EARLY SETTLEMENT OF CEDAR TOWNSHIP
By Hon. James E. Miller
Cedar Township comprises all of town No. 11, range No. 15.
The first homestead selections were made by (E.) Wrest and (S. J.) Houston, two soldiers of the Civil war, from
the State of Ohio. After making selection of the east half of section No. 14, they returned to their homes in Ohio.
They returned in the spring of 1873, made their filings on their homestead claims, and hired E. W. Carpenter to
break five acres on each quarter, when they again started for Ohio, but were detained at Grand Island three days
by the great storm of April 13-15, 1873, and were never heard from again.
The first actual settlement in the township was made in the spring of 1873 by John Davis on section No. 2, E. W.
Carpenter and Joseph White on the west half of section No. 14, and Samuel Higgins on section No. 22. These settlers
were located on their claims during the great storm in which Mrs. John Davis lost her life. On Sunday morning,
April 13th, Mr. Davis started for Grand Island on foot, following the section lines east. The storm overtook him
before he arrived at his destination. He left his wife in their dugout with the understanding that she would go
to the home of E. W. Carpenter for the night, a mile or more to the south. The storm came so suddenly (at 4 o'clock
Sunday afternoon) that it seems she did not dare to leave home. It appears that she undressed and went to bed,
and that in the night the ridge pole broke with the heavy load of dirt (the dugout had a dirt roof). The rafters
protected her so that she might have remained in the bed. The door was barred, and it appeared she forced her way
through the window. She left with but little clothing and without her shoes. When the storm ceased (at sundown)
on Tuesday, neighbors went to the Davis home, and not finding her, began a search, and found her body on a ridge
about sixty rods southeast of her home. Mr. Davis arrived that evening. They buried her near the dugout. The place
has changed owners several times and it is likely all traces of the grave is lost.
The same year (1873) M. A. Young and Joseph Clayton settled on the west half of section No. 10, Capt. J. M. Treichler
on the southwest quarter of section No. 22, Maj. John Dance on the northwest quarter of section No. 25, and Mrs.
S. Higgins filed on the northwest quarter of section No. 26 for her children by a former husband. In October, 1873,
the writer with his family arrived at Kearney, and meeting John Davis, was persuaded to investigate his neighborhood,
and after looking for a location in Platte and Boone counties concluded that the abandoned homesteads of West and
Houston suited him. He with Henry Luce filed contests and secured homestead papers and made permanent settlement.
The foregoing constituted the settlement during the winter of 1873-74, which was a mild, dry winter. The summer
of 1874 was very hot and dry, a little wheat was harvested, but no corn. About the middle of July the migrating
grasshoppers completely covered the ground and devoured nearly every green thing. It looked as though we had struck
the wrong country, but we all stayed except Major Dance.
In the spring of 1874 Robert Haines of Center Precinct called on us for the purpose of estimating the value of
our personal property and securing the names of our children of school age so that his school district could get
the state apportionment due school districts. We at once took the proper steps to head off this scheme by organizing
our township and forming School District No. 20 by taking the north twelve miles from School Districts Nos. i1,
6 and 16. We drew our share of the state apportionment, and hired Mrs. E. W. Carpenter to teach our school.
She furnished the room and taught three months for $30.
So satisfactory was her work that we employed her the next summer to teach in the same room. However, by this time
teachers' wages had advanced 100 per cent. (The records disclose that on February 17, 1874, on petition of J. E.
Miller and other legal voters, County Superintendent J. J. W. Place created School District No. 20, and issued
a formal notice to the legal voters in the new district to meet at the home of E. W. Carpenter on March 6, 1874,
and perfect the organization of the district.)
Those were flush times in 1876, having had fair crops in 1875, settlers began to flock in, and we had to build
a schoolhouse. The materials were "Made in Nebraska." The walls of the schoolhouse, two feet thick, were
of sod and plastered with gypsum dug from a nearby bank. The joists and rafters were from cottonwood trees. and
the roof was made from willows and sod. The materials for the floor, windows and the door had to be imported. The
architects and the builders were home grown. This commodious edifice afforded ample room for school purposes, as
well as a place for church, Sunday school and political Meetings. It became a great seat of learning and many graduates
from the school are holding positions of honor and trust.
Our first precinct election was held in 1874. Eleven votes were cast, which cost the county $14, and they were
well worth the money. The year 1876 was a poor one for crops. It will be long remembered by early settlers as the
last and greatest sweep of the migrating grasshoppers. These pests covered the cultivated portions of South Dakota,
Nebraska, Kansas and the western half of Iowa. The year 1877 was one of the most productive years in our history
(as a county), and prices for grain ruled unusually high, especially for wheat. From this date for twelve successive
years there was not a crop failure.
We first got our mail at Gibbon, then changed to Kearney. During the summer of 1879 we sent a petition to Washington
for a mail route and a postoftice. We failed to send a name for the office, so the postoftice department named
the office Majors, in honor of the blue shirted statesman of Nemaha County, Col. Thomas J. Majors.
E. W. Carpenter was appointed postmaster, and William Grant of Kearney mail carrier. This star route was later
extended to the home of Erastus Smith, where later Ravenna was located. Mr. Carpenter continued as postmaster until
the office was discontinued in 1907, a period of twenty eight years. His income from the office the first year
was $9, and probably did not exceed $30 in any one year during the time he held the office. This was certainly
a great sacrifice on the part of Mr. and Mrs. E. W. Carpenter in the interests of the neighborhood, and I am sure
it was so considered by all patrons of the office.
Mrs. E. W. Carpenter taught two terms of school of three months each. She was a highly useful woman in our community.
Her death occurred April 13, 1907.
The first church organized was the United Presbyterian. It was organized in John McCool's sod house by Rev. David
Inches of North Bend, Neb., on December 20, 1882. The charter members were: John McCool, Mrs. Rose Ann McCool,
James E. Miller, Mrs. Ann J. Miller and George W. Duncan. The church had a scattering supply for a pastor until
1885, when Rev. Isaac A. Wilson was installed as pastor. The church increased rapidly until it about reached the
one hundred mark, when some of the members moved to Poole, in Beaver Township, and started a church there. Others
moved to other states, greatly weakening the congregation. In 1915 the church had a membership of about thirty.
In 1915 the pastor for the two churches - Majors and Poole - is Rev. E. C. Coleman.