Posted By:Brian Waid
Subject:History of Niobrara
Post Date:January 06, 2013 at 08:24:14
Message URL:
Forum:Nebraska Genealogy Forum
Forum URL:

I just received the following from one of my relatives and thought that those with family history related to Niobrara might appreciate it.

My History of Niobrara
By Mrs. Phil B. Clark
(Tom’s grandmother, Rosa Stein)

We first came to Niobrara, Nebraska to the old town down by the river, in 1877, in September. I wasn’t 4 years old yet but many things still stand out in my memory. Back in those years it was – “Young man go West” – and my father certainly did – clear from Buffalo, N.Y. The really did not know when we were well off as he had plenty of business there. But he came clear out here with his pockets full of money and lost most of it. HE had serious experiences as so many did who had also come from the far east.

The “drawing card” was those two rivers, the Niobrara and Missouri, for power for all kinds of factories, electricity etc. Of course, that never materialized. It takes lots of money and also something to manufacture, which wasn’t to be had.

My father came out first and later came for my mother and me. While here he’d built the store building with living quarters in the back. HE had a gang of men to help him. When it was well inclosed excepting windows and doors, (these were hard to get right then in Niobrara) he decided to come for us but gave the men orders as to how to proceed and also gave orders to board up the open windows and doors. One night they had a bad windstorm, “the boarding up” wasn’t done, and the storm lifted the roof off (all shingled) caved in the walls and that was what awe found when we came. We landed at Running Water – the train came that far. So all of that wrecked building had to be taken apart and rebuilt. We boarded and roomed at the A.L. Towell Hotel for weeks.

When we landed at Running Water we had to wait for a way to get across the river to Niobrara. There was no other way but by a rowboat and a flat boat. The flat boat was run at that time by Jack Thomas, who later ran a drug store in the new town of Niobrara (we usually spoke of it as the new town after it was moved). There didn’t seem to be a ferryboat around then. My Mother would not get into the rowboat so we came over on the flat boat. It was made of heavy planks fastened together – about 10 feet square and was steered across the river by a long pole.

After looking around some my mother thought it was terrible out here and said, ”Looks like the part of the world which is nailed up with boards”. But she was always a good sport, and did her part to make a go of it. The change was very hard for we were used to so much which was better. Pioneering is no joke nor fun which we found out a plenty.

At one time in those early years it was intended to extend the Railroad on from Running Water across the river by steam boat to the Nebraska side and go on south. In fact some of the grading was done to lay tracks, but the flood in 1881 seemed to spoil all of that. The river then was very deep and much narrower. Quite sizable steamboats came up at times from the south and unloaded Texas long horned cattle also sheep. At times things looked quite prosperous for those years but the flood with all the destruction it left set everything back a lot for Niobrara.

My father was funning a furniture store and that flood did much damage for us, and it was the same for all other places of business. Niobrara also experienced other hard times beside the flood. One nice hot and windy day a fire broke out in the east end of the south side of the street, (streets ran east and west as they do now) and burned down all of two blocks. The fire started in B. Bade’s butcher shop. We had no way yet of extinguishing fires so that wind just fanned it on in great shape. The north side had a time to keep fire from catching there -–nailed heavy blankets across the fronts and kept them wet. People carried water in buckets and climbed up the sides of buildings, handed buckets of water to those on top. Took lots of effort and it was a big fight not to have the north side burn too.

The flood was a hard experience and set people back a lot. Some folks lost about everything but still they stayed on – perhaps because they could do no different under the circumstances. The night the water struck Niobrara rowboats went to the homes to take the women and children to a safe place. Some went to Turner Hall where there was a balcony – my mother and I were among those. Everyone had been warned during

Page 2

the day time of what was coming and to be prepared, and to take only what you felt was needed when the boat came for you. My mother had boiled ham and done some baking of which she’d packed a basket to take just in case (left the rest for Dad). Some became so excited they had strange things along. Mrs. Shoestag and Anna came with a small feather bed. Mrs. Adam Forester SR. (John’s mother) was so excited she had thrown some silver wear into her basket, and had to leave as the boat was waiting. She had two or three little folks to bring. Everything worked out all right – everyone had food and we kids were put to bed in he feather bed. Next morning was a sight to see as we looked out. All kinds of things were floating down the river, large cakes of ice bumping against the buildings. One thing I still see in my mind – a building floating along with a rooster on top crowing– he seemed to be enjoying it. A boat came and took every one to higher ground the next morning to Carl Witte’s place. Some were rescued by farmers. Fortunate to have good friends out in the Dukeville country - the Sr. Kurka's, Anna's Uncle. It was two weeks before the water receded and people could get into their homes. We could never get the greasy Missouri water stains off the walls. There was another scare shortly after all of this – another gorge up the river! It might break any time but good luck was with us and it didn’t

Of course that flood settled one thing – the town would have to be moved to higher ground. Another big expense, as well as more hard experience.

I think the Niobrara Tribune has practically all the town’s history at its present location as it was written by Vac Randa, Jr. several years ago.

Another thing I might mention – in those early days the “cowboys” used to come to town, sometimes they had had plenty to drink. They would ride around shooting into the air and otherwise pretty rough.

I also recall how frightened I used to be of the Indians. They’d come through town on their way to another tribe – all painted up with feathers in their hair, no clothes, looking hideous - little old ponies drawing little old wagons containing all their possessions. I can still see them going through the middle of the street, never on the sidewalks. All of this is something, which I never forgot even though I was so young.

Her is a list of the business places in Niobrara in 1877 as I remember them. Ii may not have al of them – these are just what I remember as a little girl from a4 years of age to about 8 or 9:

H.E Bonesteel and Conklin – General Store and Hardware
Jim Wilson, Joe Harkey an Al Yantis worked in the stores.
C. Stein – Furniture and Undertaking
Ed Fry – Printing Office, Niobrara Pioneer
B. Bade – Meat Market (then called a Butcher Shop)
Jennie Colley (later Mrs. Ben Bayha – Millinery
Lizzie Hundschild (later Mrs. Wellman) – Dressmaking Shop
Ben and Geo Bayha – Builders and Contractors
Douglas and Sherman – Speculators (built a brick drug store. Joe Kadish was in there)
Mr. Shoetag – Expert Tailor of Men’s Clothing
A.       L. Towle and wife – Hotel Keepers
Schumacher and wife – Hotel Keepers
J. C. Santee – Postmaster
Jack Thomas – Ran the flat boat on the Missouri and later ran a drug store in the new site.
Dean Palen – Ran a first class livery stable and barn – any questions?
Presbyterian Church – was moved to where it is now.
Dr. Iniueten – is laid away in he Niobrara Cemetery. Often wonder if anyone ever puts flowers at his grave. I used to when there. He lost his life in the Missouri River while trying to cross on ice to care for the Leach children in Running Water.
Turner Hall – for dances etc.
Henry Storm and John Lenger – Saloon
Westerman, Bruns, Benner, Vac Randa, Sr. – These seemed to be county officers or had something along that line to do.
Knudsen – Surveyor (Mrs. Jim Smith is one of his daughters)

Mrs. Phil B. Clark