Archives for July 2012

Bonnie Skjelver Baby Picture

Johnny Wilson Conservation Award

Centennial Farm Family honored by Ak-Sar-Ben at 2008 Webster County Fair

Otto T. Skjelver
SE1/4 28-3-12

Webster County, Neb.

Otto Skjelver Sr., born in Norway in 1849, came to America as a young man. He settled in the SE quarter of Section 28, Catherton Precinct in Webster County, Nebraska, where he raised his family of five daughters and two sons. In the late 1880’s, the post office was named in his honor as “Otto” Post Office.

Otto Sr. died March 13, 1925. His son, Otto Jr., inherited the land and raised his family of four daughters there. At one time, the telephone switchboard between Campbell and Inavale was in their home. Otto Jr. raised corn, wheat, cattle and hogs.

When Otto Jr. died, his oldest daughter, Bonnie, bought the land, and she and her late husband, Johnnie, farmed the land for many years until their son, Robert and his wife Diana, began farming it in 1974. Rob and his wife are still farming the land today. They raise Hereford cattle and hope to pass the land on to their two daughters, Laci and Amber and their families.

Over the years, Otto Skjelver Sr.’s descendants have played an integral part in the success of the Webster County Fair. While Bonnie volunteered as an Open Class Superintendent for many years, Rob has also volunteered his time as a past 4-H leader and a current Fair Board member. Rob’s family helps every year working at the fair, ensuring that the tradition of the Webster County Fair stays alive. There have been three generations of the family who are current 4-H members in attendance at the Webster County Fair over the span of the last several decades.

Nebraska Pioneer Farm Award – Payne Homestead 1977

In June of 1977, Johnny and Bonnie Wilson were presented with the Nebraska Pioneer Farm Award for the Payne Homestead ground being in the family for more than 100 years. This award is given by the Knights of Ak-Sar-Ben and is traditionally presented at the county fair.

Johnny Robert Wilson Obituary

Johnny Robert Wilson, the son of Con and Wilella (Payne) Wilson, was born August 15, 1918 on the farm north of Inavale, Nebraska in Webster County. He departed this life on Sunday, November 27, 1994 at the Mary Lanning Hospital in Hastings, Neb., at the age of 76 years, 3 months and 12 days.

As a youth he attended the New Virginia District #65 rural school, District #41 and graduated from Red Cloud High School in 1936. On October 3, 1942, he was united in marriage with Bonnie Skjelver at Smith Center, Kan. To this union three children were born, Teresa, Robert and Jayne.

In March of 1945, he joined the United States Army and served in the Pacific Theatre of Operations, stationed in the Phillipines. At war’s end, he returned to the Wilson homestead and engaged in farming and ranching his entire life. His pride and joy were his Hereford cattle.

Johnny was baptized and was active in the New Virginia Methodist Church. He was an active community leader, a school board member and a member of the New Virginia Cemetery Board. His favorite pastime wa splaying cards with his family and friends.

He was preceded in death by his parents; a daughter Teresa Wilson on September 23, 1968; a sister Verna Lutz; and three brothers Charles, Francis and James.

Left to cherish his memory are his loving wife Bonnie; son Rob Wilson and wife Diana of Bladen, Neb.; daughter Jayne Hogeland and husband Bill of Alma, Neb.; five grandchildren, Laci and Amber Wilson and Geoffrey, Grant and Gillian Hogeland; two sisters Retta Hanson of Red Cloud and Edna Meyer of Peoria, Ariz.; nieces, nephews, and a host of family and friends.

Funeral services were held at 10:00 a.m. Wednesday, November 30, 1994 from the First United Methodist Church in Red Cloud, Neb., with the Rev. Dennis R. Linton-Hendrick officiating. Keith Crowe sang “Farther Along” and “One Day At A Time”, accompanied by Marjorie Lockhart, organist. The casket bearers were Marion Duval, Clair Duval, Ron Bartels, Larry Vance, Kenneth Lovejoy and Ken Larrick. The honorary casket bearers were Bud Lambrecht, Norman Johnson, John D. Harvey, Russell Krichau, Pete Moriarty, Russell Lutz and Desco Lovejoy. Interment was in the New Virginia Cemetery with the Simonson-Williams Funeral Home of Red Cloud in charge of the arrangements.

Johnnie Wilson Obituary

Johnnie Wilson, 76, of Bladen died Sunday, November 27, 1994, at Mary Lanning Memorial Hospital in Hastings.

Services were at 10 a.m. Wednesday at First United Methodist Church in Red Cloud with the Rev. Dennis R. Linton-Hendrick officiating. Burial was in New Virginia Cemetery south of Bladen. Simonson-Williams Funeral Home of Red Cloud was in charge of arrangements.

Mr. Wilson was born August 15, 1918, to Conley Martin and Willela (Payne) Wilson in Inavale. He attended school at New Virginia District 41 and graduated from Red Cloud High School in 1936. On October 3, 1942, he married Bonnie Skjelver in Smith Center, Kansas. He served in World War II in the Pacific Theater. He returned to Webster County where he farmed south of Bladen and raised Hereford Cattle.

Survivors are his wife, Bonnie; one daughter, Jayne Hogeland of Alma; one son, Rob of Bladen; two sisters, Reta Hanson of Red Cloud and Edna Meyer of Peoria, Arizona; and five grandchildren.

Memorials may be given to Webster County Alzheimer’s Association.

William T. & Sarah G. Haney Gravestone

This is the gravestone of William T. & Sarah G. Haney in Eclipse Cemetery, northwest of Tryon, NE.

Hugh E. & Mary E. Neal Gravestone

This is the gravestone of Hugh E. & Mary E. Neal in Eclipse Cemetery, northwest of Tryon, NE.

Tornadic Wind Levels Wilson Barn

Mother Nature unleashed her terrible fury Thursday evening in the form of tornados in several communities across South Central Nebraska. A very quickly developed funnel hit the Johnnie and Bonnie and Rob and Diana Wilson farmstead, 6 1/2 miles north of Inavale at 9:15. Johnnie and Bonnie were not at home at the time but Rob and Diana and daughters, Laci and Amber, were at home in their mobile home which was the far east structure on the farm site. Rob said their first indication that something was serious was brewing with the weather was when their mobile home began to shake. Their family immediately headed for his parent’s house and storm cellar, but the electricity went off by the time they reached their back door and the vibration of their home was so violent they opted for what safety a closet in a frame addition to their mobile home could provide.

When the house quit shaking and he ventured outside, Rob found that their huge barn had been destroyed with a large section of roof slamming into a grain bin and landing on a propane tank, breaking the line from the tank. Not knowing how serious the leak was, they went to a neighbors to call the Red Cloud fire department and report the tornado and several downed power lines that they had crossed to the authorities.

Daylight the next morning revealed the extent of the damage. Nearly every structure on the farm sustained damage of some kind, with the barn taking the brunt of the force, the big hip-roof being completely gone, torn up and strewn about the yard, with a large section nudged up against Johnnie and Bonnie’s house and a piece of tin protruding through a porch window and their picture window and door windows blown out. Straw from the barn loft and glass was strewn throughout the house, yet a centerpiece on their dining room table, which was setting right in front of the picture window, remained in place. The north side of the barn was completely blown out, as was about half of the east side, leaving the hay mow floor leaning precariously to the east. Many of the remaining studdings were cracked or shattered from the terrific, twisting force.

The “Wilson Barn” had served as a landmark in the New Virginia community north of Inavale for many years. A huge structure, the “Red Barn with White Trim” was easily recognized by anyone traveling the Inavale road and was used many, many times as a base of directions to other farmsteads in the area. Built in 1918 by Johnnie’s father, C.M. Wilson, the barn measured 64 ft. long, 72 ft. wide, and 48 ft. to the peak of the hipped roof. At a cost of nearly $6,000.00 in 1918, to build a structure of that type today the cost would be astronomical. The big barn survived another tornado that struck the Wilson farm in 1950, destroying a large hog shed just to the west of it and several other buildings, pushing the barn slightly out of plumb to the east, where it had remained stable and solid until Thursday evening.

 Early the next morning found neighbors and friends arriving to help clean up the debris from the farmstead and to dismantle and salvage what was left of the barn. As the day wore on and more people heard of the tornado, people continued to come to help until evening when Bonnie counted approximately 117 people had been there. For the next three days men continued to return for salvage work, until the spot where the barn had stood was cleaned up. The ladies continued to provide plenty of good food and lots of cold tea to help wash the “30’s” dust and dirt of the guy’s throats.

From the Wilson farmstead the twister continued its northerly path, tearing up trees in a hayland and breaking power lines along the Inavale road, ripping one pole loose from its insulators and dropping it across the road some 60 to 70 years out in a field. It crossed the intersection north of Wilsons, heading north-northeast for just a short distance, then coming back north-northwest in a big arc, upsetting two towers of a center pivot and swirling the cornstalks every which way in its path, and crossing the Inavale road again. From there it went straight north for about 2 miles, just on the west side of the road, taking out lengths of pasture fence, trees, and completely clearing an unoccupied farmstead except for the house. This farm was last occupied by the Leo Conway family and is now farmed by Rob Wilson – so more debris to pick up and clear from a wheat field and milo fields. As the tornado was makings its wide swing to the east, it passed between the New Virginia Church on the Inavale road and the New Virginia school house on half mile east, as if to say one landmark destroyed was enough for this storm.

This photo shows the terrible force exerted by a tornado as the full dimension 2″ x 10″ rafters were reduced to shattered kindling. This large piece of roof slammed into the grain bin at left causing considerable damage to it and then fell onto the propane tank, breaking a pipe and causing much concern over the leaking gas until a member of the Red Cloud Fire Department was able to shut off the valve.




What used to be the north side of the barn.





Neighbors and friends showed up early Friday morning to assist in the clean-up. Friday evening Bonnie Wilson was able to count 117 names of people who had come to help.




The lower half of the west hip roof was carried across the yard and part of it slammed into the south wall of Johnnie and Bonnie Wilson’s house at the extreme right of photo.

Red Cloud Chief
September 25, 1986
Written by Ron Bartels

Landmark Demolished

The barn destroyed in Thursday’s storm was built by Con and Wilella Wilson, parents and grandparents of the present occupants. Besides being a successful farmer and stockman, Con also practiced veterinary medicine.

My father had some fine Belgian horses and raised them for sale when farmers still depended on those gallant beasts to pull farm implements. My earliest remembrance of Mr. Wilson was when he had come to doctor some mares and colts who were down with the sleeping sickness. We girls weren’t allowed at the barn, I guess horses dying of sleeping sickness are not a pretty sight. But I caught Mr. Wilson between the barn and his car that day and invited him to dinner. He jokingly asked what we were having. I told him chocolate pudding, for even at age 4, dessert was the most important part of the meal for me! I don’t know what else we ate, but I can see him yet on the east side of the table in grandma’s big dining room, spooning in the chocolate pudding.

CONSTRUCTION ON THE WILSON BARN WAS STARTED IN 1916. The first contractor gave up after a strong wind took down some of the side walls. Another took his place and the giant structure was completed in 1918. It was built of all new lumber and was 72 ft. wide, 64 ft. long and 42 ft. high.

THIS ONCE PROUD, GLORIOUS BARN was nothing but a pile of rubble following a tornado seven miles north of Inavale last Thursday night. The clean-up crew did not find any dimension lumber in the roof which could be salvaged. Most 2×6’s looked like tooth picks.

Blue Hill Leader

Tornado wreaks damage

Johnnie Wilson was hospitalized at Alma Thursday night and his wife, Bonnie was with him. So their farm house north of Inavale was empty. But, on the same farmstead, their son, Rob, his wife, Diana, and their 2 small daughters, Laci and Amber, were in their mobile home when destruction came out of the sky at 9:18 p.m.

Diana has heard a tornado before and recognized the sound. By the time they grabbed their daughters and got to the back door, the air was filled with flying debris and there was nothing to do but sit out the storm where they were.

Almost immediately the power went off. So when the storm passed over they evacuated in darkness and drove to the Ken Larrick home a mile east, where they called the Webster County Sheriff to report a tornado on the ground and called the fire department for help as they could smell a propane gas leak when the left the house.

The main destruction to the farmstead was the large barn which was decapitated above the hay mow floor. The lower part was twisted beyond repair. Parts of the barn were scattered everywhere. One large section of the eaves was layed against the south end of the main house pushing out windows, casing and all. A large picture window was shattered onto a table in the living room, but a vase on that table was standing and undamaged.

Only a few feet from the house, the east side of the garage was gone; and on the opposite end of the yard, the east end was pushed out of a farrowing house. The power poles from the road to the farmstead were splintered and broken, but the wires between the barn and the main house were intact.

Grain bins near the barn were dented by the impact of the roof crashing into them. The propane tank was also hit causing a gas leak which forced the evacuation of the John D. Harvey, Johnnie Allen Harvey and Harvey Lovejoy families. A large cottonwood tree approximately 30 feet from the back door of the mobile has was mutilated.

From the Wilson farmstead the storm tracked east and north and west and north and east again, leaving a trail through fences, trees, milo, buildings, corn and more trees. The outbuildings on the farmstead formerly occupied by the Leo Conway family were leveld and trees were up rooted as far north as the old Cather place now owned by the Jim Krals. All along the Inavale road debris was hanging from fences and power lines yet Saturday morning.

Over 100 people came Friday to help the Wilsons with their giant clean up job and there were 30 there again by 10 o’clock Saturday morning. Sunday work pretty well finished the job of taking the barn down, and friends and neighbors were planning to be  at the Wilson home again Monday to continue clean-up.

I read in the Friday issue of a daily paper widly circulated in our area, that a Webster County Sheriff’s office dispatcher had reported to them that a possible tornado was sighted near Inavale. Believe me, it was a tornado! Or if not, I’m sure the Wilsons are hoping they never have one come their way! And the other people living in the tornado’s path are thanking their lucky stars that other farmsteads weren’t hit as no warning was ever given after the initial sighting was reported.

Blue Hill Leader

NOAA Lists Wilson Farm Tornado as EF2

While doing some research on the tornado that struck the Wilson farm on September 18, 1986, I came across the following information directly from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) website.

– September 18, 1986
Webster County. A tornado touched down six miles south of Inavale, NE and moved northeast for two miles. The tornado destroyed a barn, downed power lines and trees, and damaged several outbuildings.

September Tornadoes – South Central Nebraska and North Central Kansas
Data from January, 1950 – December 2010

The source states that the tornado touched down six miles south of Inavale, when in fact it was six miles north of Inavale.

Lee & Cousins

Summer Fun at the Farm

A couple weeks ago Lee stayed at the farm for a few days, and while there he got to play with his cousins Makayla, Morgan, Samantha and Beau.  It looks like from the pictures they were all having a good time.  Grandma fed them well and even stayed in the tent with them that night.

Henry Doorly Zoo

We were in Omaha yesterday for the wedding of my cousin, Cody Bain.  We had decided to stay that night and go to the Henry Doorly Zoo the following day.  Much to the surprise of everyone, I have never been to the Henry Doorly Zoo, so we thought it would be a fun outing.  We had called the Jacobsen’s to see if they would be around this weekend, and they met us at the zoo bright and early.  It was a hot day and Lee was a little scared on some of the displays, but all in all it went really well.

Amber & Lee

I snapped these pictures of Amber & Lee shortly after Cody & Lindsey’s wedding ceremony yesterday.

David Gibson Obituary

David Gibson was born March 17, 1828 in County Down, Ireland and died Jan 22, 1904 at 8:30 o’clock a.m. in Montezuma. He had been 58 years in the United States having lived first for 5 years in New York City; then two years in Canada, was afterward in Ill. 12 years and since then for 28 years near Thornburg, Iowa, 6 years at Keswick, 2 years in What Cheer and part of a year up to the time of his death in Montezuma, Iowa where he died.

The deceased was married on Aug. 12, 1854 while living in New York City to Miss Mary J. Macauley. Into this home were born eleven sons and daughters of whom 6 are still living, 3 sons and 3 daughters, they are A.M. Gibson living in What Cheer, Mrs. J. L. Bussing in Burlington, Wash. Robert in Oklahoma, Mrs. Maggie Baldwin, in Des Moines Iowa, J.J. Gibson in Silver City N.M. and Miss Agnes who lived with and cared for the father at the time of his death. Mrs. Baldwin was the only other child able to be present when the final parting came. The other sons and daughters being at a long distance or detained because of sickness.

The deceased had been an invalid for two years before death and had moved from the old farm to What Cheer and Montezuma, to be more free from care and more convenient to medical assistance. The wife and mother of this home died in What Cheer four and one half years ago. One son was buried from What Cheer.

The deceased was one of ten brothers and sisters of whom only two are still living: one Alexander in Nebraska and one Samuel in Brooklyn, N.Y.

Mr. Gibson had united with the Methodist Protestant church 17 years ago at Keswick, Iowa. He had been reared in a Presbyterian home in his boyhood and during his last years and illness spoke many times of his belief in Christ, the bible, prayer, the benefits of a consistent church membership and christian life. He spoke at different times in his last sickness and after helplessness prevented him from going on the streets, of his desire to see as many neighbors and old friends as possible. He spoke often of his children as being widely scattered in different distant homes, was calm when speaking of the end that was not far away, and did not fear to go.

The funeral occurred, on Sunday afternoon January 24, 1904 at 2 o’clock, in the White Oak chapel near Thornburg, Iowa, the sermon being preached by Rev. W.L. Clark, of Montezuma, Iowa.

To each child who helped this father in his last two years of life these words seem appropriate: “The Lord deal kindly with you as ye have dealt with the dead.”

Newspaper Clipping from 1904
Keokuk County Historical Society, Sigourney, IA 

John Ross LeLacheur

John Ross LeLacheur, who resides in section 29, township 26, range 32, Cherry county, Nebraska, has a valuable estate which he has gained by industry and good management. He was born in Delaware county, Iowa, in 1876, on a farm.

Elisha LeLacheur, the father of our subject, was a native of Prince Edward Island, born in 1831, and came of French parentage. He grew up in that country and came to America with his parents when he was a lad of eleven, the family settling in Iowa, and he attended the country schools in Delaware county, and was married there in 1863 to Mary J. Bliss, of English and Yankee stock, the mother now residing in Mullen. John Ross LeLacheur was one of four children in his father’s family, named as follows; Phoebe E., Frank W., John R. and Wm. H., and he was the third member in order of birth. In 1882 our subject moved to Nebraska, driving from Iowa with a team and covered wagon, bringing with them a yoke of oxen and three horses, also three colts. The trip was a hard and tedious one, they being obliged to camp out at night, but they came through with no serious drawbacks, and after arriving in Nebraska settled in Nance county, where they lived for four years, then came to Cherry county and settled on a ranch situated eleven miles northwest of Mullen. There their first dwelling was a tent, in which they lived during the first summer. Storms and hail literally tore the tent to pieces in a few months, and they were obliged to build a sod house before the rough weather came on in the fall, and also built a hen house of sod, barns and sheds for their stock. They had hard times at first, but gradually kept improving the place and tried to farm, but lost several crops during the dry years, and had bad luck. On October 23, 1894, the father died as a result of an accident. He was helping fight a prairie fire and was so badly burned that he only survived his wounds eighteen hours. On January 1, 1901, the old ranch homestead building caught fire and burned to the ground. One son, William, and his family occupied the dwelling at the time, and his wife was awakened at four o’clock in the morning by the smell of smoke, found the house on fire and they barely escaped from the burning building with their lives. As it was, William’s hair was badly singed and his night clothes were nearly burned off his body. His wife and their child were almost caught in the fire, but managed to escape without serious harm. This put an end to occupying the old ranch house, but the place is still used as a summer pasture for stock.

In 1899 our subject went on a ranch of his own, which was situated in section 29, township 26, range 32. He had been married in December of the year previous, to Maggie Stevenson, daughter of Frank Stevenson, an old settler in western Nebraska. Mrs. LeLacheur’s mother was prior to her marriage, Miss Adelaide Allen, born in Pine Grove, Warren county, Pennsylvania. The young couple at once started out to build up a good home together, and worked hard and faithfully to accomplish that end, and have succeeded in a marked degree. Mr. LeLacheur is now the owner of a fine ranch of 640 acres, all of which is fenced and improved with good buildings, and he is extensively engaged in the stock raising business, also farming quite a portion of the place. He has two children, Clyde and Ross.

One brother, William, also owns a good ranch of 640 acres, which he established in 1900, and is located in sections 26 and 27, township 25, range 32, this being the property of his wife, who acquired it through homestead rights. She was Miss Anna Gibson, daughter of Alexander Gibson, an old settler in McPherson county, Nebraska, and her mother’s maiden name was Ellen Morrison. Two boys have been born to William Horton LeLacheur and his good wife, namely; Ralph and Earl.

The LeLacheur family was among the first to settle in this part of Cherry county, coming here when there were but two houses in the entire neighborhood in which they located. Each has done his full share in the upbuilding of the region, and take leading parts in the community. During the early days the subject of this review and his brother Frank, captured two deer and tamed them so that they became household pets, but during the severe hail storms that swept the country and destroyed the tent in which they lived, these animals were killed, and the entire family were as much grieved by their loss as they were at the serious property loss which they suffered.

Compendium of History Reminiscence & Biography of Western Nebraska
Chicago: Alden Publishing Company, 1909
Pages 179-180

Arthur G. Humphrey Masonic Member Profile

Ray Reeves Obituary

Ray A. ‘Baldy’ Reeves

SPRINGPORT, Mich. – A former resident of Hyannis, Ray A. “Baldy” Reeves, 55, 118 E. Main, Springport, Mich., died March 21 in Springport. He was born May 18, 1928, at Nahant, S.D.

Mr. Reeves was a 1946 graduate of Hyannis High School and had been captain of the basketball team. He served in the United States Navy and had been employed as an accountant for Fans Steel Corp., retiring five years ago. At the time of his death, he was county commissioner at Springport.

Survivors include his wife, Margaret of Springport; two sons, Ron and Bob, both of Kenosha, Mich.; two daughters, Tammy and Terry both of Springport; his father, B.E. Reeves of North Platte; one brother, Arthur of Hesperia, Calif.; five sisters, Lois Clark and Iola Richardson of Arvada, Colo., Ruby Sommers of Lincoln, Betty K. Gibson of North Platte, Evelyn Foster of Sparks; and other relatives.

Ray Reeves passes away

Ray A. Reeves was born May 18, 1928 in a small town Nahant, S.D., to Bulus and Ida K. Reeves.

He married Margaret Reopke on Sept. 29, 1951.

He is survived by his wife Margaret; two sons Ronald and Robert, both of Kenosha, Wis.; two daughters, Tammy and Terri of Springport; two daughters-in-law, Judy and Barbara of Kenosha; five grandchildren Jeremy, Jaclyn, Christen, Rebecca and Richard; his father Bulus of Nebraska; five sisters Iola, Ruby, Betty, Lois and Evelyn of Nebraska and Colorado; and one brother Arthur of California.

He held a bachelors degree in accounting from Northwestern University and a Masters degree in finance from Lake Forest College. He was employed by Fansteel Corp. for 27 years when he retired. He was a member of the Springport Lions Club and the Springport Friends of the Library. He was a past president and lifetime member of the Eagles, past church treasurer, past Little League coach and past Boy Scout leader. He was a lifetime member of the American Legion. He served in the United States Navy during the Korean conflict and was honorably discharged.

Ray, Marge, Tammy and Terri moved from Wisconsin to Michigan in 1971 and purchased Lawrence’s Food Market in February 1972. He was a township supervisor of Springport for three years. While in office a new township hall was built and a new library was built. He was the innovator for the Springport Recreational Community Park project. By working with the State Highway Dept. he had various warning signals placed throughout our township warning motorists of po-

This newspaper clipping incorrectly spells Ray’s father’s name as “Beulus” , instead of “Bulus”.

Clara Charlotte Humphrey Funeral Card

Last Rites for C.H. Jeffords Held Friday

Judge A.R. Humphrey Gives Address Commendatory of Late Friend

A gathering which filled the Stockham-Seger funeral home with many unable to gain admission during the services Friday afternoon attested the measure of public esteem felt for the late C.H. Jeffords.

Musical numbers were given…

The obituary, all of which except the conclusion had been prepared by Mr. Jeffords, was very brief, stating that he had been born in Washington county, Ohio, February 27, 1858. In November 1875 he went to Iowa, then in February, 1879, to Polk County, Nebraska. In April, 1880, he came to Custer county with J.D. Ream. He had a common school education and had spent nine months at Penn college at Oskaloosa, Iowa. He was married on April 16, 1883, to Miss Mary E. Price. He passed away April 11, aged 76 years, one month and fifteen days.

He leaves his wife and four children: Mrs. Clara Humphrey, Carl Jeffords and Mrs. Lucy Gibson of Mullen and John M. Jeffords of Brule, Neb.

Following is the address given by Judge A.R. Humphrey at the service:

I appear here at this time to carry out a compact made by our deceased brother with his boyhood friend, his pioneer companion, and his associate of later years, James D. Ream. Between these two men there existed a friendship akin to that between David and Jonathan of Bible days. This friendship had its origin in Iowa. They both attended public school there. They were of the farm and the farm life has always attracted them and held them to the soil. In their boyhood days they talked of owning a farm in the west. At that time our part of the state was a part of the great public domain. Having finished the course of study prescribed by the public school system of Iowa, Brother Jeffords elected to take a course in college. The Quaker college at Oskaloosa being the nearest institution of learning above the common school grades, he registered there for a course of study in this Quaker college. In the meantime, Brother Ream moved to Nebraska.

College days over, Brother Jeffords sought his friend in Nebraska. He found him near Osceola in Polk county. Jeffords met him there in the spring of 1879 engaged in farming. Jeffords taught a term of school in Polk county and in the summer of that year he and Ream, came to Custer county to look over the prospects of homesteading here.

In that year, 1879, Custer county was practically all open to homestead entries. These two pioneers drove through in a wagon drawn by a yoke of oxen. It took them nine days to make the trip from Osceola here. After looking over the country they returned to Polk county and Jeffords taught another term of school.

In March, 1880, they again returned to Custer county. By this time they had resolved to make this new country their future home. They selected their respective homesteads and made settlement thereon preparatory to making entry there. But the entry was another proposition. The homestead affidavit had to be sworn to before the county clerk under the federal law governing homestead entries. To make their entries they must go to the county seat of the new county and the county seat was located far to the southwest on what was then known as the Young ranch. On the morning of April 20,1880, he and Ream walked to the Young ranch and offered their entries to the land they had selected for their homesteads. After they made their entries Charley always said they walked back for exercise. They made the round trip in a day. The distance by section lines is 21 miles from the Ream homestead to the Young ranch.

They returned to the wagon and used it for cover during the first few days on their homesteads. They were now owners of 160 acres of government land. Working together these two young men with oxen and plow built on their homesteads their sod houses and established residence therein. It was a slow, dreary, job. But the stamina that induced them to locate in a seemingly wild country, almost outside the pale of civilization, held them to their purpose to make real homes out of the lands they had selected for their venture in farming for themselves. The houses they built were of necessity sod, small and inconvenient. Every board had to be hauled in from the outside. It was 82 miles to the nearest railroad station. The scanty furnishings they had brought with them sufficed to accommodate them the first year oftheir homesteading here. Rain and storm swept over them, their shelter was meager, but they were not discouraged.

Their first concern was to break the sod and get out a crop. Their sad corn grew readily and by fall of their first year they were satisfied with their venture in a new country. When we remember that the work of that day was all done by hand we can more readily understand the handicap under which the pioneers of this county labored. But to them it was not a hardship-it was all in the day’s work.

It was during these pioneer days that the compact I spoke of was made between them. They knew the uncertainty of life even though they were strong, vigorous young men, and it was mutually agreed between them that in the event death overtook one by accident or sickness the other should officiate and conduct a Christian burial for his friend. Each within the last year has repeated to me this compact between them … Brother Ream received the first call. At the date of his death his friend was incapacitated from performing the obligation he had undertaken. And at his request I am recounting the story of his life. Together they underwent all the inconveniences, hardships, and difficulties that confront any pioneer in the settlement of a new country, isolated as this was from the instrumentalities of civilization. What they needed to improve their homestead entries they hauled in from the nearest railroad point. What they had to sell to get the means to further improve their homesteads they hauled out. It was a long, tiresome journey each way.

This is no imaginary story. It is cold facts chiseled from the pioneer life of these two men who laid the foundation for the future of Custer county, a county in which each made his home from March, 1880, to the day death called him. They saw the new country unfold and develop before them. They saw the valleys first, dotted with the light in the sodhouse of the settler, and when the valleys were entered, settlement moved to the hills and the tablelands of our county. They were not idle lookers on at this advent of civilization to this community, but real actors among the few men in the past years who have had a part in reclaiming the raw prairie from its native sod to the now highly developed agricultural and stock country we know.

I wish I might be able to make you envision and understand this country as Brother Jeffords saw it when he and his friend walked the 21 miles to make homestead entries. Between what we now know as the Ream farm and the county seat at the Young. ranch, not a vestige of settlement was to be seen. The country belonged to the great outdoors. Not a house or evidence of settlement was along the way. From Muddy creek valley to the South Loup river the hills and dales were as nature had left them. The possibilities of this new land for agricultural purposes were unknown. The latent power of undisturbed soil to produce crops of any kind was problematical. Whether the country would ever be other than the cattle country it then was, was a mooted question. But Jeffords was something of a soil expert He has told me many times that he examined the soil and found it full of legumes phosphorus and nitrates and from that fact deduced that it was a crop producing soil. Time has proven his conclusions correct and on his own homestead he demonstrated that any crop that could be produced on the farms of Iowa could be produced here, and as he frequently said, with less hard labor because the soil was not impregnated with weed seed.

The terms spent by Brother Jeffords at the Quaker College at Oskaloosa, Iowa, unconsciously to him perhaps, affected his whole after life. The tenets and dogmas of the Quaker religion, its principles and precepts, learned during his years at this institution of learning, probably without his knowing it, became the rule and guide to his after life. Truth, and honesty and justice as taught him by his preceptors, were to him the cardinal virtues, and this coupled with a firm belief in a First Great Cause, constituted his religious belief. He loved his neighbor as himself. His neighbor was near to him. He could see and understand and render him a service, and this he freely did as any neighbor will willingly testify. Fellowship was his purpose in the mainspring of his life. He made and retained friends, and if friendship was taken from him, his whole life would have become desolate and dreary and without purpose. Go where he would about the county he was always met by the friendly salutation “Hello Charlie”, from men and women in all walks of life. And this to him was the real purpose of living. This fellowship with all people was to him the soul of existence-the major purpose of his life. He was companionable and he sought to so conduct himself that his friendly greeting would be merited as in it he saw the whole duty to his neighbor. And in serving his neighbor he felt that he was serving the Greater Power that controls human emotions and human purposes.

Nature had endowed Brother Jeffords with a keen, alert, and reasoning mind. He had a philosophy of his own-part pagan, part Christian. He believed the truths taught by Aristotle and Plato as readily as he did the truths of Sts. Peter and Paul. He was a devoted and pertinent student of sociology. Having seen the society of the frontier days of our community, and having passed with it through its varying stages to our present day status although he never conceded that society in the abstract as it is today, aside from its conveniences in its present form, was any better than that enjoyed and maintained by the pioneer life of the men and women of that frontier day, he cheerfully accepted its changes as a part of the progress and development that improved conditions had brought about. And knowing the past from actually living it, he wondered what law or system of laws would control the structure of society of the future. He was a humanitarian. He wanted to see the greatest good come to the greatest number of human beings without injury to anyone. He had a high regard for the rights of man and he believed that selfishness and greed was the principal cause of all human woes.

It is a wonderful experience to be one of the first in the settlement and development of a new country, to observe the early settler as he drives in in his covered wagon and selects from the unentered lands of the public domain the particular tract he desires to enter and reclaim from its wild state and make of it his home in the truest sense of the word. And this act of settlement and development Mr. Jeffords observed and has been a part of as the years sped by. When we recall that Broken Bow did not exist until June, 1882, it is easier to understand the unfolding and development of the valley where he made his entry.

His life covers a span of 76 years-55 of them spent in Custer county. He has seen the ox-cart superseded by the railroad train; the train by the auto, and the auto by the airplane-from 120 miles in eight days to twice that many in an hour. He has seen the electric lights in the valley come into the homes where the sod house was, to displace the tallow candle and the coal oil lamp. He has seen the telephone take the place of the broncho [sic] as a means of quick communication between neighbors. He has seen the auto displace the horse and buggy as a means of easy going from place to place. He has seen the power truck displace the lumber wagon as a means of getting the products of the farm to market. He has seen the radio take the place of the daily paper in diffusing information from the remotest parts of the earth. And he has seen the airship glide overhead carrying the mail from port to port and outdistancing the fastest mail train.

He has seen our country pass from a steam age to an electric age, then to a machine age to mass production of farm and factory surpassing the needs of the nation when production runs at normal speed. And he need not to have moved from his original homestead to view all these changes.

All these material changes have passed like a panorama before him. He has observed these changes as civilization advanced and progress became the accomplished fact. From the days of the scythe and cradle to that of the self binder and combine marks an era of development that includes all modem improvements in agriculture and commercial life. And he approved every change because in it he saw a greater production of the material things the human family needed and could acquire, and use to its advantage. The last four years bore heavily upon him. He felt a deep sympathy for his friends and acquaintances who were caught in the mesh of falling prices where change from former methods of living to abject ruin seemed their fate. And when a friend went down under the crush of adverse circumstances he felt the strain keenly and his heart went out to his friend in his misfortune.

He will be missed by his many friends because of his wholehearted sympathy for them. He has been a part of every forward movement that had for its purpose the advancement and upbuilding of the community wherein he has lived and made his home for more than a half century. Formerly his time and his means were given freely to advance any movement that held a promise of helping his neighbors to better living conditions and a better outlook for advancing the education of his children. He has seen such endeavors meet with fair success, and he felt the pleasure such success brings. His was not an ordinary mind. Keen, alert, analytical and logical, he reached conclusions from facts presented that made him a leader in the community in matters of public interest and of public concern. But his great hold on his community, and on his acquaintances, old and new, was his fervid, unbiased, honest friendship he held for all.

As I study the life of our deceased brother and friend, his relation to society-his acts of kindness to his neighbors-his willingness to always render aid in times of distress-his activities for the common good-his public spirit-his cheerful disposition under all conditions of life-and the heroic manner in which he met the disease that finally terminated his, earthly existence, I recall a tribute by an unknown author to a departed friend on an occasion like this. It is as follows:

“He was a friend of Truth, a soul sincere,
In action faithful, in honor clear,
Who broke no promise, served no private end,
Sought no title, and forsook no Friend.”

Custer County Chief
April 19, 1934

Ft. Kearny Camping

This weekend we took Lee camping for the first time.  We weren’t sure if he would like it or not, so we tried somewhere close to home – Ft. Kearny State Rec area.  Fortunately, he loved it!

1920 Census – Mullen, Hooker County, Nebraska (page 5)