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