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.
John and Helena Jaeger
John and Helena Jaeger came to Chae County in 1886 and homesteaded five miles northeast of Chase, Nebraska. They came to America from Germany in 1881 and lived in Seweard, Nebraska until they came to Chase County. Their nine children were all born in Germany. The names of their children were John Jaeger, Lora Bremer, Henel Dashchofsky, Valentine Jaeger, Kate Weiss, Adam Jaeger, Jacob Jaeger, Mina Wittmack and Phillip Jaeger. Their first house was a dug-out. Their first barn was a straw shed, but was later replaced with a sod barn. Fuel was scarce, and they burned cow chips and the roots and tops of sage brush. (Information provided to the Historical Society by the Jaeger Family.)
John T. Johnston
John T. Johnston was born January 12, 1864 and was married January 24, 1889.
Johnston was married when he came to Imperial. His first venture in Chase County was
a paint and paper shop. In addition to running the shop, he did painting for others.
He helped build the Catholic Church and the I. U. B. Church. L. T. Bonner worked with him on the two structures. His family recalled that he only made $100 on the building of the Catholic Church.
Johnston and Judge Standidge built the frame building called Pioneer School. He and Standidge drove to the site in a horse and cart, taking with them enough hay for the horse and food for themselves to last a week. They camped at the site instead of driving the six miles back and forth from Imperial.
Elva Dettman, Johnston's daughter, told researchers that she remembered herds of cattle being brought through the edge of Imperial and that they sometimes camped near the Johnston house on the edge of town. The cattle had such long horns that their mother was afraid they would break the windows, and she kept her children inside until the cattle were gone.
The Johnstons' first residence was later lived in by Jack Eskew. They also lived where Ray McConnell later lived.
Elva Dettman told how the Johnston family had an anxious time when J. T. Johnston became very ill with appendicitis. He was put on a cot and placed on the train and was taken to St. Joseph, Missouri for an operation. It happened at Thanksgiving time and it was a lonely period for the family, and they were very happy when he returned, after having been gone over a month.
The family lost a little boy, named Walter, in 1897. He was only 7 years old.
In 1903 Johnston became County Clerk and on May 10, 1910 he became cashier of the First National Bank. He was amount those who started the First National Bank in 1909. Dwight Wiley was another early officer of the Bank, with C. M. Cottrell and E. Bailey serving as directors. Mr. Johnston spent his retirement years in California.
(Information provided to the Historical Society by Elva Johnston Dettman.)
Thomas T. Jordan
T. Jordan came to Chase County in 1897 as new owner of the Champion Mill. A few
years previous to his arrival in Chase County, he had operated a mill at Wilcox in Kearney
County. Jordan was a widower when he moved to Champion with his two eldest daughters
in 1897. In May 1898, his younger children, Maud and Roy joined the family in Chase
County. The younger children had been living with grandparents.
The two eldest daughters left the home in 1898. Frances married and Emma, 16, went to Illinois to live with a great aunt and continue her schooling. Maud became the housekeeper when she was not yet 12 years years old. During the summers, Roy worked for Frances and her husband Will Hosier. Later he herded cattle for Bryants and then worked on the Kilpatrick Ranch until he was called into service during World War I.
Thomas Jordan was the first secretary of the Chase County Telephone Company. According to his family, another of his dreams for the advancement of the community was to see an electric train connect the railroad from Benkelman in Dundy County to the Burlington Railroad in Venango, but this never materialized.
Jordan supported the only church in Champion, the Presbyterian, although he never joined the church.
Maud Jordan recalled that her first teacher was Belle Willis. She missed one term of school when her father had typhoid fever. Later she became ill with the fever herself, and a few days before the second part of the school term was to begin Jordan became ill with pneumonia. Maud attended school graduated from the 8th grade, and hers was one of the first 8th grade diplomas issued in Chase County. Her teacher was Charley Willis in her last year at school. John Willis and Roy Jordan had been good friends from the time the Willis family moved to their home on the river. The Jordan's had a large barn on the place now occupied by Mr. and Mrs. Warren Beard. John put the horse he rode to school on in the Jordan's barn. Maud Jordan and John Willis were married on August 3, 1909, and went to Missouri to live.
In March 1908 Jordan sold the Champion mill to Milton Yaw and John Forester. The trees shown in pictures of the mill circa 1900 and 1908 of the Champion Mill were trees planted by Jordan and his son Roy.
Thomas Jordan served as Postmaster from April 29, 1910 until 1914.
Thomas Jordan was married January 3, 1912 to Amanda Hancock. After the wedding Amanda found it very distressing to relinquish her interest and partnership in the dry-goods, millinery and general store. Jordan respected her wishes and began preparation to move to Floris, Iowa. It took about two years for him to engage someone for his position as Postmaster and to make arrangements regarding his property at Champion. During this time he made frequent visits to Floris. He joined his wife in Floris, Iowa in 1914. He passed away in Floris on July 16, 1918, at the age of 71. (Information provided to the Chase County Historical Society by Maud Jordan Willis, daughter of Thomas Jordan, and published in 1979 in Volume 6 of the Chase County History.)
email Linda Banks at: FlorenceEm@AOL.com
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