Historical Sketches
of the Early Settlement
of Lincoln County


[Transcriber’s note: I have taken the liberty of correcting some of the spellings from the original text. After this text was reprinted in 1906 some corrections were submitted by surviving early settlers; those corrections can be found on this website as well.]

Saline Valley Register, July 5, 1876

Historical Sketches of the Early Settlement and Organization of Lincoln County


By Hon. Washington Smith

There is always an interest attending the memory of those who first settle a country, however humble their aim or obscure their origin. We naturally look back with interest and enquire who first brooked the dangers, the privations, and hardships incident to a frontier life? Who first denied themselves the pleasures of society; who first advanced far into a lonely wilderness; who first experimented with an untried soil and subdued the wild to the use of man; who first contended with the storms of winter and the blast of summer in a land unknown to them; what motives impel men to leave the scenes of their childhood, the surroundings of youth, the love of kindred, the associations of home, the tender ties of friendship and the graves of their ancestors, to go and contend with the inclement skies and inhospitable shores of an unknown country? Who opened up the first farms; who built the first school house; who first opened the doors of hospitality and took the stranger in; who first ascended the sacred pulpit and proclaimed peace on earth and good will toward men? These are questions of interest to all.

The Huguenot was an humble man, the first to settle the wilds of South Carolina, yet he gave to the country a Marion and a Sumter. The Puritan Pilgrim, too, was an humble man, yet he gave to the country in the time of its greatest need a Hancock and an Adams. The settlers of Jamestown were yeomen and laborers, yet they gave to the country the men that fought its battles and established an empire of freedom. Boone and Kenton, the first to settle Kentucky, were men without learning, without wealth and without distinction, yet they subdued the wilderness and laid the foundation for the greatness to follow. We should not despise the day of small things. When the graces of art shall have been added to the beauties of nature, when the hand of labor and the appliance of wealth shall have subdued the rudeness of the country, when the hand of the architect, the horticulturist, the engineer, the farmer, with the merchant and the professional man, shall have developed the resources of the country, then, perhaps it will be pleasing to know who laid the first foundation and turned the first furrow.

During the year 1864, two brothers named Moffitt, a man by the name of Tyler and another by the name of Hogue began an improvement near the mouth of Beaver Creek, where they followed the business of hunting. They never filed on the land and perhaps did not intend to remain here. They were met by a band of hostile Indians while out hunting, they took shelter behind a ledge of rocks near the mouth of Beaver Creek, but here they were all killed with their horses in August 1864. In the year 1865, a company of the First Colorado volunteers, while stopping at Salina, visited the Saline Valley. They found it a country pleasing to the eye and good for raising cattle. They filed on nearly all the river claims from the mouth of Beaver Creek to the east side of the county. Only six of them came, however, to occupy the land. They built a camp in a bend of the river near the east side of the county, the last days of December 1865. The following is a list of their names; Richard B. Clark, nativity Indiana; Darius C. Skinner, nativity Ohio, Edward E. Johnson, nativity Massachusetts, William E. Thompson, nativity Maine, Isaac DeGraaf, nativity New York, James M. Adams, nativity the British Isles. In the early springtime of 1866, came the following settlers with their families, in the order here mentioned: George Green, nativity Massachusetts, and his family; W.T. Wild, nativity England, and his family; Washington Smith, nativity Kentucky, and his family, John Dart, nativity Connecticut, and his family; and two youths from Ohio, J.J. Peate and William Gaskill. These were the first settlers of Lincoln county. In June came M.D. Green and the Haleys, though Green had been here before, and filed on his claim. In the summer came Michael Zigler [Zeigler], in the fall came the Hendrickson brothers, John S. Strange, David G. Bacon, Volney Ball and others, J.C. Parks and Thomas Noon, were among the early settlers.

During the first years of our settlement here we had no crops, for we had no broke land. We paid from $7 to $11 a hundred for flour, from $1 to $2.50 a bushel for corn, and our scanty supply of provisions was sometimes eaten up by roving bands of Indians.

The first child born in the county was Lizzie Green, daughter of George and Joseph Green. [For more about the "dispute" over the first white child born in the county, click stories17 here and stories30 here.] The first death was Robert Wright, who died at the house of John S. Strange, from the effects of frost bite. The first couple married were David M. Reed and Nancy Hendrickson. The first sermon was preached by the Rev. John Peate, from Ohio, who was here on a short visit in May 1866. The first school was taught by David G. Bacon of Bacon Creek. The first school house built was the Monroe school house. The first school district organized was district No. 2, on the east side of the county. The first post office was located at Red Rock, Myron D. Green was postmaster.

Many other settlers came in and went away, some were discouraged on account of the scarcity of timber, some on account of the dry, hot summers, and some from fear of Indians and dangers incident to a frontier life, but the first settler always had faith in the country for he came here to stay. They were all here five years after when the county was organized.

In the summer of 1870, when the census was taken, we had 516 souls all told. During that season many new settlers came into the county. We felt strong enough to seek a separate county organization. We had been attached first to Ottawa County and then to Saline County for judicial purposes. On application being made, the Governor appointed the following persons as special commissioners to organize the county: John S. Strange, Isaac DeGraaf and Washington Smith. A.F. Schermerhorn was appointed special county clerk. The Governor made the temporary location of the county seat on Section 35, two miles west by north of Lincoln Center. The commissioners met at the house of John S. Strange, October 1870. They divided the county into four townships, Colorado, Elkhorn, Salt Creek and Indiana. They ordered an election to be held the eighth day of November following, to elect a corps of county officers and also to permanently locate the county seat. At the election the following persons were elected: I.C. Buzick, Representative; A.S. Potter, County Clerk; V. Ball, Treasurer; D.C. Skinner, Probate Judge; T.A. Walls, Recorder of Deeds; R.B. Clark, Sheriff; Francis Siebers, Coroner; M.D. Green, County Attorney; J.A. Cook, District Clerk; P. Lowe, County Surveyor. The county seat was permanently located on the town site of Abram, near the mouth of Beaver Creek. On the 9th day of February, 1872, an election was held to relocate the county seat, at which election the county seat was removed to the town site of Lincoln Center.

The following is a short account of the rainfall and the crops for the first ten years of our settlement here: In 1866 and ’67 the rain fall was sufficient and the crops of corn and small grain were good, but the summer was too dry for corn. In 1869 the rainfall was abundant and the crops were also abundant. In 1870 the crops of small grain were good, but the summer was too dry for corn. In 1871, ’72 and ’73, the rainfall was sufficient, and all the crops were moderately good. In 1874 the crops of small grain were good, but corn failed, on account of the dry, hot weather. In 1875 the rainfall was abundant and the crops were also abundant. The grasshoppers visited the county every season from 1866 to 1870, but not to do much damage. In 1874 they visited the county in vast numbers, from July to September, and destroyed everything left by the dry weather.

During the years 1867, ’68 and ’69 the Indians were alarmingly dangerous all along the western frontier. They made frequent raids. They killed and captured many settlers and drove off many horses. In 1867 they made a raid on the Solomon river with great violence. They captured two little girls, one six, the other eight years of age. They came across on the Saline River, where they intended to make a raid, too, no doubt. but in sight of a company of government soldiers, scouting along the river, they made a hasty flight. They dropped the little girls on the high ground northwest of Lincoln Center. The children made for a house they saw in the valley, below the mouth of Spillman Creek, but it proved to be unoccupied. Here they stayed all night. The next morning they started up the river to hunt grapes, being hungry, when they were found by some of the settlers and brought in. They were kindly cared for by William and Martin Hendrickson, and afterwards restored to their friends. They were daughters of Mr. Bell, on the Solomon [in Mitchell County]. About the same time the Indians made a raid on the upper settlements on the Spillman Creek, and drove in the settlers. They captured three women. But as the object of these Indians was to get food and booty, they afterwards restored the women to their families. The women’s names were Mrs. Shaw, Mrs. Bacon and Miss Foster.

In the fall of 1868, the commander of this military district enlisted a company of scouts -- 52 men, from the settlers along the border, to ascertain the whereabouts of the Indians. The company was put under the command of Col. Forsyth, of the regular army. They came up with the Indians on the dry forks of the Republican river. On the 17th day of September of that year, they were attacked at daybreak by near a thousand Indians. On the first onset 15 of their number were killed or wounded, and all their horses killed or captured. There from the 17th to the 28th of September they were surrounded by Indians. They saved themselves by digging pits in the sand for shelter. At the dead of night they sent out parties to obtain relief, their supply of provisions being about exhausted. They had nothing to eat but the bodies of their dead animals, in their great extremity, starvation staring them in the face, some thought of abandoning their wounded companions, but a wiser counsel prevailed and they resolved to stay by their friends and share their fate, whatever that might be. The impartial narrator of events should not fail to state that at this fight Louis Farleigh [Farley] performed the part of a brave man. He killed the Indian sharp-shooters that were sheltered by the tall grass and shooting our men. But here the redoubtable pioneer fought his last battle, for, being wounded in the hip, when relief came it was found necessary to amputate his limb, and he did not survive the operation. He was the first settler at Twin Groves. The names of the citizens of Lincoln County at that fight were as follows: Louis Farleigh and his son, Hutson, Eli Zigler, Thomas Alderdice, George Green, John Lyden, John Haley and Chalmers Smith.

On the last day of May, 1869, as Eli Zigler and John Alverson were going up the Spillman Creek to visit a claim, they saw what appeared to be a body of soldiers, clad in blue blouses, and marched four abreast over the hills. On nearing the block house, Zigler and Alverson found them to be Indians, riding toward them with great speed. Zigler and his friend then turned about and drove to the nearest timber and threw themselves behind the banks of the stream. They worked their way down the stream to a narrow place, sheltered by steep banks. Here they concealed themselves till late at night when they made good their retreat to the settlements. The Indians attacked a settlement of Danes, near the mouth of Trail Creek, killing Mr. Lauritzen and his wife, and left them lying side by side on the ground. They next met young Peterson, who was out staking off a place for a garden with a hatchet. They killed him and hacked up his face with the hatchet. It was Sunday, and a beautiful day. All nature was in its loveliest mood, the fields were in bloom. Two friends, Weichell and Mayershoff, and the young wife [Maria] of the former, were stopping with the Danes. They had gone out this beautiful day to walk over their claim. It was about 3 o’clock in the evening. The men were armed when the Indians came in sight. They fought their way down the valley, keeping the Indians off with their guns. When they reached a point about a mile and a half west of Lincoln Center their ammunition gave out. Here they were killed and the woman captured. It is pleasing to know that these men, true to the instincts of manhood, kept this woman with them as long as their powder and ball held out, and gave her up only with their lives. These men were natives of Sleswick, in Prussia. Their bones now repose in the valley about a mile and a half west of Lincoln Center. They had been in the United States but a few months.

On this same Sunday evening Mrs. Alderdice was visiting Mrs. Kyne. They were in a house a mile and half west of Lincoln Center, near the river. When the Indians came in sight, Mrs. Kyne, with one child, and Mrs. Alderdice, with four children, started down the river to a place of greater security. In crossing a strip of prairie near Nicholas Whalen’s, two Indians were seen approaching with great speed. When the Indians were within a few rods, Mrs. Kyne started for the river to cross. Said Mrs. Alderdice, "don’t leave me." Mrs. Kyne replied "I can do you no good -- I must take care of myself." The river was up but Mrs. Kyne rushed in and crossed with the child in her arms, the water reaching to her shoulders. She followed around the bank and took shelter under the lap of a fallen tree that overhung the river. When the Indians came up, Mrs. Alderdice, overcome with terror and fright, sat down on the ground. The Indians then shot the three little boys. Two of them they killed outright; the other they shot in the back and left for dead. They then put Mrs. Alderdice on a pony, the child in her arms, and took her off. It is said they camped the night on Bullfoot Creek, and there they choked the child to death. On this Sunday evening, two boys, Harrison Strange, 14 years of age, and a boy named Schmutz, 13 years old, were on a hill about a thousands yards southwest of Lincoln Center, digging a root resembling a turnip with a pick. Two Indians were seen riding up, the one a stout middle aged Indian, the other a youth 16 or 17 years old. The young Indian carried a club made of Mountain pine. At sight of these the boys started to run, but the old Indian called out "good Pawnee," which the boys understood to mean friendly Indian. The boys stopped. The old Indian then rode up and tapped each of the boys gently with a spear. He then galloped off after some loose horses. By this time the young Indian had rode very close to the boys. He then raised himself high in his stirrups, with the club in both hands. Young Strange saw the blow coming, and with the words "Oh Lord!" half expressed, he fell and died almost instantly, his skull having been broken in near the crown. The club broke and was left lying on the ground nearby. For these facts I am indebted to young Schmutz. Young Schmutz then ran and dodged. The Indians shot him several times, one arrow striking him in the side. He pulled the shaft of this out, but left the barb buried in his side. When the Indian saw two brothers of young Strange coming to their relief, he galloped off. Schmutz was taken to Fort Harker and placed in the hospital, where he lingered 10 weeks and died. The next day, when the settlers went out to gather up the dead, they found one of Mrs. Alderdice’s boys still alive, an arrow sticking in his back. They brought him to the house of William Hendrickson, where, by the sturdy hand of Phil Lance [Lantz], with a large pair of bullet molds, the arrow was drawn out and that boy [Willis Daily] is now the only one of that family left to tell the tale.

It seems Mrs. Weichell and Mrs. Alderdice were kept together during their captivity. They tried to lay plans to make their escape, but the one knew nothing of German, the other little English, and it was hard to talk together. In the summer, Col. Carr, stationed on the Platte River, heard there was some captives among the Indians on the frontier. he sent out a company of soldiers to rescue the women. But when the assault was made, the Indians, according to their custom, shot the captives. Mrs. Alderdice was killed at the time, Mrs. Weichell received a glancing shot, the ball striking a rib, from which she recovered. She afterwards came into the settlements. The soldier who first reached her in the rescue was one whose time had about expired, and Mrs. Weichell afterwards became his wife. She had a large amount of fine clothing, and many golden ornaments. She had 40 fine dresses, mostly silk. The gold watch she had on her person at the time she was captured, she kept concealed from the Indians and brought in with her after the rescue. She was quite handsome and about 20 years of age. Mrs. Alderdice was about 28 years of age, of an amiable disposition and endowed with all the delicacy of her sex. She must have endured her captivity with great sorrow.

I close these sketches with a just tribute to the memory of the wives and daughters of the first settlers of Lincoln County. It is the first duty of every faithful husband to provide food for his family and the early settlers of Lincoln County were no exception to the rule. The husbands have been required to make long hunts to obtain meat, to go to distant neighborhoods and even to distant counties to work for bread, and yet the wives have ever been firm and resolute and true to their homes. They have been compelled to stand at the door, gun in hand, and defend their persons and their homes, and yet they shrunk not for woman’s faith never falters, and it made be said of them as it was said of the early women of my own good State:

"To load the sure old rifle
To mould the leaden ball,
To stand beside a husband’s place.
And fill it should he fall."

To you who have lately come among us, to help us make improvements, to build school houses, to build churches, to go with us along the pathway of prosperity, of pleasure and of happiness, I commend the early settlers of Lincoln County.

Washington Smith

July 4, 1876


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