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


At the locality where now (1915) is the thriving and prosperous Village of Shelton, at as early a date as 1860, on maps and publications of that date appeared the name Wood River Center, and there is good reason for believing that at an even earlier date there was here a hamlet, a way station, as it were. for travelers over the Overland Trail, doubtless dating from the establishment of Fort Kearney in 1848.

The trails up the Platte Valley, on the north side, extended from the Platte to the bluffs until in the vicinity of Wood River Center, when all trails north of Wood River (those which had followed Prairie Creek) crossed to the south of Wood River at or near this point, proceeding westward on the south side.

To this point in the year 1859 came Joseph E. Johnson, a Mormon, a man of considerable means and of more than average ability. Here he established a store, a blacksmith and wagon repair shop, a tintype gallery, a bakery and place where meals might be had and in April, 1860, a newspaper (The Huntsman's Echo), published, as announced in its columns, at Wood River Center, Nebraska Territory, so that from April, 1860, until February 3, 1873, the name of the place was officially and otherwise known as Wood River Center.

Mr. Johnson fenced with poles cut from Wood River an enclosure, where he engaged in gardening, raising of flowers and planted small fruits and also cherry and apple trees. From copies of the Huntsman's Echo, in the library of the State Historical Society, we learn that near this point was a portable sawmill in operation; that corn and spring wheat were grown; that Mr. Johnson had a portable mill in which he ground both corn and wheat for customers.

From the Huntsman's Echo, published in 1860-61, it appears that in the year 1860 J. Sterling Morton and other candidates for congressional and territorial office came to Wood River Center and made political addresses on the streets of the village. We learn that in the fall of 1860 an election for county officers was held at this point, forty two votes being cast, resulting in the election of Henry Peck, probate judge; J. H. Wagner, Joseph Huff and Thomas Page, county commissioners; P. H. Gunn, sheriff; L. VanAlstine, coroner; James E. Boyd and J. H. Wagner, justices of the peace; James E. Boyd, treasurer and register of voters; Edward Huff, county clerk; P. H. Gunn and John Evans, constables, and Joseph E. Johnson, county superintendent. It Was at this point; August 20, 1860, that the first postoffice in the county was established, Joseph E. Johnson, postmaster. It was in this immediate vicinity in the early '60s that the families of Mrs. Sarah Oliver, James Oliver, Owen, Dugdale, Meyer, Nutter, Walsh, Thompson, Slattery and Stearley made settlement on lands, becoming permanent residents of the county, honored citizens of the commonwealth. It was at this point in 1860 that the Great Western Stage Company, extending as far west as Fort Kearney, established a stage station, with August Meyer in charge.

When in August, 1864, occurred the stampede, memorable in the history of the territory, occasioned by a raid of Cheyenne and Arapaho Indians, in which terrible atrocities were committed in Central Nebraska Territory and many lives of white settlers lost, and all inhabitants west of the Missouri River terrorized, it was at Wood River Center that settlers north of the Platte gathered, placed themselves under command of August Meyer, who had served in the United States regular army, barricaded themselves in an unfinished log building, and later all journeyed to Omaha and Iowa points until fear of the raid was over - except August Meyer and "Ted" Oliver, who remained to care for the stage company horses. Here the first school district was organized, the first schoolhouse provided, the first terms of school held.

It was citizens of Wood River Center, Patrick Walsh, Martin Slattery and others, who joined in a petition to Governor David Butler to reorganize Buffalo County in 1869, and it was in the schoolhouse at this place that the special election reorganizing the county, January 20, 1870, was held, Wood River Center being the county seat.

In this schoolhouse, in the winter of 1870-71, was held the first public religious services in the county, conducted by Rev. David Marquett, a Methodist missionary.


The following is a copy of an official certificate of appointment to office, issued by the county clerk of Buffalo County under date of February 24, 1871. This document is in the handwriting of Patrick Walsh and bears the seal of Buffalo County, Nebraska:
"State of Nebraska
"County of Buffalo

"I Patrick Walsh Deputy clerk of said county do hereby certify that at a meeting of the county commissioners of said county on the 18th day of this month the said commissioners have duly appointed Oliver Thompson for the office of county Sheriff of 'Buffalo Co. and that he has been duly qualified by taking the oath of office and giving bond as the law requires.

"Given under my hand at Wood River Center this 24th day of February A. D., 1871.
(Signed) "MICHAEL COADY, CO. Clerk.
(Signed) "By PATRICK WASH, Deputy."

"Seal of
Buffalo County."

(Note - The original of this document is in possession of Shelton Township Library.)

In the year 1873 Edward Oliver and brother established a store at Wood River Center, first in a building 12 by 16 feet in size, later occupying a much larger building south of the track and carrying a line of dry goods and groceries. An advertisement of E. Oliver and Brother, dry goods, groceries and provisions, Wood River Center, appeared in a copy of the Buffalo County Beacon, published at Gibbon, in 1873. A postofflee at Wood River Center was established October II, 1872, with Patrick Walsh as postmaster, the postoffice being kept in Mr. Walsh's dwelling, a log house, and later in the Oliver store, with E. Oliver as deputy postmaster. There is a tradition that when the post office inspector visited the office and found no stamps on sale the deputy informed him that he did not have to keep stamps for sale without a profit and the inspector threatened to close the office, the salary of the postoffice being some twelve dollars a year:

The name of the postoffice was changed from Wood River Center to Shelton on February 3, 1873, Mr. Walsh continuing to serve as postmaster until March 31, 1879, when Mark G. Lee was appointed.

The postmasters in their order have been Patrick Walsh, Mark G. Lee, John Conroy, J. M. Harman, S. F. Henninger, Frank D. Reed (three terms), I. T. Peterson and John Conroy, dating from August 1914. The revenue of the office in 1914 was $1,500.

It is related that the village was named in honor of N. Shelton, an auditor in the land department of the Union Pacific Railroad Company.

There is a tradition that Postmaster Walsh, desiring the name of the post office changed, notified the postmaster general in substance as follows:
"Mr. Postmaster General,
"Washington, D. C.

"Dear Sir:
"You are hereby notified that the name of this postofflee has been changed
from Wood River Center to Shelton and you will govern yourself accordingly."

In the year 1879 Patrick Walsh had a townsite surveyed on his homestead farm and additions were soon after surveyed by the Union Pacific Railway Company and by Michael Coady, who had a claim on an adjoining section.

In the year 1876 the Union Pacific established a station and installed George Mortimer as agent.


As recalled, the pioneer physician was Doctor Childs, who erected a two story frame building south of Wood River bridge on the west side, the lower rooms occupied by More & Nethercut, dry goods and groceries.

Of resident physicians in the life of the village the following are recalled: Henry W. Brickett, Ames, Theron E. Webb, R. M. Beecher, Geo. C. Paxton, E. L. Smith, Charles Lucas, W. W. Hull, R. Kanzler, J. Soper. Of the physicians named doubtless Dr. E. L. Smith was most widely known, had the most extensive practice. His devotion to his chosen profession, his ready response to the calls of suffering humanity doubtless had much to do with his death in the prime of

The pioneer dentist was Alex Thomas, who had a pair of rough, home made forceps, about the size of horse forceps. He had an improvised chair in which to perform his dental operations, his office being in the pioneer hardware store of Eb Marsh, and later John Heatherington.


The Village of Shelton was incorporated January 6, 1882, the county board naming as trustees H. S. Colby, Edward Oliver, George Mortimer, Mark G. Lee and E. O. Hostetler. The oath of office was administered by B. F. Sammons, justice of the peace. H. S. Colby was chosen chairman and F. D. More clerk. The first meeting was held in Oliver Hall, south of the track.

The United States census returns give the population of the village, 1890, 706; 1900, 861; 1910, 1,005.

In the year 1904 the village installed a water system, bonds to the amount of $12,000 being voted.

In the year 1915 the village took over the electric light plant of the Shelton Light and Power Company, village bonds to the amount of $8,000 being voted for the purpose.

Members of the village board in 1915, J. B. Hodge, chairman; E. L. Templin, Lee Roberts, Fred Spahr, H. C. Hofgard; G. L. Bastian, clerk; V. L. Johnson, treasurer.


Much attention is given to the breeding of horses and some of the finest draft stallions in the state are owned by Shelton parties and kept for breeding purposes. Colt shows are held and the animals exhibited are among the finest specimens of their class. In the year 1905 mention was made in the public press of the weights of some of the colts of draft breeding shown. In the two year old class, Jacob Johnson's weighed 1,390 pounds, H. H. Stedman's 1,320, Albert Allen's 1,200, Chauncey Cook's 1,150, Silas Coon's 1,170, C. J. Soderstrom's In the yearling class I. K. Henninger's weighed Low, H. J. Dugdaie's 950, John Hesler's 810, Lew Anderson's 830.

Shelton has a driving park association, a fine half mile track, and speed events are held each year at which liberal purses are offered and which attract large numbers of speed horses from this and other states.

The Shelton Flouring Mill was erected in the year 1874 by Jason I. and Dr. I. P. George, brothers.

Wood River, which furnishes the water power to operate this mill, is a stream exceedingly difficult and expensive on which to maintain a dam, and the owners of the Shelton Mill in the earlier days were put to great expense on this account.

In the year 1901 the mill was owned and operated by the Shelton Milling Co., composed of S. A. D. Henninger, F. T. Turney and S. G. Carlson.

In the early spring of 1912 the old dam was completely washed out by an immense flood and the new permanent dam was immediately built of reinforced concrete.

In 1893 the mill was changed from the old stone system to the modern roller process and has been constantly kept up to date with new machinery.

A fine grade of flour is made by this mill which is not only sold Largely in Shelton and surrounding towns, but considerable shipments are made abroad.

In the year 1915 the mill was still owned and operated by the Shelton Milling Co., which is composed of S. A. D. Henninger only, who in turn is the acting president and manager.

The milling capacity is loo barrels per day and the grain storage capacity is 12,000 bushels.

From the earliest history of the county Shelton has been prominent as a grain shipping point, one of the first to engage in the business being "Jake" Rice, about the year 1878. At that date there were no elevators for storing grain and when cars could not be secured in which to load the grain for shipment, it was piled on the ground and at times several thousand bushels of wheat were thus in piles on the open prairie awaiting cars for shipment, and as Mr. Rice could not pay for the wheat until loaded in a car, when he drew on the bill of lading, the wheat was in these piles at the risk of the farmers.

Fortunately, in those years, there was little rainfall in the fall of the year and the loss on the wheat thus exposed was not large.

At first the storage elevators were "shovel elevators," that is, grain was shoveled into the storage bins from the farm wagons and then shoveled into cars.

When the first elevators were built the loaded wagons were drawn up an incline plane to the top of the elevator and then dumped. In 1915 Shelton has four grain elevators, with a total capacity of 130,000 bushels.

Alfalfa is extensively grown in this locality and in the year 1911, at an expense of $15,000, E. C. Warren erected an alfalfa meal mill with a capacity of thirty tons per day.


The Shelton Clipper, in the history of Shelton, has been recognized as a model country newspaper of the state - model in its mechanical make up, model in its editorial and business management. Frank D. Reed, for many years its owner and editor, brought the Clipper into statewide recognition and left a lasting impress in the village and county in which he did the most useful and important work of his lifetime. His death, which ocurred November 7, 1911, was a distinct loss to the county and state.

In Vol. II, No. 13, of the Shelton Clipper Editor H. C. McNew gives the following history of the Clipper to that date:

"The Clarion, the second newspaper in Shelton (the first being The Huntsman's Echo in 1859-60-61), was started in 1879 and came under the control of the present publisher of The Clipper in May, 1880, after being five months under the management of four men at different times. The Clarion continued to be published until October, 1880, when the name of the paper was changed to the one now used. This was done in order to protect our own interests and prevent trouble with former publishers of the Clarion.

"In 1883 The Clipper was purchased by Reed Bros., William M. and Frank D. Reed. In 1895 The Clipper became the property of the junior member of the firm, who still continues as editor and publisher. The Clipper office was destroyed by fire on March 22, 1903; the loss was almost total, the insurance being very small. Mr. Reed at once made arrangements for a temporary office until the building could be replaced, and issued the usual weekly number on the regular publication day, not a single issue being missed on account of the fire.

"The office is now equipped with a full complement of up to date machinery and material and is above the average for a town of the size of Shelton. The job work turned out is of superior quality and The Clipper is a newspaper of which Shelton citizens and the Twentieth Century Club members are justly proud."

On the death of Frank D. Reed in 1911 the editorial and business management of The Clipper was taken over by E. L. Templin and C. C. Reed and still (1915) enjoys a wide circulation and a profitable patronage.


In the Twentieth Century Club souvenir edition of The Shelton Clipper, Mrs. Catherine Smith writes of the history of the Twentieth Century Club excerpts from which appear in this article.

"In 1892 a woman's club was organized in Shelton, its object being To stimulate the intellectual development of its members and for the promotion of unity and good fellowship among them. It was known as the Nineteenth Century Club."

"In 1887 a Chautauqua circle was formed with a membership of fifteen: Some dropped out, some moved away. Mrs. H. A. Hostetler alone finished the course, in 1891 receiving her diploma at the assembly in Beatrice. It was through her influence the Nineteenth Century Club of Shelton was organized. She served as its first president and has held that position at different times since. At the meeting of the organization of the state federation in Omaha she represented the Shelton Club and it became a part of the federation in 1894."

"In 1901 the name of the club was changed to the Twentieth Century Club. Our colors are purple and gold; the club flower, the pansy; the motto, 'All that is human must retrograde if it does not advance. "The study has been history, art, music, literature and current events."

"The club has done some work along altruistic lines. The present library is the outgrowth of a library established by the club in 1896. We are aiding in a small way a colored Nebraska girl to fit herself as a kindergartner to go South and teach among her own race. The club is also interested in the public schools. The lady teachers are usually active members."

The membership of this club in the year 1915 was thirty. Mrs. Charles Lucas, president; Mrs. C. S. Lyle, vice president; Mrs. Maurice Weaver, recording secretary; Mrs. S. E. Smith, corresponding secretary; Mrs. Albert Allen, treasurer.

The past presidents of the club, Mesdames M. A. Hostetler, H. H. Stedman, Charles Lucas, Rufus Bentley, Eugene Phelps, George Meisner, C. F. Graves, George Prouty, Carlton Bly, Joseph Owen, Jr., E. F. Monroe, Roy Reynolds, Frank Turney and I. K. Henninger.


The first term of school in Buffalo County, taught by a teacher duly licensed was in the summer of 1871. The teacher, Miss Clara Lew, was a member of the Soldier's Free Homestead Colony, coming from the State of Ohio in April, 1871. Miss Lew was the first teacher to whom a certificate to teach was granted in the county.

The records disclose that her examination took place before C. Putnam, county superintendents; on June 3, 1871, who issued to her a third grade certificate. This school was taught in a board shanty, sodded on the outside, located on the farm of Joseph Owen in school district No. 1. Originally this schoolhouse was a rough board shanty used in the construction of the Union. Pacific Railway and purchased by inhabitants interested in having a school in that locality. James Dugdale, who was old enough to go to school but who had to herd cattle furnishes, from memory, the names of the scholars attending the school as follows: Lulu Slattery, Albert Slattery, Hattie Bayley, Harry Oliver, John Walsh, John Stearley, Lester W. Bayley, Thomas Dugan, James Walsh, Mary Stearley, John Bayley, Maggie Walsh, Wm. H. Nutter and George Dugdale.


Shelton has from the beginning taken great pride in her public school and spared neither time nor expense in the effort to have the best, for in educational lines the best is none too good.

In the Twentieth Century Club souvenir edition of The Shelton Clipper (1895) Miss Elsie Burr writes as follows of the history of the Shelton schools: "As early as 1866 this part of the country was settled by people destined to be forerunners of a commonwealth, forerunners in politics, citizenship and education.

"One of their first thoughts was for the education of their children, so clubbing together and headed by Patrick Walsh they bought lumber that had been used for a section house in the building of the Union Pacific Railroad. With this they built the first schoolhouse in Buffalo County. This before the county was organized in 1870. This schoolhouse was located on the same spot where the district No. 1 now stands and was known as school district No. 1. Mrs. Harry Norton was the first teacher in Buffalo County. There were no funds (public) with which to pay the teacher so these men raid her - $35 a month. Beside this she boarded round, and it is said as the school did not require her undivided time, she even did dress making during school hours. The term was for four months. For several years (1866 to 1871) school was held in this building. About 1876 a new school district was organized, taking some territory from district No. 1 in Buffalo County and also sonic from Hall County, making the present school district of Shelton known legally as No. 19 in Buffalo County and No. 41 in Hall County.

"The first schoolhouse was a frame structure 14 by 18 feet in size. The seats were arranged around the walls of the room and in front were rude, homemade desks. Miss Mattie Davis of Gibbon was the first teacher. This building was used for two years when a larger and better building was erected. In this structure the youth of Shelton received instruction for four or five years when the school was divided owing to crowded conditions. Mrs. Max A. Hostetler taught the last term before division was made. One section of the school remained in the schoolhouse under the instruction of Miss Addie Thomson, the other division was located in a room over Mr. Oliver's store in charge of Miss Laura Hardin. This division was made about the year 1881; in the year 1882 a four room building was erected on the site of the present building; at first but two rooms were used, Professor Griffin taught in one and Miss Lulu Slattery the other."

From Miss Burr's article it is further learned that the school building was greatly enlarged and in the year 1905 twelve grades were being taught. In the year 1911-12 one of the finest, most up to date school buildings in the state was erected at a cost of $40,000, school district bonds for such being issued. Supt. E. F. Monroe, writing as to the later history of the Shelton school says: "It has been said that the first class to be graduated was that of 1890, from an eleventh grade.

"I believe from the evidence that the twelfth grade was introduced in 1899. The six year high school (the six and six plan) was begun in 1911-12, with beginnings in 1909-10 and 1911-12, in the old building and was put in full force in the new building in 1912-13.

"In 1912-13 the Shelton schools were accredited by the North Central Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools, thus giving the Shelton schools the official rank as one of the fifty best public school systems out of about five hundred high school systems in the state. This accreditment includes the colleges of sixteen states from Ohio to Montana, and admits Shelton graduates without examination."

The enrollment of the school as given by Superintendent Monroe for the school year 1915-16 is: boys, 163; girls, 202; total 365. Number teachers employed, twelve. The members of the school district board, 1915, W. S. Ashton, Franks Easter, George W. Smith, Dr. Charles Lucas, H. H. Stedman, and V. S. Pierce.


H. C. McNew in Shelton Clipper, 1881.
In educational matters, Buffalo County has taken a decided lead. J. T. county superintendent, has labored faithfully for two years to build up the schools of the county, and it may be truthfully said, that the greatest success has crowned his efforts. We paid our first visit to the Shelton School in an official capacity last Thursday. We "went in" with the scholars after recess and remained until noon, and would have stayed longer but did not care to stay there alone. The school is under the management of G. W. Hartman and Miss Addie Thomson. Mr. Hartman, one of the graduates of our state university, and one of the young men who built up Buffalo County's good reputation in that institution, will have charge of the Oliver Hall School, when the school will be divided, which will be soon. Miss Thomson will continue the intermediate department in the old school building. When the school is divided, Shelton can boast of as good schools as any town of its size for it certainly has two as good teachers. About seventy pupils were in attendance. In the space of one hour six classes were heard, two of the number arithmetic, numbering thirteen and fourteen pupils. Both classes were reciting at the same time, Mr. Hartman hearing one class, Miss Thomson the other. Notwithstanding the large number of pupils in one small room, the best of order prevailed. We were greatly pleased with the general appearance of the room, and can assure the patrons their children are well cared for and instructed.

Miss Lulu Slattery is wielding the birch in district No. 17. She has thirty five scholars - this her second term.

Miss Annie Barbour, sister of Mrs. Frank More, is teaching in district No. 43.

Miss Stonebarger, lately from Illinois, is teaching in district No.

Miss Ella Smith has a six months' term on district No. 1.

George K. Peck is teaching in Hall County.

James Steven holds forth in the Nebraska brick building (a sod school house) in district No. 41, Elm Island.

E. O. Elliot is teaching the young ideas "how to shoot" in distfict No. 10.

C. Allen Cook is engaged in district No. 11, near Buda.

Cooley Walker is teaching his first term in Hall County.

Frank Cooper is teaching over in the bluffs.

[Continued in Shelton History Part 2.]

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