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.
Smith Needham, father of Charles Needham, lived near
Columbus, Nebraska in 1850 - 1860's, and was a neighbor of Major Frank North, a famous
fighter in the Indian Wars of the plains. Smith Needham told stories to his family
about freighting from Omaha to Denver, about finding a neighbor full of arrows, and of
Indians passing by his home with tipi poles tied to their horses, and who would look in
the windows as they passed through. Smith Needham also lived at Silver Creek
and Prairie Island on the Platte River.
Charles Needham brought his family to Chase County in 1905 from Nelson, Nebraska, in a covered wagon. Harold, a son, told researchers that he remembered seeing one car on the way to Chase County near Oxford, Nebraska. His father was afraid the car would pass their team and frighten them, but the boys, Harold and Clarence, were hoping that the car would pass so that they could get a closer look at it.
The family stayed with Mrs. Needham's father, Bradley Grover, until Charles had a frame home built on his homestead 13 miles northwest of Imperial. He filled in between the studdings with a magnesia mortar with the thought that it would make it warmer, however, it caused the walls to sweat in the winter when the weather was cold.
Harold said told how after he grew up, when the weather was cold he would walk the 13 miles to Imperial, to keep warm instead of riding in the wagon when they were bringing a load of grain or hogs to town.
In 1934, during the depression, after Harold Needham was married, he built a 14' x 30' half sod and half basement house in a magnesia ridge a quarter of a mile south of the home place. He dug down about four feet and laid up sod from the top of the ground two feet. Slaps of logs were used for rafters. The roof was covered with tin he had rummaged from the city dump. He covered the tin with magnesia soaked with used oil in order to get away from the heat and noise of having a tin roof. The inside of the house was finished with a sand and magnesia plaser. Harold said, "It made a comfortable house to live in in both winter and summer. The walls were about two feet thick. We lived in it several years."
Another innovation of the Needham house was a cave dug north of the house with a door-way from the house into the cave. This enabled he family could get their potatoes and canned foods without going outside.
Merlin, their youngest son, was born in the house soon after it was finished. Their main fuel for burning was cow chips, and many of them were gathered and burned. A great pile was made in the fall, along with coal for severe weather.
(Information provided to the Historical Society by Harold Needham.)
email Linda Banks at: FlorenceEm@AOL.com