"Stories
My Parents
Told Me"


Reminiscences by Mrs. L.E. Shaffstall

From the Lincoln-Sentinel Republican
September 21, 1939

In 1873 Grandfather HOLCOMB’s log cabin stood near the river bank southwest of where the Union Pacific depot now is. One evening, grandfather and mother, who was just a little girl, were returning home from grandfather’s store.

The news had spread among the settlers that the Indians were on the warpath, about 30 miles northwest of Lincoln. Grandfather and mother were hurrying for it was nearing dark. Their route took them past the present site of the power plant and west where they crossed Lost Creek. Just at this time a terrifying "whizz" rent the air.

Imagining the Indians had heard them and turned loose a stream of arrows, they dropped to the ground and lay, almost afraid to breathe, in the tall grass. After some time they gained courage to go one home and afterward learned they had been frightened by a nighthawk, swooping down at their heads.

Prior to this there had been such terrible tragedies that the word "Indian" struck terror to the heart of the bravest. …

After the townsite was staked out and several buildings were erected, one day a buffalo became estranged from the herd and came galloping through the streets of Lincoln. Mothers ran screaming and dragging their children to safety and the men grabbed their firearms and started in hot pursuit but were outwitted. The buffalo escaped.

My uncle was so enthused over this corn crop, a patch we would term it now, it was a promising crop in the roasting ear stage, but he awoke one morning to find it tramped in the group by a herd of buffalo.

I recall the first fence father made on a grassy meadow with smooth wire on stakes about a foot from the ground. Each animal was tethered by the front foot with a stump or other weight on the end of the rope.

Father made a large sled and hauled feel one winter with our yoke of oxen. I sometimes went with him and as I now recall their slow gait it seems that walking was a faster method of travel. One day they started for home on a high run and no command could stop them. Fodder was scattered along the trail for a mile or more and father disposed of the oxen at the first offer.

A neighbor was harvesting his wheat crop. Other neighbors gathered to help. His wife had prepared a very nice dinner in their little one-room home. The men gathered around the table, placed in the center of the room, and were preparing to eat when a hen hopped off her next of the shelf in the corner and, very flustrated, made her first stop on that well-spread table. She proceeded to plow down through the table, scattering victuals in her wild flight as she proceeded on out the door. As it was crowded and warm in the house, it was decided to set the table out of doors for supper. When all were seated at the low, homemade table, a large hog darted under, followed by a dog. All hands grasped that table, keeping it right side up, and after the confusion did justice to a hearty meal.

A lady from England and her husband were among the early settlers. She asked for a recipe for cooking green corn. She had been told it was very palatable but admitted her failure, for she cooked that corn for a half day and after repeatedly trying with a fork, the cobs were not done.

Another couple hurriedly mounted their horses and rushed to Ft. Harker after seeing what they supposed was a band of Indians in their war paint and feathers peeping over the west hill near sundown. They afterwards found it was a flock of wild turkeys strutting as was their habit with wings and tails spread.

When there were scarcely a dozen houses in town, a runaway team killed a small pig. The owner of the pig, a lady, ran down the street screaming frantically, "Police! Police!"

While these stories are laughable they are also pathetic. These settlers were from the east, unaccustomed to western ways. But they learned the ways of the land and their children and grandchildren, yes, their great-grandchildren, rise us and call them blessed.

One family lived in a dugout with a strip of carpet for a door. One night a large bull snake entered and devoured a few eggs in a pan. Then spying some more he took the shorter route through the handle of a jug. After swallowing the other eggs, he was trapped and the execution took place in the morning.

In founding a new colony, it was the custom to establish a mission and this new country was not without its missionaries. Our missionaries were so devoted to their people, they did not pass on to other points but remained to minister here, faithfully helping the needy, spiritually, physically and financially.

One of the outstanding stories is that of Rev. Henry C. BRADBURY, beloved old circuit-rider. He often stopped at the home of Charles RATZSCH and family, several miles southeast of Lincoln, where he always received a hearty welcome.

Like all pioneers, the RATZSCH’s did not make frequent trips to town and often their provisions ran low. Mr. BRADBURY had a vision one night that all was not well at the RATZSCH home and so he provided a quantity of necessary food, mounted his horse and set out for the RATZSCH home. The weather was threatening and soon it began to snow. However, he kept on his way, the storm increasing in fury and the horse began floundering through drifts. It was growing dark when Rev. Bradbury discovered he was lost and had no sense of direction. His horse was soon exhausted and finally lay down in the snow. Rev. Bradbury laid down beside his horse and the warmth of its body revived him after he had given up that Death was near. He earnestly prayed for strength for endurance and rising, he saw a faint light through the storm. He encouraged his horse to rise and led him toward that light. It proved to be a farm home many miles from his destination but they made him welcome and comfortable. The good woman said they had retired for the night but she was prompted by some premonition to leave the light burning.

Later they loaned Mr. BRADBURY another horse when he was able to go on. He found the RATZSCH’s in need of provisions during the storm. After many years on the farm, Mr. and Mrs. RATZSCH moved to town and so long as life and health permitted, they observed what they called "Bradbury Day" in their home. One day each week he spent with this worthy family where they prepared a sumptious dinner and all joined in a prayer service of praise and thanksgiving.


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