History of Hastings, Nebraska. (Part 1)
From: Past and Present Adams County, Nebraska
Edited by: Judge William R. Burton
Assisted by David J. Lewis
Published By: S. J. Clarke Publishing Co., Chicago 1916


The location of a settlement upon the land on which the City of Hastings stands was due to the operation of American immigration agencies in Great Britain. These agencies, through the means of advertisements inserted in the British newspapers and through personal interviews with prospective colonists, set forth in glowing terms the inducements offered in the middle western section and other parts of the United States not already populated.

There assembled in Liverpool one day a little company of colonists bound for America, who eventually settled in Hastings, Neb. They embarked upon passenger vessel Scandinavia of the Allan Line, and in due time arrived in Portland, Me. From Portland they continued westward, as directed by the immigration agents, until they reached Lincoln. Here they bought horses and wagons, a few simple agricultural implements and provisions and continued their journey overland. In the spring of 1871, in either April or May, this little company halted at Thirty Two Mile Creek.

A number of these colonists had had no experience in farming before coming to the prairie country, some others had had a little experience with farming as it was carried on in the British Isles. On the whole, it was a dreary outlook, but as George Wilkes remarked: "We couldn't walk back, so there was nothing to do but stay." Among these colonists were Joseph Hopkins, John G. Moore, Thomas Watts, William WTallace and family, Walter Micklen, Thomas Johnson, Mr. Binfield and family, George Wilkes, Thomas B. Wilkes, James Kemp, the Rev. J. F. Clarkson and Will Roberts. The women of the colony were Mrs. Wallace, Mrs. Watts and Mrs. Binfield.

The greater number of these British immigrants took homesteads in the vicinity of Hastings, the land upon which Micklen settled afterward becoming the site of the original town. Micklen's homestead is described as the west half of the southeast quarter of section 12, township 7, range 10. The boundaries of the original town are as follows: On the north, Seventh Street; on the south, South Street; on the west, Burlington Avenue; on the east, St. Joseph Avenue.

The eighty acres adjoining the original town on the west was the homestead of John Gillespie Moore; out of a portion of this holding Moore's addition was platted. James Watts took for his homestead the eighty acres immediately west of that taken by Moore. Thomas Johnson homesteaded the eighty acres to the east of Micklen's land, the eastern boundary being Wabash Avenue. The addition when platted was therefore called Johnson's addition. The half section thus described became the possession of members of the British colony in 1871. They were located on their places by Surveyor Babcock of Juniata. Of the remainder of section 12, Samuel Alexander homesteaded the northeast quarter in the spring of 1872. The east half of the northwest quarter was the homestead of James Haire, who came to Nebraska from Michigan. The west half of the northwest quarter was filed upon by George Grosse. The locations of these homesteads may be identified today by the additions which bear the names of the original settlers.

The first dwelling house was built of sod by Walter Micklen on his homestead in 1871. It was located near the corner of Third Street and Burlington Avenue. About the same time, Watts and Johnson put up sod houses on their claims. Watts' sod shanty stood near the present location of the residence of Emil Polenske, 1235 West Second Street. In the same year John G. Moore erected a small frame shack, which was the first frame building to be erected in the town. This building stood between Second and Third streets, not far from Saunders Avenue. The lumber to build this shack was hauled from Grand Island. The activities of these British colonists constituted all the life in Hastings during 1871.

The following year showed a very considerable growth. On April 22d Samuel Alexander arrived. He came to Hastings on the recommendation of Thomas Kennard, Nebraska's first secretary of state, by whom he was employed. Mr. Alexander when he came did not intend to remain. His plan was to file upon a quarter section of land, live upon it the one year required by law, and then return to Lincoln. Instead, he was caught in the whirl of new town development, and it is interesting to note that he did not again see Mr. Kennard until after the lapse of twenty years. Indeed, he continued to reside in Hastings until his death, April 19, 1908, and upon the day of his funeral the business houses of Hastings remained closed for one hour as a mark of respect for the pioneer.

Almost immediately upon his arrival, Mr. Alexander was convinced that the little settlement had a very fair show to become a considerable town. Upon his homestead he erected a frame dwelling house, the second to be built in the town. This structure was 20 feet long by 10 feet wide. It stood immediately west of the present Alexander residence at the northwest corner of Seventh Street and Lincoln Avenue. Towards the end of the spring he also erected a frame store building of about the same dimensions as the house, and installed a small general merchandise stock. This was the beginning of the mercantile business in Hastings. The store faced south on the south side of First Street, at about 15 North Hastings Avenue, the present location of the Hastings Fuel Company. Lumber for this building was hauled from Inland, afterward known as "Old Inland," and "Halloran," which was located on the southwest quarter of section 12 in Blaine Township, four miles east of Hastings.

Mrs. Alexander joined her husband the May following his arrival and at once encountered the difficulties of housekeeping in a pioneer western town. A new three ply carpet served to divide the little house on Seventh Street into two rooms. Small as the house was, it was necessary to supply board and lodging to many who were joining in the struggle to make a town upon the prairie. Among those who from time to time or for certain periods found entertainment in the Alexander home were F. J. Benedict, C. G. Ingalls, C. K. Lawson, G. H. Pratt, Tom Farrell and many others. Mrs. Alexander arrived before the small house was completed and found her first night's lodging in Hastings in the frame shack of John G. Moore, the latter generously yielding his own apartments to Mrs. Alexander and Mrs. Schryer, the latter also seeing the first of the new country, where she came to join her husband on his homestead.

The Alexanders were provided with foodstuff enough to last one year, among the provisions being a barrel of hams, and a like quantity of shoulders; dried meats, bacon and cookies were also of the stock. Corn meal and flour of an excellent quality were procured from Crete. Sometimes it was necessary to resort to the use of grease from the bacon for shortening, but those, it must be remembered, were days of vigorous appetites. At first water was hauled to the Alexander home from the Hudson farm, about two miles west; later a well was sunk and Mrs. Alexander enjoyed the luxury of drawing water 110 feet.

S. S. Dow arrived in Hastings from Wisconsin May 28, 1872, and established a land office. During the ensuing year Mr. Dow located 270 homesteads, from which it can be seen that at this date the growth in population was distinctly encouraging to the settlers. In June, about the 17th of the month, C. G. Ingalls, accompanied by his nephew, F. J. Benedict, arrived. Mr. Ingalls had been located in Galesburg, Ill., but Mr. Benedict came from the State of New York. The two first visited York, and in a hotel there heard about the advantages offered by Adams County, and especially of the vicinity around Hastings. Acting upon this information, they came to Juniata and the next day procured a team and wagon from John J. Jacobson and drove to the settlement of Hastings. It was a distressingly hot day when they arrived, but accompanied by Mr. Dow, they immediately set out to view the prospect. About four miles northeast of Hastings, in the vicinity of the "Bob Norton farm," they broke the lynch pin and were stranded on the prairie. Benedict reported that he had seen a wagon in Hastings and he was delegated to negotiate a loan so that the land seekers might load the broken wagon upon another and return it to Juniata. In this Benedict succeeded. He borrowed also a bucket from Mrs. Alexander, and with the pail in one hand and guiding the team with the other, he made his way back to Dow and Ingalls. The prairie was an unbroken expanse and the young Mr. Benedict experienced some difficulty in finding his companions. He could only keep his direction straight by observing the poles of the telegraph line along the Burlington track. Mr. Ingalls was so thirsty and the sun was so relentless that his impression of Adams County was far from being the best. The following day, however, they again visited Hastings and both were located on homesteads. Mr. Benedict secured employment to haul lumber with which to build the Alexander store, and thus he won the distinction of hauling from Inland the material for the first business house. Mr. Ingalls' homestead was located in what is now the northeast section of Hastings and the frame house that he built upon it was the third frame dwelling to be built in the town. During the summer of 1872, John Jung established the first butcher shop.

So encouraging was the outlook for a town, owing to the development in the earlier months of 1872, that Thomas Farrell and Walter Micklen took the first definite steps for its formation. They employed Charles W. Colt of Lowell to survey and plat Micklen's eighty acres. This work was completed by Mr. Colt and the plat filed with the county clerk, R. D. Babcock, at Juniata, at 11 o'clock A. M., October 15, 1872. On the plat the northern boundary of the town, Seventh Street, is called North Street, and the St. Joseph & Denver is shown as crossing the town diagonally from southeast to northwest, crossing the Burlington between Hastings and Lincoln avenues. While the road was graded through the city in this direction, a considerable portion of the distance toward Kearney, rails were never laid, on account of lack of funds. Streets were platted on each side of this grade; the street south of the grade was called South Railroad Street and the street north North Railroad Street. On September 27, 1872, Walter Micklen disposed of the west half of his holding to Thomas Farrell for $500.

It was on July 13, 1872, that Charles K. Lawson arrived in Hastings, coming from Galesburg, Ill., where he was in business with George H. Pratt as his partner. Mr. Lawson at once grew enthusiastic at the prospects he beheld in the new country from Crete to Hastings. He at once wrote to Mr. Pratt, advising that he sell their store in Illinois and open business in Hastings. Mr. Pratt visited Hastings early in August, remaining in the settlement about ten days. A buffalo hunt was arranged for during this visit, and Mr. Lawson saw to it that his partner saw a great deal of the surrounding country, and the result was that Mr. Pratt was convinced that Mr. Lawson's estimate of the country was correct. He returned to Illinois in a few days to dispose of their interests there. From Rock Island lumber was ordered shipped for the erection of a store at Hastings. Later, Mr. Pratt sent A. H. Cramer to Hastings to assist Mr. Lawson in building the store and getting ready for business. Mr. Cramer was in the employ of Pratt & Lawson in Illinois. He arrived in Hastings October 1, 1872.

The store erected by Pratt & Lawson stood on the northeast corner of Hastings Avenue and First Street. It was called "The Headquarter store," and fronted south on First Street, and a large stock of general supplies was carried. In addition, the firm dealt in horses and mules, for which there was a growing demand from the large number of inincomingomesteaders. Bacon, corn meal and flour were the great staples of those days. Cornbread and pork were a large part of the diet upon which the pioneer work was carried on. The establishing of a second store on the scale of the "Headquarters" was one of the most important events of 1872, outside of the beginning of railway transportation.

Shortly after the town was platted, Samuel Alexander formed a business partnership with A. W. Wheeler, a homesteader, and the firm of Alexander & Wheeler late in 1872 erected a new store at the corner of Hastings Avenue and Second Street. W. H. Stock, who, with his wife and his brother, Theodore Stock, arrived in Hastings in the fall of 1872 from Illinois, purchased the first store occupied by Mr. Alexander and moved it to the east side of Hastings Avenue. In its new location on the south side of First Street the store faced north on about the second lot east of the Hastings Avenue corner. On the first lot Pratt & Lawson had sunk a well, which was used publicly. Mr. Stock used the store as a meat market and residence. It might be noted here that the son born to Mr. and Mrs. W. H. Stock in the spring of 1873 was the first child to be born in Hastings. In honor of that fact, the Hastings Town Company deeded two lots in Johnson's addition to the newcomer, who was named Claudius Hastings Stock. A few months following the birth of the boy Mrs. Stock died, and this death was probably the first to take place in the new town. In the nineteenth year of his age, Claudius Hastings Stock was drowned in Illinois by breaking through the ice while skating. The lots deeded to him are now in the possession of his sister, Mrs. Iarl M. Alexander. The Alexander home at 315 West Third Street stands upon one of the lots.

The Roaring Gimlet, Hastings' first hotel, was erected by Morris and Eugene Alexander in the winter of 1872-3. It was located on Hastings Avenue, a short distance south of the Burlington track. At almost the same time the Inter-Ocean, another hostelry, was erected by Capt. E. S. Wells. This old landmark still survives upon its original location south of the Burlington track and immediately east of the plant of the Central Nebraska Millwork Company. Captain Wells was a sea captain, and is remembered as a jolly old tar, fond of spinning yarns of varying degrees of credibility. He remained in Hastings for a number of years and then moved farther west, his wife remaining in Hastings. The old house at the southeast corner of St. Joseph Avenue and South Street is still the property of Mrs. Wells, who resides in Lincoln.

Late in the fall of 1872 E. Steinean opened a clothing and dry goods store on the north side of First Street, between Hastings and Denver avenues. During this year, also, C. G. Ingalls and F. J. Benedict established an implement and lumber business. Afterwards Mr. Benedict was employed at the Headquarters Store for Pratt Lawson, eventually buying an interest and continuing in the grocery business for many years. The events narrated outline the principal developments of Hastings during 1871 and 1872.


The development of Hastings, which had got well under way by the end of 1872, continued throughout 1873 with rapidity that augured well for the new town. With two railroads in operation and homesteaders arriving in large numbers every week, there was a quickening of spirit and the fostering of enterprise which only the pioneer town can know.

April 17, 1873, the Hastings Town Company was incorporated as a joint stock company. The purpose of this company was to sell lots in the townsite of Hastings. The capital stock was $4,000, in shares of $100 each, to be paid on organization. Shares were divided as follows among the members : William B. Slosson for Slosson Bros., ten shares; James D. Carl and William L. Smith, ten shares each; Thomas E. Farrell and Walter M. Micklen, five shares each. Certificates of stock signed by the president and the secretary were issued for the respective subscribers and the certificates were received by the members of the corporation as pay for their interest in the land of the tcwnsite of Hastings. By their charter the corporation was to expire one year from April 20, 1873. On April 9, 1874, the company was reorganized with new members. These were Henry Beitel, Rudolph Beitel, George H. Pratt, Charles K. Lawson and Samuel Slosson. At the expiration of the renewed charter, May 18, 1875, the company made partition of the lots of the townsite remaining unsold. For this purpose they divided the lots pro rata according to the amount of stock of each member, after an appraisal had been made of the value of the lots divided, and they were assigned in proportion to the interest of each stockholder.

Of the original organizers of the Hastings Town Company, only two are living, Walter Micklen and William B. Slosson. It was early in the '70s that Mr. Micklen sold his interest in Iastings. He now lives in Guntersville, Ala. William B. Slosson lives in Houston, Tex. Thomas E. Farrell remained in Hastings for many years and was prominently identified with its development. He died in Cripple Creek. William L. Smith died in California. Rudolph and Henry Beitel, who became members of the company at its reorganization, came to Hastings from Texas. Relatives of the family still own interests in the city. The Slossons came to Hastings from Sabetha, Kan. Charles K. Lawson and George H. Pratt are still in business in the town which they assisted to organize.

The Hastings Town Company built a small office on Second Street, about midway between Denver and Hastings avenues, and at once pushed vigorously the sale of town lots and the general interests of the village. On July 19th they stimulated the sale of lots by announcing a general sale and offering to refund the price of railroad tickets bought within a radius of 100 miles. The sale, or more particularly the announcement of it, did a great deal to advertise Hastings, and it was at this time that its reputation spread throughout the south central and southwestern parts of Nebraska. It was known as the town of live business and its future was almost universally believed in. By the close of this year, C. H. Paul had an exclusive boot and shoe store on Second Street, about where the Barnes clothing store is now located. Charles Cameron, who resided in Lincoln, had erected a large mercantile establishment at the corner of Hastings Avenue and First Street, at about the present location of the Exchange National Bank. This store was operated for Mr. Cameron by a man by the name of Smith. On the north side of Second Street, about half way between Denver and Hastings avenues, Andreas Vieth had a furniture store. On the southwest corner of Hastings Avenue and Second Street stood the hardware store of Forcht Bros., while a short distance east, R. V. Shockey was the proprietor of another hardware establishment. Oswald Oliver opened a lumber yard in this year, the location being not far from the present site of the Oliver establishment on the southwest corner of Burlington Avenue and First Street. B. H. Brown & Son had an implement and lumber business, having bought out Ingalls & Benedict.

It was in 1873 that Hastings held the first Fourth of July celebration. A mass meeting to consider the proposition was called for June 17th. T. E. Farrell was the presiding officer and W. F. J. Conley was the secretary. It was the motion of M. K. Lewis that the Fourth be celebrated that started the first definite action. The celebration included a parade, speaking and literary program and fireworks at night. There was an accident with the fireworks and they were all fired at once, captious critics afterward saying that this was a plot on the part of the committee to enable them to conceal the fact that they had pocketed the funds raised for the pyrotechnical display. Capt. A. D. Yocum led the procession. The invocation was pronounced by Rev. I. D. Newell, and the next in order was the reading of the Declaration of Independence by W. A. Smith. In the afternoon, W. L. Smith spoke on the subject, "Hastings, the Future Metropolis of Nebraska," and R. V. Shockey discussed "The Ladies of Nebraska, Their Mission and Merits." Others who spoke were J. M. Abbott, R. A. Batty, M. K. Lewis and A. D. Rust.


April 13, 1873, was the date of the beginning of the most remarkable storm that ever swept over Adams County. The morning dawned bright and clear and was hailed as the first day of spring Towards noon the sky became clouded and a slow rain drizzled. By the middle of the afternoon the rain changed to sleet. So heavy was the sleet that it soon became almost impossible for pedestrians to make their way about the streets of the Adams County villages. In Hastings a rope was tied to the Headquarters Store and running to the well at the southeast corner of Hastings Avenue and First Street, and by means of this the people guided themselves in that section of the town. Business became impracticable, and only the most daring would venture out, and homesteaders who were in town had to remain until the storm ceased: thereby causing no end of worry to the folks who had been left at home. The storm lasted for three days, and much damage to stock resulted throughout the county. Four new arrivals in Hastings at the time were the Martin boys, Lou Martin being one, John Sherman, and Dr. A. D. Buckworth. These placed themselves under the care of Charles Kohl, who was one of the few who ventured to move about the streets, and thus were able twice a day to make their way from their sleeping quarters to one of the hotels. In the hostelries were a number of women who, with their husbands, had come to the new country to make their home. As there seemed to lie no abatement to the storm, not a few of these gave way to tears, menaced by the thought that they had come out upon the prairie to perish.

A farmer by the name of Marshall was found after the storm frozen to death at his farm on Pawnee Creek. Apparently he had gone out to the stable to feed his horses and had been unable to find his way back to the house. More fortunate was Bob Norton, though he underwent a trying experience on his homestead four miles northeast of Hastings. Upon the second day Mr. Norton managed to make his way to his stable to feed his team. Having his bearings when he left the house, he experienced no particular difficulty in finding the stable, but when he was ready to go back he was unable to tell one direction from another. The world was nothing more than a whirling white fury. Mr. Norton remained in the stable two days and a night without food, and had become quite weakened from the exposure. After the storm many tales of hardship were narrated by those who had felt the fury of the elements. In Hastings the snowdrifts.were fully 12 feet high. It was the dampness of the sleet that made the cold of that storm so deadly. P. A. Boyd, who was located on a homestead near Roseland, says that when a man first went out of doors it did not seem as cold as it has in subsequent storms, but before one was exposed more than a few minutes one felt the cold as though he had been drenched in ice water. Adams County has had several severe storms of various kinds, but no storm has left so strong an impression as the blizzard of 1873. In the vocabulary of the pioneers it is referred to as the year of the "Great Storm."

[Part 2, Elections and officials]

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