Omaha daily bee. (Omaha [Neb.]) 187?-1922, November 14, 1909, HALF-TONE, Page 3, Image 19

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iThayer County an Example of Pioneer Industry and Nebraska Fertility
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K THINK of pioneer life Hi a
tli I n v of the pant, something the
youiiKi'r K- in ration must Imrn
or from tin lr nrliool hooks or
hlKt rlip. Here and there are
Hurvlvot:; of that h.Htorlc mlKra-
tlon, actors In Uu- Btlrring drama of half a
,CPiitury ao, from wiiosn lips our children
"t :iay learn of tho modu of life of the pioneer
eUleri of l..c Nebraska prairie. We shake
our heads regretfully und hay: "We shall
not see Its like arain." The day of the
pioneer Is uvr, lor no longer Is there
any frontier. The lut wetrt Is gone." Yet,
hough few ure aware of It. there are,
i totteied throughout the remote districts
of the western part of Nebraska, scores of
settlers nltuye homes and homu-llfe are
unchanged from the era of the pioneer.
liere, far from the beaten trail, time has
JVxd still. Here wo may step back Into an
eia that we thought existed only In books
and gee perfectly reproduced, the dally
life of the early pioneer.
Thayer county has been very successful
In subduing the wilderness. Many years
ago the frre rural mail box and the tele
phone pole drove back the frontier all
along- the Hue.
Thayer county is in the southernmost tier
of counties In Nebraska. It Is the fifth
9 It la distant Ion mil a n.l tu tha nintv.
oounty east of the Colorado line, from
which It Is distant 22S miles. It is sixty
miles southwest of Lincoln, the capital of
the state, and 130 miles In the same direc
tion from Omaha, the metropolis of Ne
braska, Tha surface of Thayer county Is what Is
generally termed a "high" rolling prairie.
There are no "hills" In the general ac
ceptation of tire term, but there are oc
casionally prominent "bluffs" to bo seen
along tJttla Blue river. While there are
many tracts of plain laud, there are none
so flat as to laok natural drainage, or so
level as to be monotonous to the eye.
There la no sameness to the surface,' but
an ever-changing and agreeable variety.
The streams run through valleys from a
quarter of a mile to two miles or more In
width, and are bordered geuerally by trees.
It slopes to the east.
To gain a clear conception of the ty
pography of the county, one must cross
the valleys and divides nearly at right
angles. The observer will by this means
discover that the most railing lands gen
erally border the valleys or bottoms. As
he advances, the rolling and sometimes
broken character of the surface disappears
when the divide Is reached w hlch sep
arates It from the next drainage stream.
Here the land smells out into a gently
undulating plain, presenting an appear
ance of great natural beauty, and possess
ing characteristics only met on the west
ern side of the Missouri river. The flat,
tiresome monotony of the prairies of cen
tral and southern Illinois Is entirely lack
ing while In its stead Is the appearance
of the graceful contours of an ocean's un
dulating swells suddenly solidified its
if ves transformed into fruitful soil and
dntssed in rich verdure.
No Questions relative to a new country
are of more Importance than those relat
ing to Its climate. Upon the climate of a
gantry very largely depend not only the
natural productions, but comfort and
M bealthfulness of the Inhabitants. The tem
perature of the winter months, December,
January and February, Is somewhat
higher than that of central Illinois and
Ohio. It is by no means an uncommon
sight to see farmers plowing during the
winter months. There are, however,
orrm of considerable severity, but the
drynexs of the atmosphere render them
mora uudurabla than storms of a less de
gree of cold further east. The mean tem
perature of Thayer county during the year
is about 66.
In the fall there Is no lovelier country
' to live) In than Thayer county. Although
I the sun shines brightly In the summer,
I with frequently oppressive heat, yet this
Is tempered with a gentle breese, which
Is constantly blowing. The nights are cool
and refreshing and sleep Is afforded, and
thus nature Is recuperated. With Its
splendid climate, the purest water and ex
cellent crops, this county la attracting the
attention of parties locating In the west.
Many oauses combine to make the at
mosphere exoeptlonatly clear and pure.
Among these causes may be mentioned
the mean elevation of Thayer county, 1,80
feet above the sea, its fine slliclous soil
and perfect natural drainage, Its constant
brasses, and its freedom from swamps,
bogs and sloughs. Fogs are rare, and ex
cept in autumn, even hase does not occur.
The rainfall Is increasing from year to
f year, and corresponding changes In the
axreanis and vegetation are taking place.
4 . buffalo grass that once covered the
country has now almost entirely disap
peared before grasses indigenous to mola:er
climates. The growth of nativo timber has
largely Increased. The mean volume of
water is also Increasing. It is thought
'. '' h planting of trees end the lnareaj
I Ing absoiptlve power of the aoU, resulting
rrom cultivation, are the principal cause
of the Increased rainfall. But It Is also
probably true that the great rain belt Is
moving westward from the Atlantic ooaat
in obedience to some great perlodlo law.
No place la absolutely free from disease,
but this part of the state la singularly ex
empt from Its severer forma. Nearby every
one who comes Into this oounty from the
cast feels a general quickening and elastic
ity of spirits. Digestion and appetite ex-
?f perienoe a wonderful Improvement, and
Hie mind and body respond to livelier Im-
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All tbe cereal grains common to this lati
tude froducd n Thayer county. Cora
U, however, the principal crop, and or ill-
i f it
narlly proves the most profitable when
fed to stock. Wheat, oats, barley, rye, al
falfa, sorghum. mllet, timothy and clover
are among the most important crops
raised, and the average yield will compare
favorably with the best agricultural states.
One of the best watered counties In the
state Is Thayer, it has a number of beau
tiful KlrenmH, chief among which Is tho
Little Blue river. Rapidly flowing, almost
centrally, through the county from west to
east, with many turns, through one of
the loveliest valleys In the west, It affords
many scenes of quiet rural beauty, charm
ing enough for the brush of a Landseer.
The volume of water is large and constant,
the bottom often rocky, the current rapl.l
and tho banks firm. These quulltles render
it an excellent stream for water power, for
which purpose It has no equal In the stato.
It Is said this stream possesses wat-Jr
power sites every two or three miles along
Its course through the county.
The other principal running streams are
the Little Pandy, Big Sandy, Spring creek
and Rose creek, nearly all of which are
clear and beautlfi'l. Btg Sandy and Rose
creek each afford witer power for flour
ing mills.
On no other deposits, except the solid
rock, ran there be such excellent roads.
From twelve to twenty-four hours after
the heaviest rains, the roads are perfectly
dry, and often appear, after being traveled
a few days, like a vast floor formed froi
cement and by the highest art of man.
Railroads and telegraphs are among the
most Important factor In the development
of the weBt. Thayer county is well provided
with railroads and telegraphs. The Chicago
4 Northwestern railroad has 4.41 miles
of tracks, St. Joseph & Oraud Island, 25.65
miles, Chicago, Rock Island Pacific,
26 J7 and Chicago, Burlington at Quincy,
84.73 miles. Total miles In the county Is
99.01 No quarUr seetlun In th oounty
Hero of Peace Defies Crucible of Frontier Strife
O HAVE lived through the form
ative days of the great west,
when life meant strife and vio
lent with so many, as loneer.
plainsman, merchant and pro
moter, three tlmea crossing the
wilds to the Faclflo coast by ox train,
without so much as an encounter or ad
venture is the unique life experience of
Samuel R. Johnson, a leader among the
earlier business men of Omaha. Mr. John
son, in the hearty good spirits of a man
T8 years young" and successful, Is enjoy
ing a visit to his sons living here
"Adventure? Why I didn't have any. I
was too busy." said the old gentleman
mildly. He smiled as he spoke, and his
good natured countenance radlsted the
satisfaction of a long life of hard work
that had conquered. His years rest lighlly.
White haired as he Is. with the line In his
face that bespeak long experience with
men and varying conditions, Mr. Johnson
looks more the man Just turning 0 than
he who Is nearly the end of four score.
"Ot course, when I crossed the plains
way back there In the We. there was
plenty of chanoe for trouble, but that
wasn't what I was looking for.
"Why really I felt safer out there In the
wilds, camped with the wagon train with
thousands of Sioux roaming the prairie,
than I would on the street of Omaha to
night Those Indiana were, not so bad as
long as they were let alone. I have fre
quently had them come about the camp,
but they never took anything that wasn't
given to them, and they never offered to
harm us."
Mr. Johnson now has his home In the
sunny valley of Santa Clara, a few miles
to tho south of San Jose, Cal. His attach
ment for the golden west was formed In
tho days before be became of pro mince In
the commercial affairs of the then young
city of Omaha. He made his first Journey
into that far country from Mia&ouri In
1K3. That was so long ago that the dream
era who suggested the possibility of a
transcontinental railroad were scoffed at
as Insane,
The tedious overland Journey in the
Buijrum valley not far from Sa Fran
claoo. Mr, Johnson, with a calm fastneaa
t r
Is more than eight miles from market.
A writer would find it difficult to
properly describe the general intelligence,
enterprise and morality of the citizens of
Thayer county without apparent exaggera
tion. Few, If any counties, east or west,
contain a more generous combination of the
best elements of good society. The religious
interests of Thayer county are actively
of purpose which the gold fever could not
shake, settled down to farm.
"You couldn't get rich In a day farming
In California even In those days," re
marked Mr. Johnson, "but It was certain
that the soil would produce something
every season, while there were lots of gold
hunters who starved to death."
This observation Is quite typical of the
attitude of mind that has carried Mr.
Johnson so smoothly along his life Jour
ney. For two years Mr. Johnson woed the soil
of the Sulsun valley. Then he returned to
the Missouri river valley, locating finally
at Sidney, la., where he engaged in the
mercantile business. Eleven years later
he opened a wholesale grocery house in
Council Bluffs. This marked the beginning
of his commercial life here, which beoame
so largely occupied with movements con
cerned with the development of Omaha.
He took in D. M. Steele as a partner and
the firm of Steele it Johnson became
widely known In the west.
Alert to the possibilities of the growing
city of Omaha tills firm established a
bouse on this side of the river In the
course of the business developments of the
day. The enterprise prospered and In tho
years that followed Mr. Johnson became
Interested In many projects.
The first cable street car company was
formed here In 1SS4 and Mr. Johnson be
came the president. The company erected
the old power house at Twentieth and
Harney streets. The cable company waa
absorbed by the horse car company, which
In turn was taken over by the electric trac
tion company.
"If you never ran a cable railway com
pany, you don't know what grief is," re
marked Mr. Johnson, sighing In the mem
ory of the struggles of the young concern.
I think that you can spend more money,
get into more trouble and grow more gray
hairs In the cable business than in any
other form of Investment.
"At the same time we were In tbe In
fancy of the Omaha Water company. That
was project that my friend Nathan
fihelton, an old timer, who came here with
the Union Pacific, got me into. There was
some work about that, too. However, we
got the water works established and It
wasn't such a very bad financial transao-
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advanced. There are about twenty-five
church organizations representing some six
or Keven denominations. Nearly all appear
to bo well supported.
In nothing do the citizens of Thayer take
warmer Interest or more pride, than In the
public schools. Her school system Is among
the best and her school fund among the
largest. It Is to be expected that a county
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with the enterprise Thayer courtly
possesses would prove a worthy part of
the state In these respects,
The fruitful soil, rich grasses and genial
climate of Thayer county have especially
fitted It for farming, dairying and stoolc
raising. Corn Is the main crop for Ne
braska. No where In the world does corn
grow better or yield larger returns for
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care and cultivation. The heavy corn yield
of this county has naturally caused the
most profitable of all kinds of agriculture,
farming and stuck raising combined. By
this plan the farmer finds a good market
for his oorn at home. He feeds It to bis
cattle and hogs, and ships the product
In condensed form. In other words "he
sells his corn on tho hoof." Those farmers
In Thayer county who engage In this busi
ness rapidly accumulate wealth. Of all
branches of agriculture business, It Is the
most profitable.
Butter, eggs, fruit and poultry can be
profitably produced ajid finds an accessible
and ready market in Denver and other
western cities. In short, almost all farm
products, Including mortgages, can be suc
cessfully "raised" from Thayer county
land, If one Is willing to work, and young
men who are growing up on eastern farms,
where the boys Increase faster than the
acres, will find it much more profitable to
work for themselves on a quarter section
of Thayer county land than to work as
"a hand" for some of, their neighbors, or
seek employment in the over-crowded cities.
If additional proof were needed of the
fart that tillage Increases the rainfall, one
has only to note the annually increasing
volume of water In the Blue, the Handy,
Rose and Spring creeks; the thousands of
acres of growing corn and grain which are
living witnesses of the truth of the state
ment that the rainfall increases as the
cultivated land is extended. In conclusion,
I would advise those who are always com
plaining of bad luck, who are waiting for
something to turn up, who are always
tired, or who expect to get something for
nothing to stay away from Thayer county
and Indeed from the whole western coun
try. There is no room for them there
they are only In the way.
Alexandria Is located at the east part of
the county. The town Is pleasantly situ
ated on the north Bide of the Big Sandy.
tlon, either," said Mr. Johnson, with evi
dent satisfaction.
Mr. Johnson was president of the first
Water company. He was also president of
the Nebraska National bank at its founding
Jn 18S2. Despite his numerous other activ
ities Mr. Johnson kept a hold on his
wholesale grocery business, and all of
his enterprises prospered except one,
"But then, that was only an Insurance
company, anyway," says the old man
cheerfully. "Fine experience, too."
In Mr. Johnston sold out his Omaha
Interests and went out to California, the
country he had visited back In the ox team
days. Down In the Santa Clara valley he
owns a btg fruit ranch. He lets the sun
shine and soil grow prunes and apricots
with the aid of an army of employes.
"I'm good for a day's work yet, too." lie
replied, when It aj suggested that he
was taking life easy after his long and
iduous experience In the commercial
"Why, people don't know what work Is
like, nowadays; that Is, real hard work.
Back In the big timber In Indiana, where
I was born, we had to hack a field out of
tbe forest before there was room to plaut
anything. That was work.
"I never saw a prairie until I was 1(1
yerrs old, and that was Just a stretch of
Indiana prairie on the road to Lafaycits
at that. Chop down an acre of timber.
Then rick It up and burn It; when that is
done, you will know something about
Mr. Johnson saw a good deal of frontier
life in his early days. His father, Isaac
Johnson, removed to Iowa Point, Mo., In
IMS, and there the young man aw an
other country In the making. There he
helped to reduce a bit of the virgin land
of the "Platte purchase" to the purposes
of a farm.
It was at Iowa Point that the youth
heard the call of the Pucifio coast and
started on the long trek 10 the Sulsun
Three of Mr. Johnson's family. Frank
B Johnson, president of the Omaba Print
ing company; Mrs. Edward Williams and
William Johnson, live here. His other son,
V.. Johnson, la on tho fruit ranvh near
San Jose. '
From Its fortunate location In the center
of a large agricultural and stock raising
district, It has made a large area of the
country tributary to Us business Interests.
Just outside of the town the outskirts ot
the timber stretch southward for the dis
tance of half a mile, giving a charm to the
surrounding landscape.
Belvldere is located six miles north ot
the center of tho county, on the St. Joseph
A Grand Island railroad. This town was
laid out In 1X73 by the Nebraska Land and
Town company. The town Is situated but
a short distance from the confluence of the
Big Sandy and the Little Sandy and Uiere
is In consequence some broken land In the
immediate vicinity. However, but a short
distance north and south of town, are soma '
of the finest lands our state affords and
here are farms that will do tor a model
for any country.
Water Is obtained at a dopth of fifty to
sixty feet.
Tame grasses, which have not been cul
tivated until the last five years, are now
extensively raised. There are hundreds of
fine groves of forest trees to be seen
through the country and bearing orcharls
are numerous.
There is a large amount of grain and
stock shipped from this point annually.
Located on the south boundary of tho
county, partly on Kansas soil, is the town
of Byron. For amount of grain, stock and
produce shipped, It Is not far behind some
of the older and larger towns. It Is sit
uated on the "divide" between the Blue
and Republican, and Is consequently in
possession of a view that will be promt
nent for many miles In every direction.
Carlton Is situated In' the northwestern
part of the county, on the St, Joseph
Grand Island road, two and one-half miles
south of Fillmore county and seven miles (
east of Nuckolls county. The town draws
trade from - an area of about 160 square)
miles, while trade Is brought here exclu
sively for about ninety-six square miles.
The trade at this place la brisk tho greater
part of the year. There wera shipped In
one year from this station 637 cars of corn,
330 cars of other grain and fifty-three cars
of cattle and hogs. After making careful
Inquiry from farmers concerning season
and average yield for the last five years,
we muBt say It will compare favorably
with Illinois and Iowa, where auccesa In
agriculture Is never questioned.
The vlllegn of Chester Is near the south
line of the county and about midway east
and west. It Is situated on tho B. A IS.
railroad and Is the south terminus of th
bianch to Hebron. The population Is
ubout 500. The town Is finely looated on
upland rolling prairie, and for a nloely
built well painted, and In every manner
neat, this little place cannot be beat In
the county. It has the trade of about
Beventy square miles of territory. Cattle,
hogs and sheep seem to thrive well at all
seasons of Oie year, and for evidence that
the farmers are wide awake, your atten
tion is called to the fact that In one year
there were shipped from this station 300
cars of corn, fifty cars of other grain and
eighty-five cars of cattle and hogs.
Davenport is very pleasantly located
near the northwest corner of Thayer
county, on tho St. Joseph & Grand Island
railroad, on a divide, which Is beautifully
undulating, with tho Little Blue river on
tin; south and tho Big Sandy creek on the
north. Settled mostly with people from
Pennsylvania, Illinois, Iowa and a few
Germans. All and all, It Is one of the
most select spots of Nebraska.
To the south of the Little Blue Is a
long stretch of very fine undulating county
which la not quite so smooth as on the
divide between the Blue and Sandy, but
is very fine land and altogether desirable
for lirmlng and stock raising, and la
settled with Americans and Germans. Go
ing north acrosB the Big Sandy, you arrive
st the southwest portion of Fillmore and
Clay counties, which la most beautiful
land for many miles In each direction, and
Is settled with a goed class of Americans
and Swedes.
Deshler Is located on the Little Blue,
six miles west of Hebron and Is the cen
ter of a large and -flourishing German
settlement. The first German settler, J. J.
Kern, came In 187S. In 1S77 a postoffice
was established here. The village has a
population of 8u0 and is a prominent ship
ping point for a large amount of grain
and live stock.
Hebron, the county seat and principal
town, Is located In the geographical cen
ter of the county in the broad and pic
turesque valley of the Little Blue river.
Practically a young town in a young state.
It has a population of about 2,000 In
habitants, and is noted for Its beauty and
thrift. It has a new and very beautiful
court house, costing about $75,000. The
large two and three-story brick business
blocks, fine residences, costly cbureh edi
fices, excellent school buildings, water
works, electric lights and other like Im
provements show the energy and push of
its people. Ainuig the other enterprises,
they have a water-power flouring mill with
a capacity of 100 barrels per day. It has
been truly styled and designated, the
"Queen City" of the Little Blue. The namo
It has merited leads us to say that U Is a
beautiful little city In a prosperous and
productive country and Is Inhabited by a
noble, generous aud happy people, who
extend a welcome to both small and great
ho wish to locate within her borders.
llubbel Is situated on the Burlington A
Missouri l:iver railroad in tbe extreme
south part of the county, seven miles
from the east bountry. It contains about
00 Inhabitants and Is enjoying the trade
Of a large extent (about eighteen inUes
square) of thrifty country. The country la
this vicinity Is drained by Koto creek and
Its tributaries a stream which ajfevda
(Continued on Faaw VoaoJ