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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.



Al Roe

        "Wheels, wheels!  Most useful invention of man.  What a responsibility was theirs in the settlement of the West.  Well do I remember the song of the "Promised Land" they seemed to sing that spring of 1886, as they creaked along the rough, lonely road carrying my husband, our three small children and I toward that little spot on the treeless prairie, our Chase County homestead.
        How we had talked, planned and longed for a home of our own.  O, the castles we built and the visions we dreamed as we worked week after week on the bows, canvas and other equipment with which we fitted up the covered wagon, our first prairie home.
        Every nook and corner was carefully packed with food, clothing, field seeds, garden seeds, home made soup, cooking utensils, home remedies, a small cook stove, and home made cradle and many other things.  A grasshopper breaking plow, our one farming implement, was tied to the outside of the wagon.
        Our stock consisted of three horses, three colts and a good milk cow.  At night we camped where the grazing was good so that the cow never failed to supply us with an abundance of good milk, so necessary for the children.
        Before leaving Saline County, our neighbor, Mr. Ryan, who had taken a homestead about five miles from ours and on which he had built a shack, told us we might use it until we could build our own home which we planned would be a half dugout.  There was a hillside facing the east, which would make a fine location for our part dugout and part soddy house.
        We realized this would be a great advantage so we looked forward anxiously to reaching his homestead.  The last morning we broke camp early, determined to breakfast at the Ryan homestead.  However, we were soon to experience our first of many disappointments in Chase County.  Upon arriving we found the shack completely and grimly occupied.  One look and a sad story of the prairie was revealed.  The door had been left unfastened and during the winter a cow had found shelter therein from a raging blizzard.  then the door had blown shut, trapping her.  She had saved herself from the storm only to become a victim of starvation.   The furnishings of the room had been thrown about, so my husband, holding his nose with one hand, picked up the bedding and rearranged the furniture with the other, made a hasty retreat and climbed back into the wagon.
        Disappointed but undaunted, we pushed on to our own land, Section 8, Township 5, Range 38, two miles south of the Frenchman River.   As soon as we halted, we set the cookstove out on the open prairie and I proceeded to gather "chips" with which to cook our breakfast.  Meanwhile Mr. Roe took the stock to the river to drink and to bring back a supply of water for ourselves.
        When he returned, our simple meal was ready except for the coffee which I made from the water he brought from the river.  When breakfast was nearly over he asked me if the coffee tasted of tallow.  Of course, I hadn't noticed it, so he proceeded to tell me of what he had seen at the river.  Of how the dead cattle were so thick in the river that he could cross by stepping from carcass to the other.  We soon found a good spring and took no more water from the river for our coffee.
        That night, our first on the homestead, a blinding snow came up causing our loose horses to drift with the storm.  The one we had picketed fretted until she pulled the stake to which her rope was fastened and followed the others.
        So dawn found us snug enough in our snow-covered prairie schooner, but afoot with no indication of the storm ceasing.  My husband walked some distance trying to locate the horses but the storm was so dense that he gave up the hunt, fearful that if he went further he might not find his way back for there were no fences or landmarks.  Some time in the night it cleared and daylight disclosed the ground covered with a deep wet snow although it was not severely cold.
        Knowing he must find our horses soon or perhaps never, yet fearing to leave the children and me alone, Mr. Roe walked to Mr. Batas, two miles away and borrowed a team and the running gears of a wagon.  With this he transported some food and clothing, the chickens, the cow, the children and me to the Bates home.  Then he went on foot to find the horses.
        We had set the wagon off the running gears onto the ground.  He found the horses that day and returned to the wagon, fed them, and hitched them to the running gears of our wagon and left for Benkelman to bring back lumber to cover the dugout we planned to make.  He left me at the Bates house that night.   By the afternoon of the next day he had not returned.  I was worried and felt that I must get back to the wagon for it held our only possessions.  The flour might be wet and spoil, the millet seed might need to be dried before it sprouted from the dampness, a dozen other things seemed to be calling me.  So carrying the two smaller children, Jim, one-year-old and Georgia, two-years-old, a bundle of clothing and leading the faithful cow, while Frances, aged three, trudged by my side, we made it back to the wagon.
        My husband arrived at the Bates home about dark and was told that I had gone home.  "Home" he repeated, not comprehending for a moment where that might be.  Then hastily thanking them for their kindness, he lost no time n driving the remaining distance to our home, a covered wagon on the prairie.
        (This story was told by Mrs. Al Roe to her daughter-in-law, Mrs. James Rowe, of Champion Nebraska on July 20, 1938.  At the time, the Roe's, 77 and 76, lived on their homestead, and their recollections of pioneer days in Chase County were very clear.  This story was published by the Chase County Historical Society in 1938, in Volume I, Chase County History.

C. G. Rummell

        I attended the first Fourth of July celebration that I have knowledge of in Chase County in 1886.  It was held in Imperial.  There were quite a few in attendance -- people from all over the county.  There was a shade provided and martial music (that is, drums and fife) and some singing.
        Champion S. Chase made the principal address on the Fourth of July at Champion in 1997.  The town was named after him.  Now, in regard to the early history of the town of Chase.  Old Timers will remember that four or five miles southeast of the present town of Chase, T. S. Woodard and the Buzick Brothers started the town of Eldridge.  It did not get very far, however, although it ran for the County Seat.  Finally the railroad was graded and the townsite company laid out the townsite of the present town of Chase.
        Chase made quite a worthwhile start.  When I proved up and started east there were at least seven new business houses.   Exclusive of the printing office which was started by a young man by the name of Hobbs.  He and his sister resided in the rear and published the paper in the front of the building.  I will have to make a wild guess as to the name of the paper, but it seems to me it was the Chase County Call.  There was in addition to the paper, a contractor, Mughos by name, who took the job of grading what was intended to be the switch track on the railroad grade just north of Mr. Case's store in the fall of 1887.  I worked at it through November while staying on the homestead.  The grade was for double track, and of course main lines, probably to allow for elevator and general switching purposes and to pass trains on if needed.  In the meantime Gus Daschofsky, assisted by myself and other nail drivers had erected a house for D. B. Buzick on a six-acre tract of land that he purchased from Mrs. Agais and which joined the townsite.   Mr. Buzick expected to live there while operating the elevator which was to have been built after the railroad went through.  Quite a few enjoyable gatherings were held at Mr. Buzick's place where there would usually be a small sale to raise money for philanthropic purposes and no doubt in view of eventually building a church.
        The railroad failing to materialize, Mr. Buzick moved the house south of the townsite and engaged in the stock business on land he bought there.  I understand Mr. John Bremer owns the farm at the present time.
        (Information provided to the Historical Society by Mrs. Frank Pierce, from a letter written to her in May 1938, by her father C. G. Rummell.)  



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