Andreas' History of the State of Nebraska

Saunders County
Produced by
Jennifer Beatty.


Topography and Geology | First Settlers and Early History
A Reminiscence | Creeks of Saunders County | Political History

County Organization | County Progress | Education

Wahoo:   Early History | Political History | Religious | Schools | Societies | Manufacturing
Biographical Sketches
Ashland:   Business Interests | Schools | Societies | Religious
Ashland:   Biographical Sketches
Valparaiso:   Biographical Sketches

Chapman Precinct:   Biographical Sketches
Douglas Precinct: | Biographical Sketch
Rock Creek Precinct
Clear Creek:   Biographical Sketches
Chester Precinct | Marietta Precinct
Alvin (Mead P. O.):   Biographical Sketches
Elk Precinct:   Biographical Sketch
Richland Precinct | Center Precinct | Newman Precinct
Miscellaneous Biographies

List of Illustrations in Saunders County Chapter

Part 7


   In the extreme southwestern portion of Saunders County, near its confluence with Butler, Seward and Lancaster, stands the enterprising and growing town of Valparaiso.

   It is situated at the junction of the Lincoln and Osceola branches of the Omaha & Republican Valley Division of the Union Pacific Railroad, and on or near Oak Creek. This stream furnishes a splendid water-power, and is utilized in operating one of the best flouring-mills in this section of the State. The village has the most complete shipping facilities, and is the center of a fine grazing and agricultural district. Its present situation makes the town eligible to a tributary trade of a portion of four of the best counties in the State.

   For the past year, it has enjoyed an unprecedented growth, numbering at the present time a population of about three hundred and fifty souls, which is more than treble that of a year ago. The surrounding country is being rapidly settled up, and by many native-born Americans, who are possessed of the capital and means for the rapid development of the country. It is situated only twenty miles distant from the State capital, and the numerous railroad connections of which it is possessed make the facilities for travel to and from this point, or the shipments and receipts of freights, of the most desirable character. The territory adjacent to the town is undulating or rolling, and possessed of such excellent drainage qualities, as to scarcely ever impede the work of cultivation, even in the wettest seasons, while the best of water is obtained at the depth of only a few feet. Oak Creek offers an excellent water-power, which, if properly and judiciously utilized, would supply the motive power for numerous manufacturing industries. The town is provided with excellent school and church privileges, and its situation in the valley of Oak Creek, surrounded by the billowy swells of the uplands, makes it very attractive. It combines many elements of prosperous and permanent growth. The water-power, the railroad facilities, and the surroundings of vast agricultural wealth, commend the place to all classes--the merchant, manufacturer, mechanic and farmer alike. As a business and shipping point, it already takes rank with towns of much larger population, a fact indicated by its superior character of business enterprise.

   Manufacturing interests are well represented by the Valparaiso Flouring Mills, of which Mr. C. C. White is proprietor. The site is naturally an exceptional one, and the dam of remarkable substantiability. The mill is a frame structure, 26x40 feet, three stories in height, and equipped with the most practical machinery to be obtained. Oak Creek at this point flows an average of 500 cubic inches, with eighteen feet head. The mill has a capacity for grinding 300 bushels per day, and employs three sets of buhrs. It is under the management of Mr. D. M. Dean, who built the mill in 1878, and who has had the supervision from its inauguration.

   Mr. White is also extensively engaged in the lumber trade at this point. He has been a resident of the State, formerly at Lincoln, for the past seventeen years, and is the present State Senator from this district. Banking interests are represented by Mr. R. K. Johnson. It is a private institution, and was organized by the present proprietor about one year ago. It does a general banking business, and is an important feature in commercial circles at this point. All branches of business are included in its various enterprises, and general merchandise, hardware, hotel interests, stock and grain, receive special attention. The professions of law are ably represented by D. J. H. Downing, medical practitioner, and J. K. Van Demark, an old settler and lawyer.

   The first white settlers in Oak Creek Precinct, were Andrew Johnson, familiarly known as "Uncle Andy," and his son, Mr. R. K. Johnson. They located upon Section 22, Town 13, Range 5, October 5, 1865, just west of the present site of Valparaiso. In February, 1866, Henry Bates settled upon the same section, and when spring opened, Henry Throop located upon Section 34. George Newman also settled upon Sections 26 and 35, during the summer, but afterward went to Newman Precinct. James Bates and William Bates arrived in 1868; the former took up land on Section 26, and the latter on Section 20. James Craig is another early settler, coming here in 1867. Mr. R. K. Johnson is the original proprietor of one-half of the town site, and built the first frame house and store, the latter a small structure 10x16 feet, in 1870, hauling his stock of goods and supplies from Lincoln with an ox team. His business soon increased, and a short time after he erected a second store, 18x30 feet, which he occupied until his present store was built, in 1877, when the railroad was completed. The Applegarth Bros. opened the second store in 1877. The first school was established in Section 22, upon the land of Andrew Johnson, who, with the assistance of R. K. Johnson, built a small frame schoolhouse. In the winter of 1868-69, a school was opened with Miss Adaline States, now Mrs. C. Johnson, as teacher. Mrs. Johnson taught but a short time, and was succeeded by J. K. Van Demark, who is really the first teacher. This district included the entire precinct, and the School Board consisted of Andrew Johnson, Director; Rev. George Worley, Moderator; and R. K. Johnson, Treasurer. This house was used until the present was built in 1879. The school is small as yet, numbering sixty pupils, and has not been graded. In the summer of 1869, Rev. George Worley preached the first sermon, the audience having no shelter but the broad expanse of blue sky. In the winter, the dug-outs of the settlers became the place of assembly. He labored in many parts of the county, and was the first circuit preacher in this part of the State.

   Valparaiso was incorporated as a town in July, 1880, and the County Commissioners appointed the following Trustees: J. C. Stevens, Gustavus States, J. P. Gibbons, C. J. McFarland, John Hunter. A. M. White was appointed Town Clerk; Elijah Beach, Town Treasurer; and the Board elected J. M. Gibbons, President. The present Board of Trustees are: J. M. Gibbons, President; J. C. Stevens, George Roulle, A. M. White, D. M. Dean; Town Clerk, William Bays; Town Treasurer, E. B. Phelps. Since the date when "Uncle Andy" took up his land in 1865, great changes have taken place.

   At that time there were only four improvements between here and where Lincoln now stands; and the only inhabitant between here and sundown, was James Brown. Removing his family here the following spring, he found that settlers' huts had taken the place of Indian tents. James Craig had homesteaded the land on which the town is located. The family of Bates, with their numerous relatives and acquaintances, had put in their appearance. Ivers Jensen, though now surrounded by everything calculated to make a farmer happy, was roughing it on corn bread and water. Uncle Andy's experience of frontier life was by no means the pleasantest that could be desired. He hauled the sawed lumber for his house from Rock Bluff and Nebraska City, paying $75 and $100 per thousand. He worked at his trade in Nebraska City, while his boys raised corn in the weed patches, with no other tool than the hoe. The following winter they subsisted on the corn thus cultivated, ground in hand mills, with an occasional grist of wheat flour, for Sundays, and to be set before strangers. The old-fashioned coffee-mill that still performs its office in the kitchen, was a kind of god-send, for the neighbors took turns in grinding "injun meal" on it.

   The Indian then lit his camp-fire and sang his songs on the very site where the schoolhouse now stands. It is a kind of alcove, surrounded on three sides by timber, a pleasant retreat both in winter and summer. But now the merry laugh of school children resounds along the banks of Oak Creek, instead of the hoarse, guttural voice of the painted savage.

   Valparaiso was laid out on Government land, when and by whom no one now knows. But lots were sold in Eastern markets, and it is marked on Colton's maps of 1863 as the Capital of Calhoun (Saunders) County.

   In the spring of 1871, Mr. Van Demark came here. He taught the first public school within a radius, perhaps, of twenty miles. He seems to have a claim on the young folks, which they all gratefully acknowledge. As late as his arrival, there was no post office nearer than Lincoln, and he gives the entire credit of the establishment of one here to Uncle Andy. All the business, of every description, was transacted in Lincoln. He recounts, in his own peculiar way, his experience in traveling there for his mail, tobacco and whisky. Having just left a printing office, he missed his mail more than anything else, unless, it may be, his whisky.

   As to the past thus pictured to us by the participants therein, we can but faintly understand their hopes and fears. But of the present, we can speak for ourselves. What change has passed over this country since then! And nowhere can this change be realized and appreciated more than here. Then, nothing but the rich, virgin soil; now, everything common to civilized man. Churches, schoolhouses, mills, steam elevators, stores, railroads and telegraph.

   Sherman Post, No. 64, Grand Army of the Republic, was mustered in June 24, 1881, with headquarters at Valparaiso. The roster of charter members is: I. C. Stevens, William C. Kelley, W. S. Raphael, J. C. Worley, W. T. March, C. B. Hedding, D. Critchfield, S. M. Weed, J. Parraso, A. Crouck, W. Kinney, George Worley, J. L. Cheever, D. Shoomaker, W. F. Firey, E. Cunningham, D. C. Rider, John Ort, J. Greever, E. F. Cheever, F. M. Cheever, L. Brewster, J. L. Magee, B. Boyers, J. D. Essex, Wiliam Bays, W. J. Stewart, D. F. Riley, S. Decker, N. D. Tharp.

   The present officers are: I. C. Stevens, P. C.; W. L. Raphael, S. P. C.; C. C. White, J. V. P. C.; John L. Cheever, Surgeon; William Hedges, Quartermaster; George Worley, Chaplain; R. K. Johnson, O. D.; Dan F. Riley, O. G.; Ethan Mengel, Adjutant.



   HENRY BATES, farmer and stock raiser, Section 22, Oak Creek Precinct, P. O. Valparaiso, came to Nebraska in the fall of 1865, and stopped at Nebraska City until the spring of 1866, month of March, and took up the claim where he now lives, and was one of the first settlers of Oak Creek Precinct. Mr. B. was born in Clarke County, Ind., March 20, 1833. He is a member of the Christian Church at Valparaiso, and was one of the original members of that society. He was married in Illinois, December 24, 1858, to Miss Mary J. Worrall, who was also a native of Indiana. They have five children.

   ELIJAH BEACH, senior member of the firm of Stephens & Beach, druggists, Valparaiso. Mr. Beach came to Nebraska in the fall of 1870, and settled in Butler County, eight miles southwest of David City, where he took up a homestead, and resided there till the spring of 1878. He then moved to Valparaiso and opened the first drug store in the town. Mr. B. is a member of the Methodist Episcopal Church. He was born in Kankakee Co., Ill., November 29, 1851.

   WILLIAM BAYS, stock buyer, Valparaiso, came to Nebraska in the fall of 1867 and located in Lancaster County, where he took up a farm and homestead in Section 12 west, Oak Creek Precinct. Here he resided until February, 1880, when he moved to Valparaiso and engaged in his present business. He has served as Justice of the Peace six years in West Oak Precinct of Lancaster County, and has held the office of School Treasurer and Director for several years, and was one of the first school officers in that precinct. He enlisted in the late war at Tuscola, Douglas Co., Ill., in 1864, and served until it closed,--in Thirty-fifth Illinois Volunteer Infantry, Company G. He was commissioned Second Lieutenant during his service. He was born in Greene County, Ind., July 13, 1843; was married in Illinois, January 12, 1865, to Miss Mary M. Bagley, who died in December, 1871. They had two children, twin sons; was married to his present wife, Miss Sarah J. Branch, of New York, February 2, 1873. They have two children. He is a member of G. A. R., and Adjt. of Sherman Post, No. 64, at Valparaiso. He is now Clerk of the town of Valparaiso.

   DANIEL M. DEANE, foreman and head miller of Valparaiso Flouring Mills. He came to Nebraska in September, 1871, and first located at Seward, where he worked at his millwright business, and also ran a mill a while afterward. He moved to Raymond, Lancaster Co., and ran a mill there for six years, and then, in the spring of 1878, came to Valparaiso, and superintended the building of the mill that he is now foreman of. He is a member of the Town Board of Valparaiso. He was born October 11, 1847, in the State of Massachusetts, and was married at Galena, Ill., to Miss Mary Bohrer of that city.

   JOSHUA P. GIBBONS, general merchandise and grain, Valparaiso, came to Nebraska in the fall of 1874, and located at Kennard, Washington Co., where he ran a general merchandise store until he moved to Valparaiso, at the time U. P. R. R. branch was built through to Valparaiso, and started the second store at that place, and has since started buying grain, etc. He has been a member of the Town Board since the town was incorporated; is also Treasurer of the school district, and a member of the Episcopal Church. He was married in September, 1879, to Miss Salee Raphael of Valparaiso. Mr. G. was born in Ireland, and emigrated to the United States in 1871, and remained in New York City in the employ of A. T. Stewart of that city up to the time he came west.

   MARSILLIAT B. GIFFIN, farmer and auctioneer, Section 25, Oak Creek Precinct, P. O. Valparaiso. Came to Nebraska in fall of 1867, and located on Section 30, Newman Precinct, and took up a homestead, and was one of the first settlers in that vicinity. Here he resided till October, 1881, then moved to where he now lives. He has served as Assessor of Newman Precinct three terms and was U. S. Enumerator in 1880, of that Precinct. He enlisted in the late war, in Illinois, April 1861, in Seventh Illinois Volunteer Infantry, Company G, and served his time in the first three months call. Mr. G. was born in Belmont County, Ohio, February 5, 1838. Was married in 1861, to Miss Mary J. Eastey, of Illinois. They are both members of the Methodist Episcopal Church. He is also member of the G. A. R., Sherman Post No. 64. Mr. Giffin is one of the leading and most enterprising men of Saunders County, and has always worked for the best interest of settling up his county.

   IVER JENSEN, farmer and stock raiser, Section 23, P. O. Valparaiso, came to Nebraska in 1866, and took up a claim, where he now resides, and then settled on it the next spring. Mr. J. was born in Denmark, February 12, 1843. Came to America in 1864, and immediately enlisted in the late war, at New York City, in Thirteenth New York Volunteer Cavalry, Company B, and served till the close of the war. He was wounded during the campaign in Maryland, 1865, just before the close of the war. Was married July 12, 1870, at Lincoln, Neb., to Miss Mary A. Bates, who was born in Clarke County, Ind., April 22, 1843. They have five children. Mr. Jensen is the proprietor of one of the best stock farms in Saunders County, consisting of 480 acres, well watered, etc. He raises every year about seventy-five head of cattle.


[Portrait of R. K. Johnson.]

   RODNEY K. JOHNSON, dealer in general merchandise, grain, etc., and also does a general banking business. Mr. J. came to Nebraska in September, 1865, and took up homestead, where the present village of Valparaiso now stands, and in spring of 1866 started farming and in fall of 1869 opened a general merchandise store, which was the first store at the above place, and has continued to run that since, and is now one of the oldest merchants in Saunders County. He has served as Justice of the Peace for over fourteen years, and is also Notary Public. Mr. J. enlisted in the late war, in April, 1861, and served until July, 1865, at Janesville, Wis., with Fifth Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry, Company E, as private and was mustered out as Second Lieutenant, and was in about thirty engagements. He is a member of G. A. R., Sherman Post, No. 64. He is also member of I. O. O. F., Lincoln Lodge, No. 11. Was born in State of Maine, December 13, 1842. Was married October 23, 1870, to Miss Elvira L. Carter, who is a native of Illinois, by whom he has three children, viz.: Harry, Estelle, and Emily.

   ANDREW JOHNSON, Postmaster at Valparaiso, and dealer in real estate. Came to Nebraska, October, 1865, and located the same year and took up a homestead on Section 22, Oak Creek Precinct, which land joined the present village of Valparaiso. Mr. J. was appointed Postmaster in 1871, being the first Postmaster of Valparaiso and has held that position since. He has also served as Justice of the Peace, and was one term one of the County Commissioners. Was born in State of Maine, November 9, 1816. Was married in State of Maine to Miss Mary A. Little, in 1840.

   CHARLES J. McFARLAND, livery and sale stable, Valparaiso. Came to Nebraska in 1871, and took up homestead in Lancaster County, Section 6, Oak Creek Precinct. Here he resided until 1877, then moved to Valparaiso, and started the live stock business, and built the first hotel in that town. Mr. McF. enlisted in the late war, in 1862, in the One Hundredth Ohio Volunteer, Infantry, Company H, at Spring Hill, Fulton Co., and served until the close of the war. Was taken prisoner by John Morgan, but was held but a short time when he escaped. Was born at Zanesville, Muskingum Co., Ohio, February 16, 1832. Was married in State of Ohio, March 18, 1853, to Miss Maria Shoemaker, of that State. They have five children living. Mr. McF. has served two terms as Justice of the Peace, of Lancaster County, and is now member of the Town Board of Valparaiso.

   LA FAYETTE McDERBY, farmer, Section 30, Oak Creek Precinct, P. O. Valparaiso, son of Mary McDerby. He came to Nebraska with his parents in the fall of 1872, and located on the farm where he now lives, which joins his father's place. He was born in Eaton County, Mich., July 22, 1850. He now owns a nice farm of eighty acres of his own, and is in comfortable circumstances. His father was a soldier in the late war, enlisting in the Sixth Michigan Heavy Artillery in 1864 and served till the close of the war. He is also a member of the G. A. R., Sherman Post, No. 64, at Valparaiso.

   EDWIN B. PHELPS, hardware merchant at Valparaiso. He is a son of I. N. Phelps, of Wahoo. Edwin came to State of Nebraska with his parents in 1869, who located near Wahoo, taking up a homestead near his father, where he resided until year 1875, when he moved to Wahoo and started a grocery store, which business he followed four years, and then went in the livery business at Wahoo, and also ran a hotel in connection, then in January, 1881, he moved to Valparaiso and started in the hardware business. In connection with that, he handles all kinds of farm machinery. Mr. P. was born in Wyoming County, N. Y., August 2, 1847. Was married in 1868 to Miss Tenia J. Washburn, of Wyoming County, N. Y. They have three children. Mr. Phelps is a member of A., F. & A. M., Wahoo Lodge, No. 59. He is now Treasurer of town of Valparaiso.

   GEO. W. SAUNDERS, meat market, Valparaiso, came to Nebraska in 1866, with his parents, who located in Otoe County, where he resided till August, 1881, then moved to Valparaiso and started his present business. Was born in England, December 31, 1858. Was married in September, 1880, to Miss Addie Donehue, of Cass County. He is a member of the Christian Church.

   WILLIAM J. STEWART, farmer and carpenter, Section 13, Oak Creek Precinct, P. O. Valparaiso. He was born in Scotland, July 4, 1813. His parents emigrated to America when he was two years of age. They moved to Wisconsin in 1840, and settled in Walworth County. He remained until October, 1861, when he enlisted in late war, at Elkhorn, Wis., in Tenth Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry, Company A, and served three years and four months, and in 1866 he moved to Nebraska and located at Ashland, where he engaged to work at the carpenter trade, which he followed until 1880, then moved to the farm where he now lives. He was married in 1863 to Miss Mary E. Edie, while home on furlough from the army. Their family consists of three children. Mrs. Stewart is a member of First Baptist Church at Ashland.

   HENRY E. THROOP, farmer and stock raiser, Section 34, Oak Creek Precinct, P. O. Valparaiso, came to Nebraska in 1866, and bought a quarter section of land, where he now lives, and afterwards took up a homestead and has resided there ever since, and was among the first settlers of that precinct. He is a native of Wyoming County, N. Y., born May 26, 1830. Was married in Wisconsin in April, 1863, to Miss Ellen M. Johnson, daughter of A. Johnson, of Valparaiso. They have five children, viz.: Frank, Elmer E., Will, Nellie and Minnie. Elmer E. was the first male child born in Oak Creek Precinct, September, 1866. Mr. T. has the finest farm house in Saunders County at present, all of which was built by himself.

   S. M. WEED, editor and proprietor of the Valparaiso Avalanche.

   CHARLES C. WHITE, lumber merchant and proprietor of the Valparaiso Flouring Mill, came to Nebraska in October, 1864, and located in Lancaster County, where he followed farming for nine years, and then moved to Lincoln, and in the fall of 1873 was elected County Treasurer of Lancaster County, and served in that responsible position two terms. He continued to reside at Lincoln till 1878, then moved to Valparaiso and erected the flouring mill at the above place, which is one of the largest enterprises in that part of the county. They have a capacity of grinding 300 bushels of wheat per day, and is furnished with one of the finest water powers of its capacity in the State. Mr. W. enlisted in the late war of the rebellion in 1861, in the Ninth Illinois Volunteer Cavalry, Company D, and served till September, 1864. Was prisoner of war for seven months at Libby Prison and Belle Isle. He is now a member of the G. A. R., Sherman Post, No. 64, and also of the Methodist Episcopal Church at Valparaiso, and of the A., F. & A. M., Lancaster Lodge, No. 54, and Lincoln Chapter, No. 6, and Mount Moriah Commandery, No. 4, at Lincoln. Also the I. O. O. F. and Lincoln Temple of Honor, No. 1, and was a charter member of that society at Lincoln. Mr. W. represented Saunders County in the State Senate in 1880-81. He was born in Lucas County, Ohio, February 24, 1843. Was married in 1868, to Miss Olive A. Johnson, who is a daughter of A. Johnson, one of the first settlers of Valparaiso. Their family consists of three daughters.

   GEORGE WORLEY, farmer, and salesman in the lumber yards of C. C. White, Valparaiso. This gentleman came to Nebraska in 1867, and located on Section 26, Oak Creek Precinct, one and a half miles south of Valparaiso, where he farmed for about ten years, and then moved to Valparaiso in September, 1880. He was born in Harrison County, Ky., February 4, 1818. Enlisted in the late war in July, 1861, in the Thirty-fifth Illinois Volunteer Infantry, Company I, and served three years. He is a member of the G. A. R., Sherman Post, No. 64. He is also a member of the Methodist Episcopal Church, at Valparaiso, and was one of the original members of that society, which was started at Valparaiso in 1867. He was married in 1839 to Miss Martha J. Angell, who is a native of Ohio. They have eight children living, three of whom are Methodist Episcopal ministers.

   THOMAS D. WORRALL, farmer, of Section 28, Oak Creek Precinct, P. O. Valparaiso, came to Nebraska, in 1865, with his parents, who located in Lancaster County, in West Oak Precinct, Section 2, who was one of the first settlers in that county. He came to Saunders County in the fall of 1877, and worked for R. K. Johnson, at Valparaiso, until the spring of 1881. He moved on the place where he now lives in the fall of 1881. Was married in the fall of 1881, October 27, to Miss Mary E. Glassburn. Mr. Worrall was born in Douglas County, Ill., September 27, 1856. His wife was born in Gallia County, Ohio, March 13, 1859.

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