Andreas' History of the State of Nebraska

Madison County
Produced by
Connie Snyder.


Topography and Geology | Natural Resources | Early Settlements
Indians | Organization | Railroads | Public Schools | Crops
Taxable Property | Population

Norfolk:  Incorporation | Biographical Sketches

Madison:   Biographical Sketches
Battle Creek | Other Towns

List of Illustrations in Madison County Chapter

Part 2


   Norfolk is located on the North Fork of the Elkhorn, in the northeastern part of the county, about four miles above its junction with the main branch of that river. The valley surrounding it is level, and the town is occasionally flooded. This might be, and probably will be, prevented.

   The first store-keeper here, and the pioneer store-keeper of the county, was Evan Jones, who kept a small store in a dug-out, near the present site of the "Norfolk Mills," in November, 1866. These mills were built by Col. Charles Mathewson, being completed in February, 1870, and they determined the location of the town, which was laid out in 1869, by Col. Mathewson. The first store in the town was also built by him in the spring of 1869. He also built the first frame house in the town, which stands at the corner of Main and State streets. Col. Mathewson died in May, 1880.

   The first child born in the town was a son of Fred. Haase, in the fall of 1866, which lived only a few weeks, it being the first natural death in the county. Mrs. Carr died in the following March. The first marriage was that of Fred. Dagner to Miss Wilhelmina Zastrow, July 24, 1869.

   The post office was established in 1869 and named Norfolk, because it was on the North Fork of the Elkhorn, and August Raasch was first Postmaster.

   The first church building was erected in the fall of 1867, by the German Lutherans, John Heckendorf preaching the first sermon in it soon after its completion. It was constructed of logs, Herman Braasch paying $40 for the logs. This church erected a neat frame church edifice in 1878, which was dedicated August 23, 1878. A second German Lutheran was built at Norfolk during the same year. The Congregationalists erected a neat frame building in the year 1872, Rev. J. W. Kidder being their first minister. The Methodists and Episcopalians also have church organizations, but no buildings. The Catholics completed their church in the spring of 1882.


   The town was incorporated in 1881. Its first Board of Trustees were: Charles P. Matthewson, Chairman; John E. Olney, Clerk; A. P. Pilger, John Koenigstein and Frederick Lukas; Samuel W. Hayes was chosen Treasurer.

   Of the principal business men in Norfolk, John E. Olney settled here in 1869, and erected his fine, large brick store in 1879; Carl Asmus came in 1871, and erected his store, constructed of home-made brick, in 1880; J. S. McClary and A. P. Pilger came also in 1871; Dr. Daniels in 1872; W. H. Widaman and S. W. Hayes in 1873; John Koenigstein in 1871, and erected his elegant brick business block in 1880.

   Norfolk has now three general stores, two hardware stores, three groceries, three blacksmiths, three agricultural implement dealers, three banks, three hotels, two furniture stores, two lumber yards, two tailors, one shoe shop, one grain dealer, one music store, one flouring mill and two bakeries. The population may be safely estimated at nearly, or quite, 1,000, and according to the last enumeration, there were 341 children of school age in the district, 173 males, 168 females.

   Norfolk Lodge, No. 46, I. O. O. F., was organized June 10, 1874, with eleven charter members: Joseph Ritchey, N. G.; John Willis, V. G.; William Gerecke, Secretary.

   Mosaic Lodge, No. 55, A., F. & A. M., was organized under dispensation October 1, 1874, and chartered June 25, 1875, with twenty-four members. The following were the principal officers: S. W. Hayes, W. M., L. F. Taylor, S. W.; Alexander Bear, J. W.; John S. McClary, Treasurer, and W. H. Lowe, Secretary.

   Norfolk has two newspapers. The Norfolk Journal, published by Clarence Selah & Co., was established November 28, 1877, as a six-column folio. In 1879, it was enlarged to a seven-column, and, in 1880, to an eight. It is Republican in politics and favors a general policy, which, in its judgment, tends to develop the resources of the county, and increase the welfare and happiness of the people. It has remained under the same management since its establishment.

   The Elkhorn Valley News was started September 15, 1881, by Norton & Sprecher. It is a seven-column folio, is Independent Republican in politics and has made quite satisfactory progress as regards business and circulation.

   The Norfolk Times was started September 1, 1880, by J. W. C. Jones, but was discontinued in November, 1881. It was Democratic in politics. The material of the office was purchased by Norton & Sprecher.

   The first term of school taught in Norfolk was begun June 8, 1870, in the log Lutheran Church. Mrs. Mary A. Kidder, teacher.

   District No. 2, Madison County, which includes Norfolk, voted bonds in the sum of $5,500, in April, 1882, for the purpose of building a schoolhouse. The vote stood 100 for the bonds to 3 against

   J. & C. P. Mathewson opened a bank in 1872 in a small frame building. In 1878, C. P. Mathewson became sole proprietor of the business, and, in 1880, erected a large two-story brick building, at a cost of $5,000.

   The Norfolk Bank was opened by Burrows & Egbert, January 18, 1882.

   The Norfolk City Bank was opened February 15, 1882, by I. P. Donaldson & Co. They do a general banking business, make collections and deal in foreign exchange.


   CARL ASMUS, general merchandise, was born in Prussia; came to West Point, Neb., in 1867; the following year he went to the Rocky Mountains; in the fall of 1868, returned to West Point, took a homestead, engaged in farming, and, later, in the liquor business; in 1871, came to Norfolk, opened a small store. His business has rapidly increased. He now owns and occupies a very fine brick store 23x80 feet, built in 1880, cost about $8,000. By strict attention to business, Mr. Asmus has acquired this and other property since coming to Nebraska.

[Portrait of Alexander Bear, M. D.]

   DR. ALEX. BEAR, physician and surgeon, is a native of Virginia. After completing a common course of studies, he attended the University of Virginia, in 8554, 1855-56; graduated from the University of Maryland in 1860; in 1865, came to Fremont, where he took up the practice of medicine; he also practiced in West Point from 1871 to 1873. He then came to Norfolk, where he has since been actively engaged in the practice of his profession. He is the oldest practicing physician on the Elkhorn Valley. He has been a member of the State Senate two terms, and member of the House of Representatives one term. He has also been Regent of the State University.

   A. BIGELOW, wines and liquors, born in Wyoming County, N. Y. There he was raised. He enlisted in 1862, in Company A, First New York Dragoons; served three years. In 1866, he came to Clayton County, Iowa, and engaged in the liquor business. In 1870, he came to Madison County, took a homestead of 160 acres, located six miles north of Norfolk; this farm he has improved, and now rented. In 1875, he came to Norfolk, and has since been engaged in this business. He is also agent for Krug's Omaha Beer.

   DR. D. R. DANIEL, druggist and physician, is a native of Independence, Va. In 1869, he commenced the study of medicine; came to Omaha March 17, 1872. In the fall of this year, he attended the State University of Iowa, and graduated from the Washington University, of Baltimore, February 24, 1876. He has practiced medicine in Norfolk and vicinity since 1873. In the fall of 1876, he was appointed United States Examining Surgeon of Pensions He has also been Examining Surgeon for the Union Pacific Railroad. November, 1878, he opened this drug store, which he has since continued.

   I. B. DONALDSON, of the firm of I. B. Donaldson & Co., Norfolk City Bank, is a native of Morrison, Whiteside Co., Ill. In 1869, he was employed in book-keeping at the First National Bank, Morrison, Ill. Has since been engaged at this business. February, 1882, came to Norfolk, and established this bank.

   GEORGE B. FLETCHER, attorney at law, was born February 20, 1845, in Lowell, Ohio; raised in Anamosa, Iowa. After finishing his preparatory course of studies, he attended the Sinsinawa Mound College about two and one-half years. About the close of the war, he went South, and was connected with the Government service. In 1867, returned to Jones County. The following year, he removed to Dubuque, Iowa, and commenced reading law with Barker & Shields; returned to Anamosa, and continued the study of law with George W. Field; was admitted to the bar at Council Bluffs, July, 1870. He then went to West Point; taught school about six months. March, 1873, came to Norfolk, where he has since resided. He is the oldest admitted attorney in the county. In 1875, he was a candidate for District Attorney on the Democratic ticket; was defeated by J. B. Barnes. In 1879, he was a candidate for District Attorney on the Democratic ticket; was defeated by C. C. McNish, by a majority of 355, the nearest approach to a Democratic victory ever made in this district He was appointed, in 1876, County Judge, to fill an unexpired term; served about six months; was one term a member of the State Democratic Central Committee. He has always taken an active part in organizing and nominating members to the Legislature and other offices.

   HERMAN GERECKE, of the firm of Pilger & Gerecke, lumber, is a native of Prussia; came with his parents to Dodge County, Wis. In 1854, there worked on a farm. December, 1861, he enlisted in Company C, Sixteenth Wisconsin Infantry; was discharged on account of a wound received in battle April 6, 1862. The following year he came to Decatur, Neb.; again enlisted in Company C, Seventh Iowa Cavalry; was mustered out May 26, 1866. In 1869, he came to Norfolk; followed the mill-wright trade until 1878, when he, with Mr. Pilger, established that business.

   C. S. HAYES, jeweler and dealer in musical instruments, is a native of Orleans County, Vt. In 1871, he came to Cedar Rapids, Iowa, learned his trade with A. C. Taylor, where he worked four and one-half years. In 1876, he removed to Blairstown, Iowa; there opened a jewelry store, where he remained about five years. July, 1881, he came to Norfolk, where he has since carried on this business in all its branches. He carries the most complete stock of watches and jewelry, silver and plated ware, musical instruments and sewing machines of any house in Northern Nebraska. Mr. H. will take pleasure in having all call and examine his extensive stock before purchasing elsewhere. It should be remembered that all work is warranted.

   HASKELL & SATTLER, attorneys, established 1880. John D. Haskell, LL. B., Boston University, Boston, Mass. Augustus Sattler, LL. B., Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass.

[Portrait of S. W. Hayes]

   HON. SAMUEL W. HAYES, firm of McClary & Co., general merchandise and coal, is a native of Strafford County, N. H. In 1849, went to California, where he remained about three years. In 1852, came to Burlington, Iowa. Was employed in the construction of the Burlington & Missouri Railroad; continued with this company about eight years. Was commissioned Commissary Sergeant in the Thirty-sixth Iowa Infantry; remained with the regiment till the spring of 1866. He then came to Fremont; engaged in merchandising. In the fall of 1873, came to Norfolk, where he has since been engaged in merchandising. Was a member of the State Senate from Dodge County in 1872-73; also a member of the Senate from Madison County in 1877. For the past thirty-five years, he has been a member of the Masonic Order. Is now Senior Grand Warden of the State.

   B. W. JONES, groceries and crockery, was born in Mecklenburg, Germany; learned the tailor's trade; worked at it there about seven years. In 1872, came to La Porte, Ind. There he followed this trade. In 1875, came to Adams County, Iowa; continued at this trade. In 1879, came to Wisner; was clerk for August Dorrman about six months; also at Oakdale. He, with Mr. Dworak, bought out Mr. Dorrman; continued this business about three months. He then sold out his interest, and came to Norfolk; opened a restaurant, with a capital of $85. Six months later, he opened a crockery and grocery store, the first of the kind in town. He is now doing a very good business, carrying a stock of about $1,800.

   J. KOENIGSTEIN, druggist, is a native of Bavaria, Rhine. In 1854, came to Cincinnati, Ohio. In 1855, went to Monroe County, Ill, and worked on their farm. In 1859, came to St. Louis, and learned the drug trade. In the fall of 1861, he enlisted in Company F, Forty-third Illinois Volunteer Infantry; served three years and eight months, was wounded, and taken prisoner at the battle of Jenkins' Ferry, Ark. April 30, 1864, was confined in Camp Fort, Tex.; released February 15, 1865, and returned to Monroe County, Ill. In 1871, came to Watertown, Wis. There opened a drug store; continued two years. February 15, 1873, came to Norfolk, Neb., and established the drug business. He now owns and occupies one of the best arranged drug stores in the State of Nebraska, which was built in 1880. He also owns the store adjoining west of it, and cost about $15,000. Mr. K. is Treasurer of the School Board, and member of the Town Board. He is now building a hotel, 93x90 feet, two stories high, adjoining his drug store and general store, which, when completed, will be one of the best hotels in the State.

   HON. CHARLES MATHEWSON. A brief sketch of the life and character of the Hon. Charles Mathewson, may appropriately be introduced in connection with the history of the town, which owes its present prosperity more to his energy and business ability than to any other cause. Col. Mathewson, as he is most frequently called, was born in Brooklyn, Conn., March 24, 1812. His worth and abilities were recognized by his fellow citizens of Connecticut, by their electing him twice to the State Legislature, and three times to the State Senate. During the war of the rebellion, he evinced his patriotism by serving in the Union Army as Colonel of the Eleventh Connecticut Regiment, which regiment he commanded at the battle of Newbern, N. C. In 1865, he was appointed agent for the Winnebago Indians, succeeding Maj. Balcombe, of Omaha. At the expiration of the term for which he was appointed, he removed with his family to Madison County, and founded the now thriving town of Norfolk. In April, 1870, he completed the building of the Norfolk Mills, the first in the Elkhorn Valley above West Point. Late in the year 1879, Col. Mathewson was for a long time severely ill. His wife rendered him constant and devoted attention, which so shattered her constitution, already enfeebled by age, that she rapidly sank away and died. The shock of her death, added to the result of his long illness, proved too much for his enfeebled constitution to survive, and, on May 10, 1880, he died. Col. Mathewson was a man of high moral character, and a devout and steadfast friend of the church and of religion. He left two sons and two daughters, all of whom are highly respected and valuable members of society.

[Portrait of Chas. P. Mathewson]

   CHARLES P. MATHEWSON, banker, was born in Windham County, Conn. The family removed to the Winnebago Agency, his father being appointed agent of the tribe; held this office four years. In 1869, they removed to Norfolk, and in company with Mr. Olney, engaged in merchandising. They also erected the Norfolk Mills, soon after coming here, which they have successfully operated since. He, with his brother, Mayor Joseph Mathewson, established this bank in 1872. This brick structure was erected in 1880, at a cost of about $5,000, and is occupied in part, for banking purposes. His brother entered the service, August 18, 1862, in Company D, Eighteenth Connecticut Infantry as First Lieutenant. He was afterward promoted Captain; was mustered out at the close of the war as Brevet Major, with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.

[Portrait of J. S. McClary]

   J. S. McCLARY, of the firm of McClary & Co., dealers in general merchandise and coal, is a native of Onondaga County, N. Y.; raised in Madison County. N. Y. At the age of seventeen, he came to Boone County, Ill.; was employed as Civil Engineer for the Old Galena & Chicago Union Railroad, now the N. W. R. R.; continued in the employ of this company about five years, afterward employed as conductor on the I. C. R. R. about three years, running from Centralia to Dubuque; also employed with the B. & M. R. R. about one year; enlisted in 1861, in Company B, Thirteenth Illinois Infantry as Quartermaster Sergeant. Later, he was commissioned First Lieutenant and Acting Quartermaster; remained in the service till the summer of 1864, when he went to Minnesota; was appointed Road Master of the W. & St. P. R. R.; remained there three years. In 1867, he removed to Fremont and engaged in merchandising; in 1871, came to Norfolk, where he has since resided; was Receiver of the United States Land Office from 1875 to 1881.

   JOHN E. OLNEY, dealer in general merchandise, was born in Windham County, Conn. At about the age of eighteen, he removed to New York City; there employed as clerk. In 1861, he came to Decatur, Ill., and there carried on the grocery business. In 1869, came to Norfolk, when he, with Col. Mathewson, now deceased, engaged in general merchandising and milling. This partnership continued until January, 1881, when he withdrew from the mill and became sole owner of this store. He owns and occupies one of the finest, if not the finest, retail store in the State. This structure is of brick, two stories and basement, completed December, 1880, at a cost of about $16,000. This store is 32x128 feet.

   A. P. PILGER, dealer in stoves, tinware, hardware, etc., was born in Washington County, Wis. In 1871, he came to Norfolk and opened the tin shop; soon after added hardware and stoves to his business, which he has been constantly increasing; now doing a business of about $20,000 a year. Mr. Pilger is a member of the Town Board, School Board and other local offices.

   J. G. POLLOCK, agent of the U. P. R. R., was born in Washington County, Iowa. In 1862, then being eleven years of age, he enlisted in Company E, Thirtieth Iowa Infantry, as drummer boy; remained in the service about one year; was discharged on account of physical disability; returned to Washington County; soon after went to La Grange, Mo.; there learned telegraphing; was employed with the M. & W. R. R., and later with the C., R. I. & P. R. R. as agent at Plattsburg and other stations; continued with the company three years. He then was appointed Train Dispatcher of the T. P. & W. R. R., at Peoria and Warsaw; held this position about one year; was then employed by the C. B. & Q. R. R.; was operator at about all the principal stations in Iowa; was appointed Assistant Ticket Agent at the Grand Central Hotel Ticket Office at Omaha, from 1873 to 1876; in 1877, he was appointed operator at Valley Station, on the U. P. R. R, and was soon after made agent at Valparaiso, for the U. P. From there, he opened all the stations to Stormsburg--the terminus of the O. & R. V. Division. On July 28, 1880, he came to Norfolk, where he has since been agent of this company. He is also agent of the C., St. P., M. & O. R. R., and Pacific and American Express Companies.

   C. SELAH, editor of the Norfolk Journal, was born in Tazewell County, Ill.; came to West Point, Neb., in 1871, and there worked on the Republican. In 1876, he, with Mr. Bartlett, bought out and published the Neligh Journal. In November, 1877, he and Mr. Bartlett established the Norfolk Journal, which has since been ably conducted by Mr. Selah.

   DR. F. VERGES, physician and surgeon, was born August 21, 1833 in Prussia. He commenced the study of medicine in 1854, in Cothen Homoeopathic Medical College; graduated in 1856; practiced in his native country till 1868, when he came to Chicago in the fall of 1868; came to Nebraska in 1869; came to Pierce County, and took a homestead of 160 acres, which he improved. He now owns 480 acres, which is one of the best improved farms in the county. In the spring of 1880, he came to Norfolk, and has since followed his profession; has been County Commissioner three years; one term Treasurer of School Board. He was married in 1874, to Augusta Marquardt, of Prussia. They have three children--Louisa, Minna and Anna.

   F. WEGENER, proprietor of the Norfolk House, is a native of Prussia. In 1851, he came to Jefferson County, Wis., and followed farming about three years; he then ran a saw-mill several years; sold this mill in 1859. He then opened a general store in Watertown, Wis., and continued this business about ten years. In 1870, he came to Norfolk, opened a boarding house and saloon, and three years later he built the Norfolk House, this being the first hotel built in Norfolk; has since carried on this business. He was married in 1854, to Amelia Hans, of Prussia. They have three children--Gustav, Edmund and Elizabeth, now Mrs. Widaman.

   W. H. WIDAMAN, Postmaster, is a native of Montgomery County, Ohio. There he was raised. He enlisted, April 17, 1861, in Company C, First Ohio Infantry; served three months; he re-enlisted in the Second Ohio Infantry and served to the end of the war. In 1866, he came to Madison County, Ill., and followed milling about four years; also engaged in milling in Henry County, about three years. In 1873, he came to Boone County, Neb., and followed farming about one year. In the fall of 1873, he came to Norfolk, and ran the Norfolk Mills about three years. He, in company with Dr. Daniel, engaged in the drug business; this partnership continued about four years. November 25, 1879, he was appointed Postmaster. This office is about being removed to a more desirable locality, and is being fitted up with the latest improved Yale lock boxes.

   HON. FRANK WELCH, member of Congress from Nebraska, at the time of his death, which occurred at Neligh, Neb., September 4, 1878, had made his home at Norfolk for the preceding five years. In preserving a brief estimate of his character, we can do no better than to quote the following words from the address of Senator Paddock, of Nebraska, delivered in the United States Senate, February 25,1879 "* * * I shall not delay the Senate by an extended memorabilia of our lamented colleague, Representative Welch. He was born on Bunker Hill, Charlestown, Mass., February 10, 1835; was graduated at the Boston High School, and afterward specially educated and trained as a civil engineer. Soon after embarking in his profession, the duties thereof called him into the West, and finally, while yet a very young man, in the year 1857, he established his home at Decatur, Neb. Mr. Welch was a gentleman in the highest and broadest sense of the term--kind, gentle, generous, manly. As might naturally have been expected for a young man possessing such qualities of mind and heart, he rapidly advanced to the front in society, and in affairs in his county and section. He was very soon chosen to represent his district in the Council or Senate of the Territorial Legislature, and a little later was elected to the Senate of the first legislature chosen under the State organization, of which body he was made the presiding officer. He held other positions of honor and trust under both the Federal and State Governments, and in 1876, was elected a member of the Forty-fifth Congress. He represented the largest Congressional District in the Union, both as respects territorial extent and population. * * * There was put upon him the labor of three men, and by day and by night unceasingly he struggled through the protracted and exciting session of last year to do it all. Mr. Welch was a man of great energy, industry and pertinacity of purpose. He would do all that was required of him although he should know the effort would cost him his life; he did all, and as many another before him in like circumstances had done, went prematurely to his grave. When the session closed, Mr. Welch returned to his constituency very much worn and broken in health. He needed rest, but he took it not. At once he entered upon an active and exceedingly laborious political canvass. His physical machinery could not endure the additional strain thus put upon it, and then the end came, soon and swift, but pangless. In the evening of the 4th of September, 1878, in a public meeting, in the midst of a numerous audience, composed largely of his political friends and admirers whom he was about to address, he was suddenly stricken and fell in instant death. His family--fond mother, a devoted wife and three loving children--were absent in a distant Eastern State, and no other of his kindred was present to close the eyes of him who thus in the prime of his manhood went down under a weight of life's burdens too heavy to be longer borne." Mr. Welch was Past Grand Master of Masons in Nebraska. The funeral services were conducted by the Masons, in Norfolk, and the body was conveyed to Boston, Mass., where it was buried September 13, 1878.

   A. N. YOST, proprietor Valley Hotel, is a native of Cincinnati, Ohio. When a child he came to Indiana. At about the age of nine, came to Lockport, Ill. In about 1852, came to Lucas County, Iowa. In 1855, came to Fontanelle, Neb. There followed farming. He owns a farm of 110 acres in Dodge County, improved. In the spring of 1880, he came to Norfolk, and has since been engaged in the livery and hotel business. He enlisted, in 1862, in Company A, Second Nebraska Cavalry, and served about one year.

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