History of Kearney, Nebraska (Part 2)
From: Buffalo County, Nebraska and its people
BY: Samuel Clay Bassett
The S. J. Clarke Publishing Company, Chicago 1916
A DREAM OF THE FUTURE
Let us consider briefly the period between the completion of the B. & M. Railway to Kearney, September I,
1872, and the incorporation of the Town of Kearney Junction, November 30, 1872, three months of time.
POPULATION AT DATE OF INCORPORATION
It would be a quite natural conclusion that at the date of incorporating the Town of Kearney Junction there
was a town, or a village at least, of considerable size, many houses and a few hundreds of population necessitating
incorporation in order that its affairs might be properly regulated and controlled, but this appears not to have
been the case; there seems to be the best of evidence to warrant the statement that at the date, November 30, 1872,
when was incorporated the Town of Kearney Junction, the population of the incorporated area was not to exceed one
hundred souls. During this period Jasper L. Walker and Paul Moore, living in the eastern portion of the county,
while en route for a buffalo hunt south of the Platte River, visited the junction and Mr. Walker states that he
took pains to count the buildings erected or nearing completion and that the, number was fourteen (14); these buildings
were all located on either the Perkins and Hartford addition on section 35 or on school section No. 36. He recalls
that workmen were engaged in excavating and laying the foundation for the Burlington round house.
LIST OF TAXPAYERS
The only unit of assessment for taxation purposes to which reference can be made at that date is school district
No. 7, which was organized March 8, 1872. This school district had an area of more than one hundred and twenty
square miles and embraced within its limits all of area incorporated in the Town of hearney Junction. The tax list
of the county for the year 1872 discloses that in school district No. 7, there were in that year nineteen (19)
persons against whom personal taxes were levied; it also appears that of the nineteen named, seven did not pay
the tax levied, also against seven only a poll tax was levied.
LEGAL REQUIREMENTS TO INCORPORATE A TOWN OR VILLAGE
At the date in mind (November 30, 1872), the statutes of Nebraska required in order to incorporate a town or
village, "That whenever a majority of the inhabitants of any town or village within this state shall present
a petition to the board of county commissioners of the county in which said town or village is situated, setting
forth the metes and bounds of their town or village, and the commons belonging thereto, and praying that they be
incorporated, * * * and the county commissioners shall be satisfied that a majority of the taxable male inhabitants
of such town or village have signed such petition, and that the prayer of the same is reasonable, the board of
county commissioners may declare such town or village incorporated * * *."
INCORPORATION OF THE TOWN OF KEANEY JUNCTION
At a meeting of the board of county commissioners, November 30, 1872, W. F. McClure, Patrick Walsh and Dan A. Crowell, commissioners, the records disclose that: "A petition was presented by citizens of Kearney Junction praying to be incorporated into a town to be known as 'Town of Kearney Junction,' to include the following described lands, viz: sections 1, 2, 3, 10, 11 and 12, town No. 8, range No. 16; sections 24, 25, 26, 27, 34, 35 and 36, town No. 9, range No. 16; and sections 6 and 7, town No. 8, range No. 16; sections 30, 31, town No. 9, range No. 15, and also the territory extending southward from the mainland in front of said sections 10, 11 and 12, town No. 8, range No. 16, and section No. 7, town No. 8, range No. 15, and of the same width to the channel of the Platte River, was received and on motion agreed to, and the appointment of the following trustees ratified: John Mahon, D. B. Marsh, L. R. More, E. B. Carter and J. S. Chandler." The records do not give the names of the petitioners, neither does a prolonged search disclose that such a petition is on file in the office of the county clerk. The records. do not disclose the number of petitioners, whether the petitioners were a majority of the inhabitants or whether a majority of the taxable inhabitants had signed the petition. Thus on November 30, 1872, not to exceed one hundred inhabitants (men, women, and children), a majority of the men not legal voters, less than a score of the men listed as taxable even to the extent of a poll tax, incorporated an area of more than eighteen sections of land and named it Town of Kearney Junction.
In the light of today (1915), in the effort to comprehend and make plain the sublime faith, the magnificent
dream of the future, which inspired a mere handful of pioneers to incorporate, on the treeless and wind swept prairies
of Nebraska, where yet blanket Indians, carrying bows and arrows, hunted the wild game, a town having an area exceeding
eighteen sections of land, whereon were living, of white people, less than one hundred souls, let us consider and
compare conditions, requirements as to population and incorporated area in the cities of Lincoln and Omaha in the
census year 1910:
PERSONNEL OF THE TRUSTEES
In the absence of official record or published accounts giving the names of individuals who were chiefly instrumental in the incorporation of the Town of Kearney Junction, it seems fair to presume that the men named as its first trustees were among the prime movers, the leading spirits in the matter. This being assumed, as a matter of history, it seems pertinent to inquire, what manner of men were these whose visions of growth and development are marvelous to contemplate? Who among them might be termed leading spirits, enthusing and directing all with whom they came in contact?
E. B. CARTER
The chairman of the board of trustees, E. B. Carter, engaged in the jewelry iusiness, but after a few years moved to Omaha. He was a man pleasing in address and manner, prominent in Masonic circles, popular in the community, but lacking in originality of thought and force of character necessary in leaving a lasting impress even in the early history and establishment of a community.
J. S. CANDLER
J. S. Chandler erected a frame store building, engaged in the mercantile business for a brief period of time, disposing of his interests to R. R. Greer in 1873.
D. B. MARSH
D. B. Marsh was a carpenter by trade and took a Government claim in Center Township (town 9, range 15) in the year 1872. He served for a short time as deputy sheriff of the county in the year 1876.
John Mahon enjoys the distinction - in this connection - of being the only member of the board of trustees, who, when appointed, was on the list of taxpayers in the county; in fact, of all persons of which mention is made in the official records of the Town of Kearney Junction during the incorporation period and until March 3, 1873, John Mahon is the only one whose name appears as a taxpayer in the county. Mr. Mahon was of Irish descent, born in Delaware County, N. Y., in 1824. In 1846 he enlisted, at Brooklyn, N. Y., in the navy and served on board the Trenton in the Mexican war. In the year 1848 he went, by water, to California, where he engaged in mining and other enterprises. In his published biography it is stated: "He came to Buffalo County in October, 1871, and was the first settler on the site where now stands the magnificent City of Kearney. He built the first house and helped to lay out the townsite. He had charge of the real estate belonging to the Union Pacific and B. & M. companies for about two years." Later he moved to Custer County and engaged in stock raising for about ten years and in 1889 was living on a farm near Armada, in Buffalo County.
L. R. MORE
It is believed that L. R. More was the leading spirit in the incorporation of the Town of Kearney Junction as
well as a directing force for more than a score of years in its early history. L. R. More, of Scotch descent, was
born in Delaware County, N. Y., in 1839. In a published biography of Mr. More it states that he was a cousin of
Jay Gould, the railroad king. That he came to Buffalo County in 1871, having accumulated the sum of $25,000. That
he established the first lumber yard, built the first brick building, the upper story being the only opera house
in town; he also established the first bank, in 1872, known as More's Bank; he owned the first hotel, Grand Central,
and was partner of John D. Seaman, the first wheat buyer in Kearney; that in 1873 he was appointed captain of the
Kearney Guards by Governor Purnas and under his leadership the cowboy's "reign of terror" came to an
end, they losing two of their number in a running fight. That in 1884 lie sold what was known as More's Bank and
the brick store adjacent for $22,000, taking 16,000 in stock in the Kearney National Bank and becoming its first
F. G. HAMER - A. H. CONNOR
An active force in the founding of the Town of Kearney Junction and the City of Kearney was Attorney F. G. Hamer.
The first store building erected in the town was that of F. N. Dart, on the Perkins and Harford Addition. (This
building was moved to Central Avenue, on the East Side and of late years has been used by A. H. Boltin in his fruit
In these days of beginning, Attorney Hamer was regularly employed by L. R. More to look after the legal features of his business and of much of public business as well. In the fall of 1872 Mr. Hamer was the preferred candidate of the Kearney faction for the Legislature but was defeated for the nomination by D. P. Ashburn. Mr. Ashburn was the nominee of the republican party and W. F. Cody (Buffalo Dill) of the democratic, Mr. Ashburn being elected. At this period, an effort was made to divide Buffalo County by creating a new county out of portions of Buffalo and Dawson counties, the real object being to retain the county 'seat at Gibbon. The Kearney Junction people bitterly opposed such a division and Mr. Hamer spent much time during the legislative session of 1872-3 in securing the defeat of this measure. While Mr. Hamer took an active part in the founding of the city and in its development, his greatest efforts have been along legal lines in which he has won both a name and fame. His partner for long years, Gen. A. H. Connor, also took an active part in these early struggles to found a city. General Connor was a man of striking personality, charming in manner and address, yet while the law firm of Hamer & Connor had a state wide reputation, General Connor seemingly trusted more to the inspiration of the moment, to his strength as an advocate, his skill as an orator, rather than as a student of law and familiar with all the details of the case at bar.
MEETINGS OF THE TOWN TRUSTEES
The incorporation of the Town of Kearney Junction completed, the trustees proceeded to the business of providing
ordinances for the government of its municipal affairs. At the first meeting, January m6, 1873, E. B. Carter was
chosen chairman and Sylvester S. St. John clerk.
PROVIDE FOR PAVEMENTS
Among the ordinances adopted at this February 3d meeting of the trustees, was one relative to the construction of pavements in the town. Doubtless had anyone suggested that it was hardly necessary to pass such an ordinance at that date, he would have been termed a knocker, and had he further ventured to prophesy that forty years would come and go ere any pavement was laid on a street in the city (which was the case) he certainly would have been stigmatized as an "undesirable citizen."
PROCEEDINGS OF THE BOARD OF TRUSTEES
At the February 7, 1873, meeting, Samuel Wenzell having resigned as marshal, John Bradley was appointed, and T. J. Murphy engineer. On February 10th, the Central Nebraska Press (Webster and R. H. Eaton, editors), was made the official organ for the publication of town ordinances. Felt and Coffman made application for liquor license; their bond was fixed at $1,000, and license granted February 17th. This appears to have been the first liquor license granted by the town trustees. This saloon appears to have been located on Nebraska Avenue, Perkins and Harford Addition. At this meeting the first dray license was issued to John Dermody. On March 3d, the office of marshal being vacant and on petition of numerous citizens, William Thomas was appointed. Among the ordinances adopted was one imposing a yearly tax of $1 on each dog owned or harbored by a resident of the town; licenses to keep a dog were issued to Jas. A. Smith, F. N. Dart, A. H. Connor, Nathan Campbell, Charles Wakefield, H. M. Elliott, C. T. Weldin, A. H. Barlow, T. Billesbach, J. C. Fifield, L. R. More, W. S. Holtz, Max Boetscher and F. G. Hamer.
FIRST TOWN ELECTION
On May 5, 1873, was held the first election of the Town of Kearney Junction, at which the trustees chosen were:
E. B. Carter; L. R. More, J. N. Keller, H. H. Achey and James O'Kane. Mr. Keller was station agent for the Union
Pacific, Mr. Achey a contractor and builder and Mr. O'Kane a grocery and restaurant keeper south of the railroad.
Mr. O'Kane was very popular with farmers and for some years enjoyed a large patronage until failing health necessitated
his giving up the business.
THE TOWN PRINTING
At the June 3d meeting, Mendel, Clapp and Cunningham submitted bids to do the town printing in the Kearney Junction Times at 25 cents per hundred words; Webster Eaton submitted a like bid of 9 cents in the Central Nebraska Weekly Press and 18 cents in the daily Press; the bid of Mr. Eaton was accepted in both the weekly and daily.
On June 23d dray licenses were issued to Charles Christensen, John Dermody, John T. Wright and J. S. Harrington. Liquor licenses to James Kelly, Stimpson and Decker, H. H. Achey and A. J. Spaulding. Mention is made of the Grand Central Hotel.
A KNIGHTS OF PYTHIAS ORGANIZATION
On June 22d, arrangements were made with the Knights of Pythias to use their hall as a place of meeting for the town trustees. August 12th Thomas S. Nightengale was appointed town clerk; on October 12, 1873, an opinion was asked of Judge N. H. Hemiup as to best method to pursue to organize a city. November 3d, Wm. R. Firlong appointed town engineer and D. B. Clark, assessor; Attorney Sam L. Savidge employed to look over the town ordinances with a view to corrections and revision. Samuel Venzell took oath of office as marshal; the chairman reported small success in obtaining the names of responsible parties who would become security for the cost of a fire engine if purchased by the town.
TAKING A CENSUS OF THE TOWN
The statutes of the state provided, "Section I. All cities and towns of the State of Nebraska, containing
more than five hundred and less than fifteen thousand inhabitants, shall be cities of the second class."
INCORPORATING THE CITY OF KEARNEY
On December 3, 1873, the "Town of Kearney Junction," one year and one month old, ceased to have a
legal existence and "Kearney," a city of the second class, with a population of approximately three hundred
was incorporated, the officials of the Town of Kearney Junction serving as like officials of the City of Kearney
until a regular election was held. Hence it was that E. B. Carter, L. R. More, J. N. Keller, H. H. Achey and James
O'Kane were the members of the first city council; E. B. Carter the first mayor, Thomas S. Nightengale city clerk
and Samuel Wenzell chief of police or marshal. In this brief history of the Town of Kearney Junction, is given,
as appears in the record and in published proceedings available, the name of every person mentioned (about one
hundred in all), because, having no other records of those who took part in the foundation and life of the town,
from these we may learn and record the names of a portion of the residents and of those who took a more or less
prominent part in public affairs.
PERKINS AND HARFORD'S ADDITION TO KEARNEY JUNCTION
In the month of September, 1872, Asbury Collins had C. W. Colt and James MacGonegal, surveyors residing at Lowell,
Neb., survey South Kearney as an addition to Kearney Junction, the same being on the northwest quarter of section
12, town 8, range 16. In July, 1872, D. N. Smith bought of the Union Pacific Railway Company the east half of section
35, town 9, range 16, for a consideration of $960, and sold the same to Perkins and Harford for a consideration
of $16,000. In volumes No. 1 and No. 3, issue of the Buffalo County Beacon, published at Gibbon and dated July
27, 1872, appears the following item: "Esquire Collins of Kearney Junction made us. a pleasant call a few
days ago. He informs us that real estate at that point is on the rise in price. Mr. Smith (D. N. Smith) sold to
parties from Minnesota (Minneapolis), (Perkins and Harford), a short time since the east half of section 35, town
9, range 16, for the snug sum of $50 per acre." In the month of August, 1872, Perkins and Harford had Anselmo
B. Smith survey and plat into city lots Perkins and Harford's first and second additions to Kearney Junction, being
the east half of section 35, town 9, range 16. Thus it will be noted that before the Burlington had made junction
with the Union Pacific there had been surveyed and platted into city lots and such plats made a matter of record,
960 acres of land in a solid body.
THE PUBLIC SCHOOL
School district No. 7, embracing 120 square miles of territory, was organized March 8, 1872; the place of organizing
was at the "Hotel Collins" (known also as the Junction House), James Smith being chosen director. The
first district report discloses thirty six children of school age in the district. An enumeration of school children
made in April, 1873, shows forty five children of school age.
FIRST COUNTY TEACHERS' INSTITUTE
The first county teachers' institute was held at Kearney, November 25, 1875, J. J. W. Place superintendent. The teachers in attendance were entertained by the people of Kearney. State Superintendent J. M. McKenzie was in attendance and delivered two lectures. Prof. D. B. Worley had charge of the music. There were twelve teachers from the county in attendance. A county teachers' organization was formed with O. E. Hansen, chairman; J. S. Zerbe, secretary; Miss Bunnell, treasurer; and Miss Fannie Nevins, critic. Dan A. Crowell was one of the teachers in the Kearney school at that date.
KEARNEY JUNCTION TIMES
As the writer understands the Kearney Junction Times, established by Mendel, Clapp and Cunningham (L. B. Cunningham, editor) was the first newspaper published at Kearney Junction. Its first issue was October 12, 1872. The Times was ever loyal to the best interests of Kearney Junction, and the City of Kearney and exceedingly helpful in the upbuilding of the town and community; in the discussion of public affairs it maintained a high moral standard, its editor having no sympathy with the belief of many that open saloons and dens of vice were essential to the upbuilding of the city and hence the Times was not in close touch and fellowship with certain elements which exerted a powerful influence in the early history of Kearney Junction and Buffalo County, influences which at times largely controlled in the distribution of public printing and public patronage. In later years the Times became the Buffalo County Journal, having a general circulation throughout the county and exerting a large influence.
CENTRAL NEBRASKA PRESS
The exact date of the establishment of the Central Nebraska Press at Kearney Junction is, to the writer, not
known. Official records disclose that February 10, 1873, the Press was made the official organ for publication
of ordinances of the Town of Kearney Junction, and that on June 3, 1873, there was being published both the daily
and weekly Press. In the days of the founding of the Town of Kearney Junction it was generally understood that
the owners of the townsite and the promoters of the town donated to "Web" Eaton a considerable number
of city lots as an inducement to establish a newspaper, daily and weekly; in March, 1873, Mr. Eaton secured the
subscription list and good will of the Buffalo County Beacon being published at Gibbon. "Web" Eaton had
a love for politics and was a very shrewd politician; he secured, by appointment, political preferment and left
the management of the Press largely in the hands of his brother, R. H. Eaton. Rice Eaton, as he was familiarly
called, was born in Rochester, N. Y., in 1838; by profession and training he was a printer and newspaper man. He
was a soldier of the Civil war, had traveled somewhat and was a keen observer of mankind. He was of a lovable disposition,
witty, original in thought and expression, a versatile and apt writer.
CENTRAL NEBRASKA STAR
The Central Nebraska Star was established (as recalled) in the year 1871 by Moses H. Sydenham; its publication was not regular and no files of its issues are known to exist. Its date line hailed from "Centoria," a paper-boom town in Kearney County, a few miles west of Fort Kearney. Ceutoria was surveyed and platted by Mr. Sydenham but had no existence except on paper. The Star advocated the removal of the national capitol to the Fort Kearney military reservation, the geographical center of the nation, urging that by surveying the reservation (ten miles square) into city lots the sale of the lots would provide for all expense of erecting Government buildings and the removal of the national capitol. While the Star had a considerable circulation in Buffalo and Kearney counties in the years 1871-2-3, it can not be said to have exerted much influence in the settlement and development of Central Nebraska; it was the personal organ of its editor who was without experience in public affairs and seemingly not in touch or sympathy with the development of the agricultural resources of this portion of the state. Mr. Sydenham was an Englishman by birth, served first at Fort Kearney as a sutler's clerk and later as postmaster at the fort; he also served a term as county commissioner when Kearney County was organized in 1872. Fort Kearney was abandoned as a fort in 1871.
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