History of Odessa Township, Buffalo County, NE
From: Buffalo County, Nebraska and its people
BY: Samuel Clay Bassett
The S. J. Clarke Publishing Company, Chicago 1916


What in 1915 is known as Odessa Township was in 1866-71 known as Stevenson's Siding and later Crowellton

The first to take homesteads in that locality were Dan A. Crowell and D. Allen Crowell, in 1871; R. D. Gould, J. Zerk, D. Brown, E. and C. Christianson, J. F. Suplee, S. Tolefsen, R. Vails, S. W. Homer, Flora Thomas, H. Brown, J. B. Vincent, H. F. Leonard, William C. T. Kurth, George W. Tovey, J. Ratliff, M. Homer, J. E. F. Vails, John D. Seamen, in 1872; C. S. Greenman, E. N. Lord, George D. Aspinwall, George Hall, R. F. Watters, Theadore Knox, James Sturrock, A. Ream, J. E. Chidester, J. Homer, Jr., in 1873; James Halliwell, D. Harpst, John T. Brown, Edward Keltner, William F. Reeves, J. M. Grant, Thomas Maloney, in 1874; George Jones, H. Ransom, Catherine Edwards, in 1876; F.W. Nichols, J. Vails, George A. Bailey, Susan C. Hurlburt, D. Hostetler, H. H. Achey, Susan Grant, L. C. Skelley and Adah Grant, in 1878.

D. Allen Crowell and Dan A. Crowell were twins, D. Allen being an active, prominent minister in the Methodist Church, serving as pastor of the Methodist Church at Kearney in the early '70's, as recalled at the period when the first church building was erected in the city. Dan A. Crowell served as county superintendent, county commissioner and taught in the Kearney sehools. John D. Seaman served as state senator. George D. Aspinwall was the first to be elected and serve as clerk of the District Court, and J. E. Chidester served as county commissioner.

It is recalled that Thomas Maloney was one of the first licensed teachers in the county. It is related that Mrs. Theadore Knox selected the name Odessa to take the place of Crowellton as the name of the township, or rather precinct. Mr. and Mrs. Thcadore Knox settled at Gibbon in the winter of 1871-72, and kept boarders during the period in which the courthouse was being erected, and the editor moved the family to their homestead claim near Crowellton in March, 1873.

Mrs. Susan Grant, who took a homestead claim in the precinct in 1878, was of pioneer stock. She was widely known and highly respected. Several members of her family settled in that vicinity in an early day, and many of her descendants still reside there. Three of her daughters are Mrs. J. D. Seaman, Mrs. E. R. Webb and Mrs. D. Harpst. Mrs. C. V. D. Basten of Kearney is a granddaughter.


Susan Carr was of a family of Virginians who moved by wagon through mountains and forests and settled in the Western Reserve about the year Ohio became a state, that is, in 1808. Benjamin Carr, her father, had sold his slaves. One of the slaves, the nurse, followed on foot in peril of lurking savages, and in greater danger of starvation. The poor creature lived on roots and berries, ravenously breaking eggs in a nest she found only to discover that they contained half hatched serpents. She brought a silver spoon to the baby of the Carr family. It would be happiness to record that she gained her freedom. Alas, for the cruelty of slavery, she was promptly deported back to her new master. Susan Carr was born in Ohio ioo years ago, March 12, 1816. She always retained traces of Virginia and of the southern life in her speech, her manners and unbounded hospitality.

She married Michael Grant in 1838 and had the usual large family of that period. Fated to the life of a pioneer, they left Ohio. and its comforts to clear new land and open up a great new farm. She was indefatigable and efficient, and lived on a large scale in crude abundance. She attended to the huge Dutch oven, watched over the dryhouse, made maple sugar and tallow candles. She raised three orphan children at different times in Ohio. In Indiana she took an Irish family of three orphans into her home at once. Two of these orphans, the Maloneys, came to Nebraska with her. They settled at Crowelltan, now Odessa, on the land now owned by E. R. Webb, who is her son in law.

Susan Grant lived there, seeing many changes in her family and neighborhood, for eighteen years. No longer young, she nevertheless, by her broad sympathy, brave cheer, good business ability and generosity, bettered the little frontier community.

She was of helpful service to every life within reach of her beneficent influence. Such lives are not forgotten. She died December 3, 1891, at the age of seventy five. It falls to the lot of few women to leave a memory more cherished in the hearts of her descendants.

School District No. 12 was organized by C. Putnam, county superintendent, October 17, 1872. The district embraced all of range No. 17 in Buffalo County.

Notification was sent (J.) Marsh Grant, a taxable inhabitant therein, as per form in the law provided.

The records disclose that in July, 1873, this district had eighteen children of school age, and that J. Marsh Grant was serving as director of the district.

Mrs. C. V. D. Basten

It was February 13, 1873, a little girl, traveling westward with her father and mother over the newly completed "B. & M. R. R. in Nebraska," as it was called then, was anxiously peering into the night as the train approached Kearney Junction. A gentleman, noticing her excitement and curiosity, talked to her about the new country - Indians, buffalo, prairie fires and prairie dog towns, etc. He had been in the country five years as station agent at Elm Creek, Mr. D. C. Bond. He had seen buffalo shot from a cabin doorway as a herd of them stampeded through the little pioneer settlement. He transmitted, by telegraph, the account of the Sioux-Pawnee battle at Brady Island, transmitting and receiving on an old fashioned paper ribbon telegraph instrument. Hem told how glad he was to see settlers come in. It was Mr. Bond's privilege, as the hard years came on, to stand by the settlers. In 1874 he brought out a car load of flour and let them have it - to pay for when they could.

The little girl's father took a pre emption and bought an equal amount of railroad land at Crowelhon, which was the first station east of Elm Creek. Mr. Bond thus became a neighbor and a highly esteemed friend through many years. Croweliton was only a place where mail was thrown off.

If the conductor was complaisant he would let passengers off, but sometimes he would compel them to alight at Stevenson, three miles farther east. Stevenson had a section house, Crowellton had a postoflice, in the house of Mrs. Susan Grant, which was also the social center of the neighborhood. Her son, J. Marsh Grant, had a library of 300 volumes - high, serious in character - forcing borrowers to read Doctor Kane's "Arctic Explorations," Hugh Miller's "Red Sandstone" and Dryclen's poems when they would have much preferred the current novels of the day. Jules Verne's "Around the World in Eighty Days" came out at that time. We much enjoyed the description of the highly improbable sail sled ride between Plum Creek and Omaha. Besides the books the Grants had the only sewing machine in the neighborhood, and they loaned it as freely as the books; it went from one house to another - was rarely at home and lasted two years.

Almost the first thing erected was a schoolhouse, which the wind promptly blew away, leaving the floor. It was as promptly rebuilt, and Thomas Maloney resumed his school. Some of his pupils were Adam Grant, Estelle Grant, Maggie Maloney, Adah Seaman, Harry Seaman, Josephine Halloween, Jessie Greenman, Lizzie Vail and her brother. The Vails were English, one brother, a bachelor, was a doctor. They had a comfortable sod house and a large family. The Sturrocks were related; James Sturrock, a nephew, by trade a plasterer. The young wife, a good looking young dressmaker, came direct from England to take land - lived in one room with a shed roof, in the bottoms. Mrs. Sturrock gave us a graphic account of how she trod on a skunk when we paid her our first call.

The two families, Valls and Sturrocks, went almost immediately to California. though the Sturrocks lived a while in Kearney.

Mr. Greenman and others started a Sunday school which met at the schoolhouse. It was attended by everybody in the neighborhood.

Mr. Lord, a relative of the Goulds, and a theological student, preached there sometimes, and a homesteader by the name of J. B. Vincent wanted to; he was a religious fanatic, came to the meeting with a 12 pound clasped Bible. Mr. Lord happened to state that the Bible was not originally written in English; this Mr. Vincent indignantly dented. Another religious fanatic, a man by the name of Mitchell, boarded with Mrs. Catherine Edwards, mother of the Reeves boys. William, James and David. This Mitchell used to speak at meetings held during a revival by Reverend Mr. Summers (afterward pastor of the Methodist Episcopal Church in Kearney). He would become greatly excited - a soul under conviction. One day detectives came out from Illinois and arrested him for murder.

Prof. D. B. Worley of Gibbon taught singing school at the schoolhouse in the winter of 1874. He drove through to Overton, where he had some land. A literary society was started the same year in which budding oratory was encouraged. Amateur theatricals, attended by wagon loads of young people from Elm Creek, were the gala occasions. Dancing parties were not infrequent at the homes of the settlers in both communities, Odessa and Elm Creek.

Almost the first to erect shacks and live at Crowellton were the Brown brothers. One of them, D. Brown, left his wife, an intrepid little woman, while he worked on the railroad. Wandering groups of Pawnees were always peering in at her windows and begging persistently. Entirely alone, she was not frightened, which is more than can be said for other women better protected. Mrs. Brown went miles after her cow, which drifted away in the big April storm of 1873; herded the cow back and saved her. Henry Brown afterwards moved with his family to Kearney. The Christianson brothers built a house that was afterwards used as a schoolhouse in East Odessa. The Homer and Harpist families were related; came from Pennsylvania and returned there after a short stay, probably two or three years. The Clellands took tip railroad land in 1874.

George W. Tovey was an 1872 settler on the land afterwards occupied by Theadore Knox, later known as the John Neal farm. Mr. Tovey was large of frame - brown eyed and slow of speech. He would never commit himself; would always qualify every statement he made, and was a favorite of the young people. He and his homesteading partner, whose name is forgotten, would have responded more often to social demands, but they were obliged to accept alternately, as they possessed but one white shirt between them.

George D. Aspinwall was the second school teacher. He was a brother in law of J. E. Chidester. Other relatives by the name of Ransom came from Wisconsin and were well known citizens of the district and county for many years. Richard Waters lives on the homestead he settled on in 1873 - probably the longest continuous residence in that neighborhood.

James Halloween, an Englishman from Altoona, Pa., attained a great age, in the nineties. His farm is occupied by Roy Knap. His son, Samuel Halliwell, lives in the neighborhood.

J. M. Grant, Silas Grant and Thomas Maloney came to Odessa in 1872. By mistake they broke out R. D. Gould's land and wasted a year of hard work. Their land was a mile farther west. They built the house now occupied by E. R. Webb. J. M. Grant is now in Washington. Silas Grant went to Cabool, Mo., and died there July 17, 1908 one of the richest and best beloved citizens. His wife, Maggie Maloney, preceded him by ten years.

Thomas Maloney left Odessa in the spring of 1877. He has lived in Washington and Arkansas, and is now superintendent of a Government reclamation project in Phoenix, Ariz.

The Acheys and the Hostellers were brothers in law, afterwards moving to Kearney; have relatives living in Kearney; the Lantz and Feathers families being descendants. L. C. Skelley occupied two places; the first purchased of Thomas Maloney for $500, which they sold. They then lived for some years on what is now known as the Rally place; this they traded for a farm in Iowa. They are passing their declining years, having reared a family of six sons, all settled in Kansas City, Mo.

Cordelia M. Waite came with her father and several brothers, and sisters, from Michigan. Cordelia, a quiet, refined girl, taught school on Wood River, northeast of Kearney, boarding in a sod house with a leanto bedroom. This addition separated from the main building one night when she was sleeping. The ridge pole fell across her, killing her.

The noise of the falling structure was not heard by the family. They discovered her in the morning with her cheek lying on her hand, just as she had slept.

George Hall lived but a short time in Odessa, moving to Illinois. Mrs. Hall's brother shot a buffalo in the hills north of Odessa in 1873. A deer was killed about the same place in 1872, weighing 200 pounds dressed. In 1874 Silas Grant, with a companion, hunted 100 miles farther west, and brought home venison and buffalo ands a large number of buffalo robes. The buffalo meat was dried and lasted all summer.

John B. Neal settled on the Theadore Knox place in 1877, and lived there until 1903; had a family of eight children, five of whom are living. He was a successful farmer and a good citizen. He and his wife are living in Lents, a suburb of Portland, Ore. Two of his children, Sadie and Roy, live in Portland, Ben in Odessa, Henry in Kearney, Mende in Wisconsin.

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