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Early Settlers

    The Chase County Historical Society, located in Champion, Nebraska, has since it's inception in 1938 collected personal histories of residents of Chase County, Nebraska.  These oral histories provides a history of Chase County that goes beyond facts and information about the state.  Listed on these pages are transcripts of interviews of many early settlers of Chase County, Nebraska.  I am grateful to the Historical Society for the work it's researchers did in preserving these stories, and for permission to share them here with other researchers.  These stories and other important historical information about Chase County can be found in their published Histories of Chase County, copies which can be purchased from the Society or viewed in the Imperial Republican Library.  The Society welcomes any additional stories about early settlers that you may wish to contribute to their files.

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Billy Eagan

        Billy Eagan came to Chase County in 1885 from Harlan County and homesteaded.  He returned to the county in the spring of 1886 and settled in the Chase community with a dug-out as his first home. 
        John Sugar ran one of the stores in Chase.   There was also another store, livery stable and blacksmith shop.
        Billy was married in 1889 to Miss Taylor, a sister of Billy Taylor of the Chase Community.  The Taylors had come from Pennsylvania to Chase which was no doubt a great change from them.  In the 1990's Billy became discouraged with farming and went to Deadwood, South Dakota and worked for others and staying for about a year.  From South Dakota they went back to Harlan County as did the Taylors.  When they returned to Chase County, they settled two miles southeast of Chase in a frame house.
        Billy went to Suzick in Chase who sold grasshopper plows and found they cost $14.00 and he had only $3 or $4 to put down.   He waited several days before he went into debt for the plow.  TO pick up a few extra cents, he played the fiddle for dances at 25 cents or 50 cents for an evening.   He played by ear and tapped the beat out with his feet.
        He also went to Greeley, Colorado and helped harvest potatoes and other vegetables, and took vegetables home as part of his pay. 
        The Eagans purchased a cream separator in 1905, and were  one of the first in the area to own one.
        His next move was to the sheep ranch built by Bill Ordway, but Billy never raised sheep.  Each wing of the sheep shed was 100 feet long, and there was also a large barn.  George Brewer ran around 2400 head of sheep when he operated the ranch.  George Ford sheared sheep for Brewer at 6 cents per head and he was able to do as many as 100 a day.  After three years on the sheep ranch they moved to Lamar in 1911 where he lived the rest of his life, taking part in the development of the community.  For many years he served on the election board and became an almost permanent figure in that capacity.
        There were 4 girls and 4 boys in the Eagan family.  One boy died in infancy.
        (This information was provided by George Eagan, Mrs. Mannie Norman, Art Eagan and Mrs. Andrews after consulting other family members.)

Bruce Earl

        Bruce Earl lived in the southwest part of Chase County.    He came in April of 1886.  That same year he met two men who were butchering two buffalo.  They came him the hides and both heads in addition to all the met he wanted.  Mr. Earl was able to do taxidermy work.  He made a robe of one hide and mounted both heads.  He gave his son the mounted buffalo head, who still had it as an adult.  Mr. Earl was the owner of one of the first cars in the county.   It was a 1902 model high wheeled International, with solid rubber tires.  It was shipped into Imperial in boxes and assembled there.  Two men from the International company came to Imperial and assembled the car, and had an audience of spectators while they assembled it.  A picture of the Earl car is in the Edna Robert picture collection at the Historical Society.  (Information provided to the Historical Society by Warren Earl, son of Bruce Earl.)

 

Newella Corning Elder

        Mrs. Newella Corning Elder was born in Mason City, Iowa in 1883.   Her mother was left a widow in 1884.  She had a sale and sold her property and worked for her parents for a time.  With the proceeds from the sale and her work, Mrs. Elma Corning and her small daughter made her way west in March 1886 with Alba and Frank Peterson, her brothers, and Elsie Peterson, her sister, who was a maiden lady.
        Cap Hayes and Thomas Standidge helped Mrs. Corning locate her homestead southwest of Lamar.  Her uncle built the sod house for her mother and Mrs. Corning made a rock hen house plastered with magnesia.  She began life on the homestead with one cow and four dozen chickens.  Frank Peterson found a pig and gave it to her and the next year she had eight pigs to add to her livestock.
Newella told how Frank once ran a young antelope down with a horse, and this provided meat for the family for some time.  At first they used water from the lagoons.  Mrs. Corning strained the water through several thickness' of cloth, boiled it and stored it in a jar.  The second year they made a square box and settled it in the sand draw for water.
Frank Petersen plowed a strip of land on his homestead, one on Mrs. Corning's land, and one on Elsie Peterson's land.  He planted corn and cane with a hand planter.   Elsie planted sweet corn and potatoes and Mrs. Corning planted a garden.
Alba Peterson built a sod house.  When the house had settled, Alba wanted it plastered.  Frank, who had a cold at the time. was required to be on his knees mixing the mortar.  He became ill with pneumonia and died.
A small store was built three miles to the north and was called Allendale.  Mrs. Corning and sometimes Elsie would walk to the store carrying eggs and butter.  Alba had the only team of horses at the time.
Although they missed Frank, they got along fine.  When the cowboys killed a buffalo calf or an antelope, they shared it with them.  They sacked cow chips and put them in the corner of the house.  Newella said that they did not last long.  They also burned sagebrush.
One day they were gathering cow chips and Newella began to scream "bugs".   She was standing on an ant hill.  Her mother stripped her and a cowboy rode up and asked, "What's wrong with the little fellow?"  He spotted a rattlesnake near them and shot it with his pistol.  That ended the fuel gathering for that day.
Sometimes the cowboys rode up to borrow a needle and thread. 
Newella was married on her 18th birthday, November 28, 1901, to Lex Elder.  She had 9 children; one died in infancy.  On her 50th wedding anniversary she received a glass vase from the Corning Glass Factory at Corning, New York, along with a history of the company.  Her father, George Newell Corning, was a direct descendent of the founders of the Corning Glass Factory.
(Information was provided by Newella Corning Elder.)

   

 

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