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

SCOTT AND SARTORIA TOWNSHIPS

The first settlements in Scott Township appear to have been by Benjamin Scott and John Laro in 1873, W. Hanshen, J. P. Gihnore, James A. Betts in 1874, J. J. Moore and James Broadfoot in 1878, and W. W. McLea and O. H. Lowry in 1879.

The first settlers in Sartoria Township appear to have been B. Lee, Nels Lee and Mattie Stockdale in 1878, and P. Pierce, C. Cook, Wm. Cook, W. J. Grant and George Pfeiffer in 1879.

Township No. 12, Range No. 17, was originally named Taylor Township. There is a tradition that the name "Taylor" did not appeal to John Swenson for some reason and Mr. Swenson induced the county board to change the name to Sartoria, explaining that Sartoria was a French word having a like meaning as Taylor.

REMINISCENCES IN THE EARLY SETTLEMENT OF SCOTT AND SARTORIA TOWNSHIPS
By John Swenson

(Note - Mr. Swenson was a soldier of the Civil war, leaving one arm on the battlefield. He took a homestead claim in Divide Township in the year 1874. He served two terms as county superintendent.)

My reasons for becoming a dweller in the region afterwards named Sartoria was that I wished to get into a territory which afforded opportunities for raising live stock. The country was then regarded as useless for any other purpose; with this end in view, I went from my homestead on section No. 4, town No. to. range No. 16, early in March, 1879, up along the South Loup River to look for a suitable location. Finding no place suitable to my purpose, after having gone up to Elk Creek, I returned the next day. It rained and snowed alternately that day. At the foot of a high hill, now called Black Hill Creek, I saw a cabin. Of course I went in. Here dwelled Jephtha Cooley, a professional hunter. He met me with every kind of good will and generosity.

Put my horse in a roofless stable and gave hint some of his last bunch of hays. Making known the object of my visit Cooley pointed east and said "See that bluff yonder? There you will find a log house and a good well; occupy this and you will have plenty of hay and lots of range." I took Hooley's advice and am still on that ground to which he pointed me.

HOOLEY SHOOTS AN ELK

During our conversation Hooley told me of an accident that hit him on one of his recent hunting expeditions. Having heard that elk were often seen in a certain locality, Hooky went there to get some of them. He arrived at the objective region late one evening and let his mules loose to graze while he was arranging for the comforts of his camp. Something scared the mules and they came stampeding by the camp, and Hooky said, "here come the elks," leveled his faithful rifle and down fell one of his mules.

One thing more in connection with Jef Hooley. Poverty though not injurious is always inconvenient and sometimes occasions loss. For stabling our stock during the first we lived on the Loup (1879), we put two long stacks in parallel positions about sixteen feet apart and roofed the space between them with poles the hay. The 12th of February, 1880, was the worst day of the worst winter which I have experienced during all the years I have lived in Nebraska. The wind piled the snow on our stable roof so it broke. I had opened the door, so the sheep were running out just as the crash came. The last of the sheep, thirty in number, and one calf, became covered with the debris; I needed help to manage the situation. Jef Cooley, two miles distant, was the nearest and only place I could go to expect help.

Hooley appeared to be indifferent to God's commandments except the one which advises to not give thought for the morrow. When I came to his house, the last handful of twigs had been put into the stove. So before he could render me any assistance, he had to provide something to burn for his house. To effect this, he with a hunting partner, had to go to the river one mile away, in one of the worst Nebraska storms, to drag home a load of willow brush and chop it tip, before he could go with me. He and his companion worked for me till dark pulling out from under the debris, dead sheep.

Jef Hooley's source of livelihood was what he could bring downs by his gun. He went west into what he called the sandhills, and came home about Christmas time with a big load of deer and antelope. I remember with affection Jef Cooley, mostly for the good heart he carried covered with a lot of rubbish.

MY RIDGLING PONY

My first power of conveyance was a ridghing pony, weighing in good condition 812 pounds. He took good care of himself on the road whether he had his burden on his back or behind hint However, if there was a horse within several miles ahead of him, he would deliver a speed and assume a style that the kings horses could not surpass. There being no special inducement for progress on the other side of the river and somewhat heavily loaded his wagon got stuck in the quicksand and one time when 1 asked him to cross the river without any load he refused to go on.

Leaving my sod house on the divide and directing my course towards my newly acquired home, I had to cross the Loup; Billy stopped again. Mr. Elisha Miles' ranch was near by. Unhooking the horse I led him up towards the ranch house. Mr. Miles was plowing. I went up and saluted him. He did not answer my greeting nor face towards me, just turned his head and looked askant towards me. I explained my predicament and asked him to help me out. At that time in comparison with Mr. Miles I was a young man. He said, "Young man where are you bound:" I answered: "I am moving on the place vacated by O. W. Smith." "The deuce you are," said Miles. "That is right in the midst of my range. Don't you know that the cattlemen allot the range between them and they allow no squatters to come in and occupy any part of it ?" I said, "I have heard of such arrangements, but any private agreement about a matter of which they have no legal right, has no binding power on others who have just the same rights as they have." "Can you pull me out:" I asked. "Yes, stranger, for humanity sake," he said.

Coming up to my new habitation, which consisted of a log house 11 by 12, with earth roof, one window, and no door, I put in my load of furniture and ascended a high bluff from which I could view the landscape in all directions. No where was there a habitation of man visible. But along the river bottom was life and joy; there were thousands of prairie chickens playing and cooing, while in the hills vibrated the thrilling melody of cranes.

FIRST SETTLERS

The first settlers in the region afterwards named Sartorial, came in the fall of 1877. They were Norwegians named Lee. They consisted of the parents, four stalwart sons and two grown up daughters. They took three homesteads at first and more afterwards. They had but one team. Began breaking prairie early in April and ended in June.

With that only team, they went to Kearney, once a week (twenty eight miles) to get their two plows sharpened. They raised eighteen bushels of sod corn to the acre, that year. The Lees, though prosperous were impressed by a spirit of expansion to seek better opportunities, sold out their holdings to a colony which came from Iowa. They were Richard Hughes, Owen Jones, and W. R. Jones, of these only the latter is now left. He is quite prosperous, has raised a colony of daughters who have the peculiar distinction of having acquired education and are not above work. There came also with those mentioned a family named Royale. They were and are so numerous that I have to limit my narrative to the mentioning of only one, George. George Royale came to Sartoria with five motherless children, and was apparently the poorest of the poor. What has he now? He owns all the homesteads which his fellow colonists bought and has a landscape west of numberless acres and all his places stocked to their full capacity.

The other settlers who came by companies, were the Browns, McCurries, the Chipps and others from Missouri.

SCOTT TOWNSHIP

This township was first settled by Benjamin Scott, after whom it was named, who settled on his homestead on Deer Creek in 1873, and on which he lived continuously till 1907, when he hung up his armor and was put to rest. His good wife went some years before him. There was nothing remarkable about Ben Scott, except that he was a model citizen, as I believe he had been a model soldier.

On the west bank of the river Cornelius Cook erected a rather nice frame house. He and his family were people of education and refinement; they tried to live like white people should live; at this undertaking their means soon quit them and they quit the country.

Mr. Cook's land was transferred to his son in law, T. J. Parish, who has added many acres to it since and made it a good size ranch. Frank, his son, lives on the place now (1915) and is prosperous.

The first Blunders, the Sohrweids, the Wheelers and the Dickmans, were there when I came on the river. Just where they settled I do not know, but I know they have been and are prosperous; they are worth from twenty five to one hundred thousand dollars, every one of them, and Though some of the first settlers are dead and some gone to other places, their children have succeeded them and are worthy successors, making wealth and improving the country.

LUDICROUS AND DANGEROUS INCIDENTS

There were many ludicrous as well as dangerous happenings along the river, which, if related, would read stranger than fiction. I will mention but two with which I had to do. Early in March Dan Rohrbarger and I went south on the divide after some corn. On coming back my horse, being used to cross the river, bounded right through. Rohrbarger's horses, despite his whipping with a two foot long willow switch, stopped in the middle of the stream to drink. The team having satisfied itself, when urged to go on could not move the wagon. Rohrbarger, facing the river diagonally and seeing the water running by him swiftly, cried to me, "Ain't I going?" "Not that any one can see," I replied. "What will I do? No, rather say, what can you do? Will I have to leave the wagon here?" he said. I replied, "If you can not move that's the only thing you can do." Rohrbarger unhooked the horses and walked out on the wagon tongue and hooked the tongue loose from the neckyoke and jumped on one of the horses. When this one was asked to go he could not get his feet loose. After floundering for some time he finally fell on his side with Mr. Rohrbarger under him. Rohrbarger at last got out and walked home in his wet clothes, four miles. The next morning he came with two men and two teams. How to get the wagon loose looked to be a difficult matter indeed. All that was to be seen of the wagon, was one corner about eight inches above water. The two men went into the wagon in the water and as the team passed forward and back the men in the wagon threw, each time, four grain sacks of corn into the passing wagon. The corn being all out the wagon had to be taken to pieces to the last wheel to get it out of the
quicksand.

A DUCKING IN AN AIR-HOLE IN THE ICE

Poverty having somewhat let loose its grip, we slowly crawled out of it and some of us got in possession of some not insignificant herds of cattle. I, among the most of those mentioned, got in possession of cattle and knew, like the man who has earned a dollar, how to use it, took care of my herd. One Sunday, bright the breezy, I went to the river to see that the cattle got water and to prevent them from falling into air holes and drowning. One large bunch came to one of these air holes and, behold, the ice broke and the whole bunch fell in.

All scrambled out except one little calf. This One raised his front part up so that his knees rested on the edge of the ice. I, reaching out for a hold at the root of his tail, to help him out, slid into the river head foremost. With difficulty I got out. Thermometer 6 below zero, alone, and three fourths of a mile from the house, to go against a brisk northwest wind. I expected to freeze to death, but there was no other way than to try to get home. In running towards the house my clothing soon got stiff and kept the wind from using its power on me. I got home all right.

A COW, A LAMB AND A PIG

In my sheep keeping we sometimes had orphan lambs. These we had to feed with a bottle. This was tiresome and so with one lamb I tried to teach it to nurse a small cow. This went well after the first trial. When the little cow was lying down, the lamb hunted out the teat and then nursed the cow. The cow let down her milk so that it ran on the ground. A pig took care of what seemed to be wasting. He followed the stream from the ground to the teat, and in this way learned to nurse the cow also. These two followed the cow until satisfied, after which they would lie down. When again the cow wanted to be relieved she lowed, the lamb camel running and bleating at every jump and the pig came following as fast as he could and squealing at every jump. The cow stood the same as for her own calf. These two grafters grew to big proportions.

COTTONWOOD TIMBER ON THE SOUTH LOUP

The South Loup River having its banks covered with lots of big trees and brush was, for a short time, free for all, and was a real blessing to the people of a large extent of country. This timber served for fuel and building material for the settlers. There was nothing anywhere else one could get to burn except what could be had from the river, and how the pioneers made use of this opportunity may be judged from this - there were 300 large cottonwood trees in front of my house in September, 1879. and in the following year there were eleven of the scrubs left. Besides furnishing building material and fuel these trees were also shaped into ways to furnish bread to the most needy. John Stockdale, after having built his sod habitation and broken a few acres of prairie, his means for a livelihood were all gone. He had to turn to the timber to see what he could get out of it. He went after a cottonwood log one day, split into stove length the next day, hauled it to Kearney (some twenty five miles) the third day and brought home a sack of flour the fourth day. Its sometimes happened that he arrived home a little later than usual, then all the light used by the family would not leave the window and all the members of the family waited and watched till father was in sight; the children often quarreled among themselves about who should get the flour sack for a garment.

Among the early arrivals of homesteaders there were not more than one in five that owned a team; one who possessed even a pair of oxen was considered well off. He had constant appreciation from those not so fortunate, and was solicited to break some sod with which to build a sod house and to break a few acres of prairie that would enable the homesteader to plant a little garden and a few acres of corn.

The homesteaders kept coming, not all at one time, but right along for fifteen or twenty years, but seldom any better provided with means than were the first arrivals. These last ones had to take land less choice than was the privilege of those who came before them. Our opportunities to help a new corner did not cease for years. After we had pulled ourselves out of the deepest ruts of poverty we were better able to help those who came ten or fifteen years after we came.

One cold morning in March a very small man came to me and asked to buy a pair of oxen, without money. I had no oxen at all. "Have you no unbroken steers?" he asked. I replied, "I have one three year old half bred Texan and one what we call a native, three years old." "Let me have them," he urged. "'My good man, you could not handle the half breed at all." I replied. "Yes, let me try it. I can handle him," he still insisted. With all the persuasion I could make, hem insisted so hard that we had to get him the steers. But how could we catch the wild one, that was the important question. We had a haystack, close and parallel with the end of a shed, with a door which opened into a partition in the shed, the haystack and the end of the shed serving as a chute. We got him in and how this steer felt about his captivity you can imagine when you know that he stood on his hind legs and reached his front feet up to the roof. We managed to put loops of a strong rope over his big horns and then we let the wild fellow out with little Felix Kreutzer at the end of the rope. 'Now the comedy commenced. The steer behaved after the fashion of a bucking broncho, but with all his capers Felix stuck to the end of the rope. Finally the animal became somewhat tired and had turned in the direction he should go. Felix went ahead, pulling on the steer, who now stood stock still. After about two hours of jerking and pulling the steer took now and then a leap forward. In this manner Felix led the steer home, a distance of sixteen miles, and the next morning, while we were breakfasting at S o'clock, Felix and his wife stood outside the door and wanting the other steer. In my judgment Hercules never performed a greater wonder than did little Felix Kreutzer when he led that wild steer sixteen miles, all alone. These steers he broke to the yoke, broke up his farm with them and had no other team for several years. He is now a retired farmer, living at Amherst, contented and happy. While serving as county superintendent and Visiting schools over the county I had a good chance to learn the condition of the people.

Sometimes when I had occasion to stop over night with some farmer, most generally a school director, on asking to stay, the woman would say, "I hate to refuse you staying, but the fact is we are so hard up for something to eat that we cannot think of asking anyone to subsist on our fare." I would answer, "If that is all the trouble, it seems to me that what you can live on every day and look as well as you do, I can get along with for one night." "Well," she would generally reply, "if that is the way you look upon the situation and are willing to take what we have to offer, you are welcome."

In the morning, when I asked the lady what I owed for my accommodation, "Oh, nothing. I would not think of charging anything for such fare as you have had." I would say, "Indeed, you must. I am out on business and am making money, and invariably pay my way, and you shall not be an exception."

Well, she would say, "If you are so insistent on paying, give what you will." In giving her $1 she would object and say at any rate that was too much. After some parley back and forth, she would take the dollar, finger it and squeeze it and exclaim, "Oh, my! my ! my! Now I have money to buy some tea." I would be invited to come to their house next time and at such time I should pay nothing, and they would have coffee, tea, sugar and meat, which they lacked at this time.


Return to [ Buffalo County ] [ NE History ] [ History at Rays Place ] [ Rays Place ]

All pages copyright 2009. All items on this site are copyrighted by their author(s). These pages may be linked to but not used on another web site. Anyone may copy and use the information provided here freely for personal use only. Privacy Policy