KANSAS COLLECTION BOOKS


Andreas' History of the State of Nebraska

POLK COUNTY
Produced by Sherri Brakenhoff.





Part 1


PHYSICAL FEATURES.

POLK County is a plain, sloping gently to the southeast in harmony with the greater portion of the State. The famous Platte River enters the county on the western boundary at a point about one-third of its length, north of the southwest corner, cutting off a triangular piece from the northwest corner and forms the northern boundary. A beautiful and exceedingly fertile valley stretches back from the river a distance ranging between fifteen and twenty miles, when a line of low hills separates the valley from the upland.

A branch of the North Fork of the Blue heads near the southwest corner of the county, taking a northeasterly course until it reaches the center of the county, and thence southeasterly, leaving it at the southeast corner, forming a rainbow in shape. Native forest trees, embracing walnut, ash, box elder, soft maple, cottonwood, fringe this stream and also the Platte River.

With the exception of those portions broken by these streams, the general surface of the county is a rolling, billowy prairie of picturesque beauty, comprising about 450 square miles, or nearly 288 acres of valuable land, all susceptible of cultivation.

The soil is a dark gray mold, averaging from two to seven feet in depth, containing a small proportion of sand uniform throughout the county, adapted to grazing and agricultural pursuits. Its loose friable nature absorbs nearly all the water that falls during the rainy season, forming an inexhaustible reservoir from which the heated surface draws moisture during a long rainless summer, making a complete drought an utter impossibility. Alternate strata of clay and mold form the Loess bed, reaching down to a depth of ninety to one hundred and fifty feet, formed by the upheaval and subsidences of the ice age. A stratum of mold was formed when the plain was the bottom of an inland sea during a period of subsidence, and a stratum of clay when an upheaval took place, composed of sand, gravel and shells ground by the fields of ice wearing away the tops of the hills as they appeared near the surface of this great lake that teems with prehistoric life.

ORGANIZATION.

Polk County is the fourth county west of the Missouri River. It comprises about 450 square miles in extent, making in all nearly 288,000 acres of land susceptible of cultivation. It was originally attached to and a part of Butler County, but, by act of Legislature, it was included in its present boundaries.

By order of His Excellency, David Butler, Governor of Nebraska, a special election was ordered to be holden in Polk County on "the 6th day of August A. D. 1870," for the purpose of electing all necessary county officials, by which the following were selected: County Clerk, Frank Reardon; Probate Judge, James Query; County Treasurer, John H. Mickey; Sheriff, Ole Bredeson.

The county seat was located in August, 1870, on the south half of the northeast quarter of Section 24, Town 14 north, Range 2 west, and was named Osceola. On the 14th day of December, F. M. Stone was appointed County Surveyor, and John Fox, County Superintendent of Schools, thus making a full board of county officials. At the same time, the county was divided into two precincts--Hackberry and Clear Creek. The division was made as follows: "Hackberry Precinct to extend from the south line of the county to the center of Township 14 in said county, and embracing all lands from the eastern to the western line of said county." Clear Creek Precinct to extend from the center line of Township 14 to the northern line of the county, and embracing all lands from the eastern to the western line of said county.

In the month of April, 1871, it was ordered by the County Commissioners that another precinct be formed on the west side of the county, described as follows: "Said precinct to embrace all lands lying west of the center line of Range 3 and beginning at the south line of the county and extending to the northern boundary of the same; said division shall be known as Platte Precinct."

In the months of August and September, 1871, the question of removal of the county seat began to be agitated throughout the county, and the County Commissioners submitted the question of removal to be voted upon at an election held October 10, 1871. Section 19, Township 15 north, of Range 2 west, and Section 16, Township 14 north, of Range 2 west, were the contesting points. After a heated and exciting election, the latter location was selected by a majority of fourteen votes, and, on the 14th day of October, 1871, the Commissioners issued their proclamation, declaring the county seat located on the southeast quarter of Section 16, Township 14 north, of Range 2 west.

Messrs. Frank Reardon, John H. Mickey and M. W. Stone were appointed a committee to select forty acres of land out of the above-mentioned tract, and the county seat was located upon its present site.

November 16, 1871, the Commissioners advertised for bids for the construction of a court house for the county, to be erected at some point to be designated by the board on the southeast quarter of Section 16, Township 14 north, of Range 2 west. The contract for building the court house was awarded to M. W. Stone, and was completed by him and accepted by the Board of Commissioners March 20, 1872. It was consumed by fire January 1, 1881, together with many of the records of the county.

OFFICIAL ROSTER.

Since the organization of the county, the following county officials have served:

1870--S. Stone, C. A. Ewing, Jonathan Crockett, Commissioners; Frank Reardon, Clerk; Ole Breedson, Sheriff; James Onery, Probate Judge; Hon. J. H. Mickey, Treasurer; John Fox, Superintendent of Public Instruction; F. M. Stone, Surveyor.

1871--G. D. Grant, T. W. Blake, Jonathan Crockett, Commissioners; Frank Reardon, Clerk; C. A. Ewing, Sheriff; Gordis Stull, Probate Judge; Hon. John Mickey, Treasurer; John Fox, Superintendent of Public Instruction; A. G. Sherwood, Surveyor; S. O. Whaley, Coroner.

1872--C. R. Clark, T. W. Blake, W. T. Dodge, Commissioners; Hon. W. F. Kimmel, Clerk; C. A. Ewing, Sheriff; W. E. Loring, Probate Judge; Hon. J. H. Mickey, Treasurer; James Bell, Superintendent of Public Instruction; A. G. Sherwood, Surveyor; S. O. Whaley, Coroner.

1873--T. W. Blake, W. T. Dodge, George W. Hayden, Commissioners; Hon. W. F. Kimmel, Clerk; C. A. Ewing, Sheriff; W. E. Loring, Probate Judge; Hon. J. H. Mickey, Treasurer; James Bell, Superintendent of Public Instruction; A. G. Sherwood, Surveyor, S. O. Whaley, Coroner.

1874--W. T. Dodge, George W. Hayden, Amon Steever, Commissioners; Hon. W. F. Kimmel, Clerk; S. G. Pheasant, Sheriff; W. E. Loring, Probate Judge; Hon. J. H. Mickey, Treasurer; James Bell, Superintendent of Public Instruction ; A. G. Sherwood, Surveyor, S. O. Whaley, M. D., Coroner.

1875--George W. Hayden, Amon Steever, John Van Horn, Commissioners; H. T. Arnold, Clerk; S. G. Pheasant, Sheriff; W. E. Loring, Probate Judge; Hon. J. H. Mickey, Treasurer; James Bell, Superintendent of Public Instruction; A. G. Sherwood, Surveyor; Thomas H. Sanders, Coroner.

1876--Amon Steever, John Van Horn, J. G. Mickey, Commissioners; J. P. Heald, Clerk; S. G. Pheasant, Sheriff; James W. Snider, Probate Judge; Hon. John H. Mickey, Treasurer; J. B. Mitchell, Superintendent of Public Instruction; G. W. Hayden, Surveyor; S. O. Whaley, M. D., Coroner.

1877--John Van Horn, J. G. Mickey, W. W. Maxwell, Commissioners; J. P. Heald, Clerk; S. G. Pheasant, Sheriff; James W. Snider, Probate Judge; Hon. J. H. Mickey, Treasurer; J. B. Mitchell, Superintendent of Public Instruction; G. W. Hayden, Surveyor; S. O. Whaley, M. D., Coroner.

1878--J. G. Mickey, W. W. Maxwell, John Van Horn, Commissioners; J. P. Heald, Clerk; S. G. Pheasant, Sheriff; James W. Snider, Probate Judge; Hon. J. H. Mickey, Treasurer; Rev. Simon Barrows, Superintendent Public Instruction; A. G. Sherwood, Surveyor, S. O. Whaley, M. D., Coroner.

1879--W. W. Maxwell, John Van Horn, J. G. Mickey, Commissioners; J. P. Heald, Clerk; S. G. Pheasant, Sheriff; James W. Snider, Probate Judge; Hon. J. H. Mickey, Treasurer; Rev. Simon Barrows, Superintendent Public Instruction; O. W. Barnes, Surveyor, S. O. Whaley, M. D., Coroner.

1880--John Van Horn, J. G. Mickey, L. G. Berggren, Commissioners; I. F. Kelley, Clerk; S. G. Pheasant, Sheriff; James W. Snider, Probate Judge; L. J. Blowers, Treasurer; J. B. Mitchell, Superintendent Public Instruction; O. W. Barnes, Surveyor; Jay N. Skelton, Coroner.

1881--J. G. Mickey, L. G. Berggren, P. C. King, Commissioners; I. F. Kelley, Clerk; S. G. Pheasant, Sheriff; James W. Snider, Probate Judge; L. J. Blowers, Treasurer; J. B. Mitchell, Superintendent Public Instruction; O. W. Barnes, Surveyor; Jay N. Skelton, Coroner.

1882--L. G. Berggren, P. C. King, M. C. Stull, Commissioners; J. P. Heald, Clerk, S. G. Pheasant, Sheriff; C. W. Aikins, County Judge; L. J. Blowers, Treasurer; B. F. Buffington, Superintendent Public Instruction; S. O. Whaley, Coroner.

In 1870, when the first assessment of the county was made by Hon. John H. Mickey, the total valuation was placed at $6,960, and the population ninety.

In 1871, when the strong tide of immigration set Westward, many settlers located in the county, and it was fairly started on the road to prosperity and wealth, and although its past progress has been marvelously rapid, it has nevertheless been solid, substantial and permanent. Since the advent of the Omaha & Republican Valley Branch of the Union Pacific Railroad, its advancement and development has been truly wonderful, and it now stands in the front rank in civilization, culture, wealth and refinement.

SCHOOL STATISTICS.

In 1871, there were seven school districts organized, and perhaps two or three schoolhouses, with a total valuation of school property of $800. To-day Polk County is behind none of her sister counties in educational work. The following statistics of different years will indicate its progress in this all-important work:

                   GENERAL SUMMARY FOR 1873.

Number of districts..................................    33
Number of children of school age--males..............   364
Number of children of school age--females............   336
Number attending school--males.......................   186
Number attending school--females.....................   150
Number attending school between the ages of seven and
sixteen..............................................   123
Average number of days attended by each enrolled
   pupil--males......................................    56½
Average number of days attended by each enrolled
   pupil--females....................................    70
Per cent of children not attending school--males.....    51
Per cent of children not attending school--females...    44½
Number of districts having six months' school or more    18
Average number of days of school in all districts....    73
Number of qualified teachers--males..................    11
Number of qualified teachers--females................    19
Number of days taught by males.......................   420
Number of days taught by females..................... 1,660
Highest wages paid per month--males..................$50 00
Highest wages paid per month--females................ 35 00
Lowest wages paid per month--males................... 25 00
Lowest wages paid per month--females................. 20 00
Average wages paid per month--males.................. 33 33½
Average wages paid per month--females................ 28 00
Number of schoolhouses--frame........................    16
Number of schoolhouses--sod..........................     7
Number of schoolhouses well furnished with patent
   desks and seats...................................    15

                 GENERAL SUMMARY FOR 1876.

Number of districts..................................    52
Number of children of school age..................... 1,141
Number of children attending school..................   723
Number of qualified teachers.........................    46
Average wages paid male teachers.....................$29 20
Average wages paid female teachers................... 20 35
Number of schoolhouses well furnished with patent
   desks and seats...................................    26
Total value of school property...................$15,448 00
Total expenditures............................... 13,142 45
Total receipts................................... 13,142 45
Total district tax for teachers' wages...........  2,516 70
Number of frame schoolhouses.........................    29
Number of sod schoolhouses...........................     6
                                                 __________
      Total..........................................    35
      Total indebtedness.........................$10,328 45
Number of visits of County Superintendent............    29
Number of visits of Directors........................    53
Value of school property.........................$16,241 00
Total receipts for the year......................  3,832 55
Total indebtedness............................... 12,053 00
Average cost of tuition of each child attending school 7 75
Total district tax for teachers' wages............ 9,049 00
County Superintendent, number of days employed.......    52 ½
County Superintendent's compensation per day.........  4 00
County Superintendent's compensation for one year....220 00

                  GENERAL SUMMARY FOR 1881.

Number of districts..................................    59
Number of schoolhouses...............................    54
Number of children of school age--males.............. 1,233
Number of children of school age--females............ 1,111
                                                      _____
     Total........................................... 2,344
Average number in each district--males...............    19
Average number in each district--females.............    21
                                                      _____
     Total...........................................    40
Number of teachers--males............................    40
Number of teachers--females..........................    48
                                                      _____
     Total...........................................    88
Number of days taught by teachers--males............. 3,344
Number of days taught by teachers--females........... 3,758
                                                      _____
     Total........................................... 7,102
Average number of days by each--males................    93
Average number of days by each--females..............    49
Number of districts have six (6) months of school or
   more..............................................    36
Number of districts having four (4) months of school
   or more...........................................    11
Average number of days of school in all districts....   120
Number of districts without school...................     2
Number of schoolhouses well furnished with patent desks  50
Number of schools having apparatus...................    32
Value of school property.........................$22,346 40
Total costs of schools, including teachers' wages,
   and expenditures of all kinds................. 18,700 67
Total indebtedness............................... 23,745 64


STATISTICS OF PROPERTY.

The principal development of the county has been in agricultural wealth. It is estimated that at the close of the year 1871, there were scarcely seven hundred acres under cultivation.

Five years later, in 1876, the Assessors report 53,906 acres under cultivation; the value of real estate, $614,782; and the total valuation of the county, $810,236. The culture of artificial timber has begun to receive attention, and 2,020 acres of natural forest trees had been planted. The population had increased to 3,353, a gain of 3,263 in six years, with an average gain of 604 per cent for each year. In 1879, the population numbered 6,766, and the valuation of the county had increased to a corresponding degree.

A branch of the great continental railway had penetrated the interior of the county, giving direct communication with the outer world and transportation to the great markets of the West, developing its natural resources and giving its citizens many comforts and facilities they had before been denied.

The towns began to put on the appearance of thriving villages, the sod house or dug-out of the settler had given place to comfortable frame dwellings surrounded with fields of golden grain and waving corn; many settlers were constantly arriving, attracted by these certain evidences of sure prosperity, and the growing fame of its fertile soil. This flood of immigration was settling in, turning the wild prairie sod into prosperous farms, and happy homes of thrift and industry.

That which nine years previous had been a lonely silent region of rolling, billowy prairie that stretched away as far as the eye could reach until it seemed to meet the azure sky, with not a house, not a grove save those that skirted the banks of the Blue to relieve the monotony of the scene, was changed into a very garden containing all the elements, advantages, and social advancement found in communities who have been a half-century growing up to their present state.

During the last three years of the county's history it has made rapid strides in the march of progress. The present population is 9,000, and the valuation of the county is $1,500,000. The assessed valuation is given in the following tabulated statement, taken from the Assessor's books of the year 1881:

                   VALUATION OF THE COUNTY, 1881.

                       Number.      Value.         Average Value.
Horses................. 3,535    $101,763 00        $28 85
Cattle................. 6,164      52,581 00          8 53 1/3
Mules and Asses........   360      12,489 00         34 69 1/6
Sheep..................   701         701 00          1 00
Hogs...................11,065      11,159 00          1 008
Carriages and Wagons... 1,293      20,563 75         15 903
Sewing and Knitting
 Machines..............   461       4,249 00          9 216
Melodeons..............    94       2,062 00         21 936
Agricultural tools.....   ...      36,023 46
Value of investments in real estate and im-
  provements....................................$19,731 00
Value of all other property..................... 15,673 50
Total value, as corrected by Board of Equali-
  zation.......................................$345,114 11

                                Number.             Value.
Improved town lots.............    222          $53,953 00
Acres of unimproved town lots..    658            5,749 00
Total value of town lots.......    ...           59,702 00
Acres of improved land.........137,424          514,504 90
Acres of unimproved land....... 93,300          341,381 50
Total acres of all lands.......231,924          855,886 40
Total of real estate...........   ....          915,588 40
Railroad property..............   ....           53,824 00
                                              ____________
     Total assessed valuation of county......$1,314,487 00

NUMBER OF ACRES UNDER CULTIVATION. Wheat............................................. 36,589 Corn.............................................. 32,365 Oats.............................................. 3,812 Barley............................................ 654 Meadow............................................ 585 Rye............................................... 86 Flax.............................................. 223 Broom corn........................................ 200 Number of forest trees............................ 1,886 Number of fruit trees............................. 26,604 Grape vines....................................... 2,883




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