if the town should present the public buildings so that there should be no extra expense to the taxpayers, in case of removal. But whether the county seat is secured or not, Orleans it would seem from its natural surroundings must make one of the important business points in the Republican Valley.


   DAVID E. BOMGARDNER, merchant, was born in East Hanover, Lebanon Co., Pa. He enlisted, August 8, 1862, in Company D, One Hundred and Twenty-Seventh Pennsylvania Infantry, and served nine months; re-enlisted in Company A, Twentieth Pennsylvania Cavalry, and was mustered out in July, 1865. After the war he was for six months engaged in the mercantile business at Shamokin, Pa.; then employed as a clerk in that business in Ottawa, Ill., until 1870, when he came to Nebraska; was employed as a clerk some time, and in July, 1873, came to Orleans and engaged in this business. He carries a stock of $8,000. Mr. B. was elected chairman of the Town Council in 1881, and Treasurer of the town in April, 1882.

   CALVIN BOWMAN, plow and wagon factory was born in Wyoming County, Pa., in November, 1822, and learned the trade of blacksmith in Bradford County, Pa., serving as an apprentice about three years, after which he removed to Rock County, Wis., where he opened a blacksmith shop, conducting it until he enlisted in 1862 in Company I, Third Wisconsin Volunteer Cavalry, and served three years, after which he returned to Rock County, and again opened the blacksmith shop. He came to Nebraska in 1872, homesteaded 160 acres near Orleans, on which he resided for eight years, engaged in farming. In the spring of 1879 he moved into Orleans, and was for a year employed at his trade. In January, 1880, in company with M. Manning, erected his present building, and engaged in the manufacture of plows, wagons, etc.; two years later he purchased his partner's interest, and has since conducted the business alone.

   JOHN W. CARROTHERS, real estate, was born in Guernsey County, Ohio, in April, 1835, where he learned trade of brick-mason with his father. In 1856 his parents settled at Plattsmouth, Neb., and the subject of this sketch attended the Oreapolis Academy for several years. In 1861 he enlisted in First Nebraska Infantry and served three years and three months. After the war he was employed as a brick-mason in Cass County, near Plattsmouth, and was also for three years Deputy Sheriff of the County. In 1871, he came to Harlan County and homesteaded 160 acres, now adjoining the town of Orleans, and was for eight years engaged in farming and stock raising, also from 1878 to 1881 largely engaged in dealing in live stock. In 1879 he laid out eighty acres of his homestead as an addition to the town, and is also a large landowner in Wymore, Gage Co. Mr. C. was elected a Commissioner of Harlan County in 1873, term one year.

   ALBERT F. GORHAM, furniture was born in Rutland County, Vt., in 1836, and when quite young moved to Delavan, Wis., where he learned trade of tinner and followed it as an occupation for eighteen years in that State, Illinois and Minnesota. In 1862 he engaged in hardware business in Chicago. Ill., remaining there until he came to Harlan County, in June, 1873. He homesteaded and timber claimed 320 acres of land, on which he resided for seven years, engaged in farming. In 1879 he moved into Orleans and for a year carried on a large boarding house. Engaging in this business April 13, 1881; he carries a full line of furniture and undertakers' goods, also has a branch store at Alma, in company with George M. Prickett, where a stock of $1,800 is carried.

   JOHN S. HOYT, physician and surgeon, was born in Addison, Steuben Co., N. Y., February 8, 1836, and educated at Seneca County Academy as a surveyor; he then worked at that profession in Nebraska and Iowa for ten years, and was for four years during that period, Surveyor of Warren County, Iowa, and while holding that office studied medicine, and for some years practiced as a physician in Missouri. In 1872 he settled at Melrose, Harlan Co., opened a drug store, and practiced medicine for three years; then moved to Orleans and opened an office for the practice of medicine and surgery. The doctor was one of the organizers of the "Great Western Colony," incorporated June 2, 1880, and holds the office of President, and in this capacity located a place for the colony, in the summer of 1880, in Washington Territory.

   LEWIS H. KENT, attorney at law, was born in Morrison, Whitesides Co., Ill., in 1854, and was educated in law at Ann Arbor University, Michigan, graduating in spring 1876, after which he came to Nebraska and for a year practiced at Nebraska City, and in the summer of 1877 moved to Orleans and at once opened an office for the practice of his profession. He was elected Probate Judge of Harlan County in November, 1879, and re-elected in 1881, for a term of two years.

   H. J. McKEE, postmaster, was born in Brookville, Jefferson Co., Pa., in 1828; here he followed lumbering for four years, and at twenty-four years of age went to California, and was for fourteen years engaged in mining on the Pacific slope, and subsequently returned to his home in Pennsylvania, where he remained for a time. He came to Harlan County, Neb., in November, 1873, and located at Melrose, where he was engaged in general merchandise business, until fall of 1875. He was appointed Postmaster at Melrose in 1874, in 1877 he came to Orleans and was appointed Postmaster of this place in January, 1878, in connection with which he carries a stock of confectionery, stationery, etc. He was elected County Commissioner in the fall of 1874 for a term of three years.

   MICHAEL MANNING, general merchant, was born in Scranton, Pa., in 1847, and was reared on a farm in Grant County, Wis. When he reached the age of manhood he engaged in grain and stock business at Boscobel, Wis., following it for a year, then in lumber and rafting for three years. He came to Nebraska in August, 1872, located in Harlan County, at Melrose, and opened the "Melrose House," which he conducted for two years or more. In March, 1874, he came to Orleans and opened the Commercial House, which he carried on for two years, and in fall of 1876 engaged in this business, and was also, from January, 1880, to April, 1882, engaged in the manufacture of plows, wagons, etc., in company with C. Bowman. He is the owner of 1,120 acres of land, and is extensively engaged in farming. Mr. Manning was appointed Deputy Sheriff of the county in 1873, and held the office for a year.

   J. H. MOSS, boots, shoes and groceries, was born at Princeton, Wis., in 1849, and learned the trade of wheelwright at Albion, which he followed as an occupation. In December 1863, he enlisted in Company K, Sixteenth Wisconsin Infantry, serving until the fall of 1865. He participated in Sherman's march to the sea and other engagements. After the war he again followed his trade for a livelihood. In the spring of 1871, he came to Harlan County and homesteaded and pre-empted 320 acres of land, on which he resided for two and one-half years. In 1873 he moved into Orleans and opened a wheelwright establishment which he carried on for three years, was then for two years engaged in the furniture business. In February 1878, he engaged in this business in company with S. W. Coon, who retired in 1880. Mr. Moss was appointed Deputy Sheriff of the County in 1878, and served for eighteen months.

   J. Mc. C. PRESTON, of the firm of Manning & Preston, hardware merchants, was born in Trumbull County, Ohio, in December, 1742, removing at thirteen years to La Grange County, Ind., where he was reared on a farm. He enlisted at the first call for volunteers, but was not accepted on account of his youth; re-enlisted in July, 1861, in Company G, Thirtieth Indiana Infantry, and served until October, 1865; he was promoted to Captain of the company in 1864. After the war he engaged in hardware business at La Grange. In l867 he moved to Morgan County, Mo., and was for four years engaged in farming, then in the same capacity, in Dallas County, Iowa. He came to Harlan County in April, 1872, and pre-empted and homesteaded 320 acres of land, on which he resided and farmed until 1878, when he moved into Orleans, and at once engaged in this business in company with Thos. H. Manning. They began business with a stock of $1,400; their trade increased rapidly, and they now carry $7,000 worth of hardware, tinware, etc. For two years they also conducted a branch store at Lewisburg. They also opened a lumber yard at this place in 1878, in which they carry a stock of $5,000. Mr. Preston is the owner of 500 acres of land, and the firm is, in connection with other enterprises, largely engaged in stock raising. Mr. Preston was for three years Treasurer of this town.


   This town is pleasantly located on the level bottom lands of the Republican River, on the north side, and on and near the mouth of Mill Creek. It is also situated on the north side of the Denver extension of the Burlington and Missouri River Railroad in Nebraska. It is in the southeastern part of the county, opposite the mouth of Prairie Dog Creek. The surrounding country is fertile and quite thickly settled, thus giving all the natural advantages for a large and prosperous town. The different branches of business are all well represented by enterprising business firms, and the population now numbers about five hundred.


   The history of Republican City dates from the year 1871. Early in the spring of that year, H. M. Luce located east of the present town. W. H. and Lewis Coon, Still and Elihu Main located on the table lands just below the town, and, a little later, the county was visited by Dr. John McPherson, of Brownville, Nebraska, who was accompanied by his son Charles. Being so well pleased with the present town site of Republican City, they at once laid out a town here, and made preparations for a permanent settlement on their chosen town-site. They gave the town its name from the Republican River. Besides the above mentioned settlements, Thomas Mullaley, and several others, located on Turkey Creek, some distance north of the new town, but in a country naturally tributary to it.

   After locating the town site, Dr. John McPherson and his son Charles returned to Brownville, where they at once settled up their business affairs, and returned to Republican City, where they erected a store and made arrangements for building a mill, which in due time was completed. The McPhersons were soon followed by other business men, and the town grew very rapidly and was for several years the leading town of the county.

   At the time of the new election for Harlan County, in 1872, which was called by Acting Governor James, on account of a petition sent him requesting this call, Republican City was a contesting point for the county seat, but on a canvass of the votes, this was established at Melrose. But in 1873, the citizens of Republican City filed a mandamus to compel Melrose to give up the county records, as the former place was really the county seat by virtue of the election of 1872. Judge Gant, however, the District Judge, in his decision, designated Alma as the county seat by virtue of the first election in 1871.

   In the earlier days of the history of the town, a school was organized, and has ever since been sustained in a manner that is truly a credit to the enterprising citizens of the town.

   In the earliest days of the town religious societies were also organized and have since been kept up. Without respect to denomination or belief, the citizens of the town have always given liberally for the support of religious institutions.

   From the date of the establishment of the first newspaper, the local press has been enterprising, and has had a tendency to contribute much to the upbuilding of the town. It has also been well sustained by a liberal patronage by the citizens.

   From the date of the building of the first store, in 1871, to the year 1879, the town continued to progress steadily, keeping pace with the settlement of the adjoining country, and by the latter date it had become a very thriving village, with two hotels and a number of business houses. There was also one newspaper published here, which had been established in 1875.

   In 1879, the railroad up the Republican Valley was in progress of building, and attracted by its many natural advantages and the size it had already attained, a large number of business and professional men sought homes here, and during the year the population, the number of business houses and of residences had increased in a large proportion.

   Early in 1880 the railroad was completed and regular trains commenced running. Still the town was receiving new accessions, and trade and improvements progressed rapidly.

   As the railroad was completed on to the westward the excitement began to abate, and immigration to the town almost ceased. For the past two years the crops of Harlan County have been poor, and this has seriously retarded the progress of Republican City. From this cause the business of the town has, for the year 1881, been dull, but with the excellent crop prospects of the present year, business should soon revive and make this one of the thriving and prosperous towns of the Republican Valley. The citizens are generally moral and enterprising, and leave nothing undone that they think will be to the material interests of the town.

   The first newspaper established in Republican City was the News, by Flavius Macmillan, in 1875. He continued to publish his paper here until the fall of 1881, when he removed it to Alma.

   In 1880, Rhone Bros. established the Weekly Enterprise, a bright and go-ahead paper, which they have ever since continued to publish. The paper is a credit to the town and is well sustained by the citizens of the town and vicinity.


   LAFAYETTE CADY, general merchant, was born in Franklin County, Vt., September 14, 1825; here he was for ten years engaged in conducting a candy manufactory on a large scale, and was for ten years engaged in mercantile business. Mr. Cady resided in Fairfax, Vt., for about ten years, and during that period conducted a large stoneware factory. He came west early in 1871, and was appointed Deputy Revenue Collector at Cheyenne Wyoming Territory. This he resigned in a week, and in December, 1871, located in Republican City, Nebraska, where he built a hotel and conducted it for six months, and also engaged in mercantile business, which he still follows, he is also quite extensively engaged in the fur business, employing several trappers and hunters. Mr. Cady, during his first four years' residence at this place, held the office of Postmaster.

   HON. JOHN McPHERSON, general merchant, was born in Livingston County, N. Y., December 21, 1818, removing when quite young to Huron County, Ohio; here he read medicine for some years, after which he attended the "Ohio Medical College," graduating in 1847. He then practiced medicine in Tippecanoe, Ohio, and was also engaged in manufacturing linseed oil, and dealing in lumber, etc. He came to Nebraska in 1855, located in Brownville, where he carried on mercantile business until May, 1879. In connection with this, from about 1863 to 1867, he conducted a steam flour and saw mill. He also opened a large cigar manufactory at that place, continuing it for about three years. In 1871 Mr. McPherson opened a general merchandise establishment at Republican City, and is still carrying it on. And in 1872 removed his mills from Brownville to here, running them at this point for about two years. He was a member of the Territorial Constitutional Conventions and also of the State Constitutional Convention of 1875, and elected to fill an unexpired term in the State Senate in 1863. Mr. McPherson was married in Miami County, Ohio, in 1845, to Elizabeth Fergus, daughter of General James Fergus. They have three children, Charles. William and John.

   A. E. PINKNEY, attorney-at-law, was born in Louisiana, Pike Co., Mo., August 26, 1855. He began business life as clerk in a jewelry establishment in Philadelphia, where he learned the trade of watch-maker, and was for ten months engaged in the business on his own account in company with M. R. McDowell. He came to Nebraska with his parents in January 1872, residing with them at Columbus. He read law for four years, and was admitted to the bar at Grand Island, September 6, 1876, after which he practiced at Columbus until he came to Republican City, June 5, 1879, since which time he has practiced his profession at this point. He is a member of the Nebraska State Bar.

   JOHN D. STODDARD, drugs and groceries, was born in Montgomery County, Ind. in 1849, and was reared on a farm. He taught school for seven years and also read law, after which he engaged in the drug and grocery business at Linden, Indiana, following it for two years, and then moved to Illinois where he again gave his attention to teaching school. He came to Republican City in 1872, and was for six months employed in teaching school. He homesteaded 160 acres, and for three years was engaged in farming. In 1876 he was admitted to practice at the bar, and followed law for about a year, and was variously engaged in trading, etc., until November, 1881, when he engaged in this business.


   This was the first town to be started in the county. It is true, towns had been planned, but they had never been able to get any start. A party that came in 1870 built a stockade, not far from where the town of Melrose was afterward located, and then went back, determined to come here and settle as soon as they could venture out in the spring of 1871. A short distance from the stockade they had selected a location for settlement. Early in the spring of 1871, F. A. Bieyon erected a small log store, the first permanent building and first store in Harlan County. The next was a log store erected by Casey & Connelly. In 1872, Hooper & McKee erected a commodious two-story building and put in a largy stock of goods. Having secured the location of the counte seat, Melrose soon began to grow rapidly, and was soon one of the most important points west of Red Cloud in the Republican Valley.

   In 1872, however, the town of Orleans in the immediate vicinity was laid out, and now the battle to decide which of the two should exist, began in earnest. It was plain that one must soon go down, but impossible to tell which it should be. Sometimes one town would be ahead, apparently, and then the other. Melrose, of course, had some advantage from the very start; but, on the other hand, Orleans was kept up through the aid of eastern capitalists who were interested in the town.

   By the year 1873, Melrose had assumed considerable importance as a village, and during the summer another newspaper, and the second one in the county, was founded, by Fox & Stinchcomb, and called the Advertiser. After continuing it for a few months, they sold it to Richmond and McGeachin who changed the name to the Harlan County Argus. In the spring of 1874, W. C. Holden removed here from Orleans and started a paper, which he published for a few months, when he bought the Argus and consolidated the two papers under the name of the Tribune. This paper he continued to publish until late in the year 1875.

   At one time there was quite a town here, but on the removal of the county seat to Alma, by the decision of Judge Gantt, the town declined rapidly, and within a short time the entire population either left the country or settled and removed their buildings to Orleans.

   Since 1876, there has been nothing left of the once promising little town of Melrose. Since that time the town has existed only in history, as one of the first to be attempted to be built in Harlan County.

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