Past & Present of Platte County, Nebraska - Volume II


 

PAST AND PRESENT OF PLATTE COUNTY 465

was known as a stalwart advocate of democratic principles and for two terms filled the office of county supervisor. His widow long survived, passing away at the advanced age of eighty-six years.

  John M. Kelley obtained his education in the public schools of Ohio and in 1857 accompanied his parents on their removal to Omaha, although at that time there was only a tiny village on the site of the present city. He preempted one hundred and sixty acres there, where the business district of the village of Irvington now stands, and he lived upon that tract until 1867. He then went to Kansas, where he resided for three years, and on the expiration of that period came to Platte county and bought eighty acres of land in Monroe township. Throughout the years up to the time of his retirement in 1906 his attention was then given to general agricultural pursuits and his farm work brought to him a substantial reward for his labors.

  On the 8th of February, 1859, Mr. Kelley was married to Miss Henrietta Beeks, who was born in Brookville, Indiana, December 26, 1842, and passed away February 15, 1876. They were the parents of six children: Amelia, now deceased; Edward, living in South Dakota; Charles, a resident of Monroe; Carrie, living in North Platte, Nebraska, the wife of William Potter; Frank, of Monroe; and Minnie, the wife of Ole Stumbaugh, of Council Bluffs. On the 2d of November, 1879, Mr. Kelley was again married, his second union being with Anna Cox, who was born in Lincoln, England, and passed away March 23, 1910, leaving a son, Lester, who is now postmaster of Monroe.

  In his political views Mr. Kelley has always been an earnest democrat and for one term he served as county commissioner of Douglas county, while for a number of years he was justice of the peace in Platte county, his decisions being strictly fair and impartial. He belongs to Lebanon Lodge, No. 58, A. F. & A. M., and he is a consistent and earnest member of the Presbyterian church, in which he is serving as an elder. His has been an upright, honorable life and now at the age of eighty-three years he can look back over the past without regret and to the future without fear, while his example may well serve as a source of encouragement and inspiration to others.


CHARLES S. JAWORSKI.

  Charles S. Jaworski, filling the office of deputy sheriff of Platte county, under Mark Burke and making his home in Columbus, was born in Tarnov, this county, on the 2d of April, 1881, his parents being Thomas S. and Josephine (Peconka) Jaworski. The father was a native of East Prussia, born in November, 1855, and in 1872 came to America, establishing his home in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where he resided for four years. In 1876, attracted by the opportunities of the growing west, he came to Platte county and took up his abode in Burrows township, where he homesteaded eighty acres, upon which he lived for five years. The place was entirely destitute of improvements when it came into his possession and not a furrow had been turned, but with characteristic energy he began to till the fields and develop the property. After five years he removed to Columbus and engaged in drilling wells and in handling farm implements and machinery, becoming one of the sub- 

 

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stantial merchants and business men of the city. His political support was given the democratic party and he took an active part in advancing its interests and securing its successes. For four years he filled the office of deputy sheriff. His wife was born in Austria in 1860 and they were married in the fall of 1879. Mrs. Jaworski passed away in 1883, while Mr. Jaworski survived for thirty years, his death occurring on the 14th of September, 1913. Both were consistent members of the Catholic church.

  Their son, Charles S. Jaworski, was educated in the parochial schools of Columbus and on starting out in life on his own account was employed at farm labor for three years. He then turned his attention to the well and implement business, in which he remained for three years, when he entered the employ of the Union Pacific Railway Company as a car repairer, spending six months in that connection. He was then made inspector, which position he filled for four years in Columbus and for four years in South Omaha. He then returned to this city and was engaged in the well business for six and a half years but sold out in 1915, after being appointed to the office of deputy sheriff -- a position which his father had previously acceptably filled and in which he is making an equally creditable record.

  Mr. Jaworski was married January 10, 1906, to Miss Mary Gurek, who was born in Austria in 1887, and who by her marriage has become the mother of three children: Thomas, who was born October 30, 1906, and Barbara, born December 5, 1909, both attending parochial school; and Helen, whose birth occurred July 11, 1914.

  The family adhere to the Catholic faith and contribute generously to the support of the church. Mr. Jaworski belongs to the Fraternal Order of Eagles and the Knights of Columbus and he gives his political allegiance to the democratic party, which he has supported since age conferred upon him the right of franchise. He is well known in the county where the greater part of his life has been passed and where substantial qualities have won for him the friendship and regard of many with whom he has become acquainted.


CHRISTIAN M. GRUENTHER.

  Christian M. Gruenther has the distinction of having been elected for the fourth time as clerk of the district court of Platte county, and is recognized as one of the prominent leaders of the democratic party in his section of the state. In fact, his opinions carry weight in party councils throughout Nebraska and his efforts have been manifest in tangible results for advancement and improvement. He was born in Springfield, Wisconsin, October 6, 1871, a son of Henry and Agnes (Greisen) Gruenther, both of whom were natives of the Rhenish province of Germany, where they were reared and married. The father was born in 1838 and in 1869 he brought his family to America, settling in Dane county, Wisconsin, where he remained for three years. He came to Platte county in 1872, taking up his abode in Columbus, where he remained until 1880 and then removed with his family to St. Bernard township, Platte county. There his wife died the following year and in 1890 he removed to Oregon, passing away at Mount Angel, that state, in 1894.

(Producer's note: From page numbers, apparently a photo was expected between the above and the following text.)

 

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  Christian M. Gruenther had only six months' schooling up to the time that he attained the age of twenty-two years. He was only in his first year when brought to this state and he worked on farms in Platte county until he reached the age of fifteen, when he went to Minnesota, where he was employed in connection with what is now the Great Northern Railroad system, aiding in the work of ballasting and clearing the roadway into Winnipeg. After a summer spent in that way he returned to Platte county, where he again worked on a farm for a year. He next went to the Black Hills, but finding no employment there, he made his way to Wyoming, where he spent a summer in railroad grading. In the fall of that year, in connection with three others, he took a contract to get out rock to be used in building culverts for the railroad. He next went to Colorado and worked for six weeks in the Cripple Creek district prospecting. He found nothing, however, to reward his search and accepted employment on a dairy ranch near Denver, where he remained for nineteen months. All the money which he earned during that period he placed in a savings bank in Denver, but the bank failed and he lost every cent. He then returned to Platte county, Nebraska, where he accepted the position of manager of the Greisen farm, which he conducted for three years in a most capable manner, accepting that responsibility when but nineteen years of age. He then went to Lincoln, Nebraska, and entered the Western Normal College, for he realized the value of education and desired to supplement his early limited training and the lessons which he had learned in the school of experience, by a more advanced scholastic course. That he applied himself most diligently to the task is indicated in the fact that he completed the three years' teachers' course in nineteen months.

  Mr. Gruenther then returned to Platte county and established his home at Platte Center, where he entered the fire insurance business, being thus engaged for eight months. At the end of that time he purchased the Platte Center Signal, a weekly democratic paper, and withdrew from the insurance field to devote his time to newspaper publication. In 1898 he was given charge of a defunct bank, the Farmers & Merchants at Platte Center, and from it he organized the Platte County Bank, of which he was made cashier, so continuing for two years. On leaving the bank he was elected to the office of clerk of the district court in 1899 and has been reelected three times, a fact indicative of his capability and the faithfulness and promptness with which he discharges the duties of this position. He is a member and treasurer of the Becker, Hockenberger & Chambers Company and an officer and stockholder of the Guaranty Loan & Trust Company of Columbus. He has been frequently appointed in Platte and adjoining counties as referee and trustee to handle and sell the real estate belonging to estates and in that capacity has done more work than any man in Nebraska.

  On the 18th of July, 1898, in Platte Center, Mr. Gruenther was united in marriage to Miss Mary Shea, a daughter of Thomas Shea, and their living children are: Alfred M., Homer H., Leona, Louis and Verona. The third child, Lester, died May 17, 1914, at the age of eleven years.

  The parents are Catholics in religious faith and Mr. Gruenther also holds membership with the Ancient Order of United Workmen, the Sons of Herman and the Knights of Columbus.

  In 1908 he organized the Bryan Volunteers and later served as secretary of the state committee and president of the Nebraska State Democratic Club. He is one of the most farsighted and discriminating democratic leaders in the state

 

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and largely to his efforts is credited the election of the Bryan electors in 1908 and Shallenberger for governor and Hitchcock to the United States senate in 1910. He is recognized as a dynamic force in connection with any activity in which he becomes interested. Persistently he pushes his way forward to success and what he accomplishes represents the fit and wise utilization of time and opportunity.


WILLIAM TAGGERT STROTHER.

  William Taggert Strother is an honored veteran of the Civil war and a retired farmer of Platte county, now living in Monroe. He was also well known as a newspaper publisher and the success which he achieved in these different connection's now enables him to rest from further labors. He has passed the seventy-sixth milestone on life's journey, his birth having occurred in Licking county, Ohio, July 13, 1839, his parents being John J. and Margaret (Moody) Strother. The father, who devoted his life to general agricultural pursuits, died in 1864 at the age of sixty-four years, while his wife passed away in 1847, when but forty-five years of age.

  William T. Strother acquired a good education in the public schools of his native state and during vacation periods worked upon his father's farm in Hancock county, Ohio, assisting in its cultivation until he reached the age of seventeen years, when he started out upon an independent business career by clerking in a store in Van Buren, Ohio. After spending two years in that way he began learning the printer's trade at Paulding, Ohio, being thus occupied until the outbreak of the Civil war, when, his patriotic spirit aroused by the attempt to overthrow the Union, he offered his services to the government and joined the "boys in blue" of Company G, Fourteenth Ohio Volunteer Infantry, for ninety days' service, enlisting April 22, 1861. He was discharged on the 13th of August following, after having participated in the battles of Philippi, Laurel Hill and Carrick's Ford. A year passed and he reenlisted on the 26th of August, 1861, joining Company D, Twenty-first Ohio Volunteer Infantry. With his command he participated in thirty-nine engagements, including the battles of Stone River, Chickamauga, Missionary Ridge, Buzzards Roost, Resaca, Kingston, Pickett's Mills, Vining Station, Peach Tree Creek, the Atlanta campaign, and was also with Sherman on the march to the sea. When the war was over he took part in the grand review at Washington, D. C., the most celebrated military pageant ever seen on the western hemisphere, and on the 26th of August, 1865, he was honorably discharged, returning home with a most creditable military record.

  Not long afterward Mr. Strother left Ohio and came west to Nebraska City, Nebraska. He walked from there to Omaha and on to Monroe, arriving at the latter place on the 7th of December, 1865. He then devoted his energies to farming and also issued The Bulletin at Fairmont for five or six years. He carefully and wisely directed his agricultural interests until he acquired a substantial measure of success and since 1904 has lived retired in Monroe.

  On the 27th of November, 1867, Mr. Strother was united in marriage to Miss Adeline E. Gerrard, who was born May 11, 1831, and passed away July 4, 1912, at the advanced age of eighty-one years. They became the parents of three chil-

 

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dren: Robert G., now living in Monroe; Mabel, the wife of A. E. Matson, a farmer; and Frank K., of Omaha.

  In politics Mr. Strother is a republican but votes according to the dictates of his judgment and his conscience. In religious belief he is a Presbyterian and has long been a loyal adherent of the church. He also has membership in the Grand Army of the Republic and is as true to his country in days of peace as when he followed the stars and stripes upon the battlefields of the south and aided in the preservation of the Union.


FRED KEELER.

  Fred Keeler, devoting his time and energies to general farming on section 18, Lost Creek township, where he has one hundred and sixty acres of land, was born February 17, 1880, in the township where he still makes his home. His parents were John and Mary E. (Bacon) Keeler, who in the year 1871 came to Nebraska from Orleans county, New York, where the father was reared. He secured land in this state with a military grant which was given him in recognition of his service in the Civil war. He belonged to the Twenty-eighth New York Infantry and went to the front, where he participated in a number of hotly contested battles until he was wounded, after which he was honorably discharged. He belonged to the Grand Army of the Republic at Monroe and he passed away in this county June 17, 1914. His wife survived him almost a year, her demise occurring February 17, 1915. To them were born four children: Edith, the wife of E. M. Johnson, a resident farmer of Lost Creek township; Ethel, the wife of T. D. Selmeyer, also farming in Lost Creek township; Hattie, the wife of Ben Nelson, of the same township; and Fred, of this review.

  The last named, the only son in the family, acquired a common-school education and spent his youthful days upon the home farm, early beginning work in the fields. When twenty-one years of age he started for himself on the home farm and has since carried on general agricultural pursuits with the result that he has brought the fields to a high state of cultivation and annually gathers good crops. His methods are at once practical and progressive and his labors are attended with a measure of success that is very gratifying. He makes stock-raising a feature of his business, handling Chester White hogs and Red Polled cattle. He likewise has important financial interests, for he is a stockholder in the Farmers Elevator Company and the Farmers Coal Company, both of Monroe, and in the Monroe Independent Telephone Company.

  On the 24th of May, 1905, Mr. Keeler was united in marriage- to Miss Josephine Rudman, a daughter of Olaf and Lena (Johnson) Rudman and a native of Polk county, Nebraska. Their children are Helen, Gladys, Milo Robert, Lena Anna, Mary Cecelia and Harold Kenneth.

  In his political views Mr. Keeler is a republican, voting for the candidates of the party where national issues are involved, but at local elections, where there is no question save of the capability of the candidate to take care of the business of town or county, he casts an independent ballot. Interested in the cause of education, he is now serving for a second term as school director. His fellow townsmen regard

 

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him as an enterprising young farmer and his business ability is winning him advancement. He is energetic and persistent in all that he does and is well known for the thorough reliability of his business methods.


CHARLES WEBSTER HILL.

  Charles Webster Hill is a representative young business man of Monroe, where he is conducting a drug store. He was born in Monroe township, Platte county, on the 8th of March, 1892, and is a son of Thomas and Elizabeth Hill, his father being one of the well known, prominent and successful farmers of Lost Creek township. Reared under the parental roof, Charles Webster Hill pursued a public-school education until graduated from the high school in Monroe and later he benefited by a course in the Columbus Commercial College. In his youthful days he worked upon the home farm and early became familiar with all the duties and labors incident to the development and improvement of a farm property. After leaving home he spent four months in Colorado, but returned to Platte county and on the 6th of April, 1915, purchased his drug store in Monroe. He is now successfully carrying on the business, having a well appointed store, in which he carries a good line of drugs and druggists' sundries. Already he has gained a liberal patronage and he is conducting his business according to the principle that satisfied customers are the best advertisement.

  In politics Mr. Hill is independent. He belongs to the Presbyterian church and he has many substantial qualities which are not only winning him success in business but have also gained him popularity in social circles.


JOSEPH ALFRED BORG.

  Joseph Alfred Borg, a successful farmer residing on section 2, Walker township, was born in that township on the 31st of August, 1886, a son of Gustave A. and Caroline (Johnson) Borg. The father, who was born in Ostergotland, Sweden, in 1842, remained in his native land until 1869, when he came to America and located near Peoria, Illinois. In 1884, however, he continued his way westward and settled in Walker township, Platte county, Nebraska, purchasing one hundred and sixty acres, to which he later added eighty acres. He carried on general farming and received a gratifying income from his land. He helped to organize the Swedish Methodist church, of which he was one of the trustees, and was at all times willing to aid in its work in any way possible. His political allegiance was given to the republican party. He passed away in 1907. His wife, who was born in Smaland, Sweden, in 1847, is still living and resides in Newman Grove. To them were born seven children, of whom six are living. One daughter, Jennie, is now the wife of Frank Lawrence and they are missionaries in China.

  Joseph A. Borg was reared on the home farm and in the acquirement of his education attended the public schools. In 1906 he took charge of the operation of the home place and has proved a progressive and efficient agriculturist. In addi-

 

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tion to growing the usual crops he raises a good grade of stock and derives a gratifying income from both branches of his business. He plans his work well and while he is practical in the methods used he is also willing to adopt any innovation when its value has been proved.

  On the 14th of December, 1910, Mr. Borg was united in marriage to Miss Eunice Paulson, a daughter of Samuel and Anna (Johnson) Paulson, who still live in Nance county, this state. Mr. and Mrs. Borg have a son, Myron.

  Mr. Borg is a democrat and has served as township treasurer and as township clerk, proving an efficient and conscientious official. He takes an active part in the work of the Swedish Methodist church, of which he is now serving as a trustee, and his life is guided by high ethical standards. He is one of the highly esteemed young farmers of the county and his continued success seems assured.


MARTIN CHRISTENSEN.

  Martin Christensen has been a factor in the agricultural development of the county as his present well improved farm in Joliet township was a tract of wild prairie land when it came into his possession. He was born in Denmark on the 23d of November, 1863, of the marriage of Jens and Sine (Michaelsen) Christensen, both of whom were born in that county in 1833. They were married in their native land and continued to reside there until 1879, when they came to the United States. Making their way to the middle west, they settled in Joliet township, Platte county, Nebraska, where the father purchased eighty acres of land, only ten acres of which were broken. He built a sod house, which was the usual dwelling of the pioneers in this state, and this remained the family residence for seven years. He met with success as a farmer and is now living retired in Walker township.

  Martin Christensen was early trained to farm work and after the removal of the family to this county he worked by the month as a farm hand and gave his parents the greater part of his wages, thus assisting them to get a start in the new world. In 1882 he purchased a quarter section of land, which he broke with oxen in 1884. At that time Columbus was the nearest trading point and it required two days to make the trip there and back with oxen. As the years have passed he has made many improvements upon his place, and his land is all in a high state of cultivation. He carries on general farming, which he finds more profitable than specializing in either grain or stock-raising, and he has won a competence.

  Mr. Christensen was married July 12, 1885, to Miss Annie M. Jensen, likewise a native of Denmark, who came to the United States in 1882. Her parents, Rasmus and Matte (Hansen) Jensen, were lifelong residents of that country. The children of Mr. and Mrs. Christensen are twelve in number, namely: Martha, the wife of Peter Petersen, a resident of Minnesota; Richard, who is married and lives in Joliet township; Anton, also a farmer of Joliet township; Sarah, the wife of John Rood of the same township; Sine; Alfred; John; Otto; Elmer; Oscar; Sigurd; and Annie.

  The religious faith of the family is that of the Danish Lutheran church. In politics Mr. Christensen has always been a republican and has taken an active interest in public affairs. He served on the school board of his district for several years,

 

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first as a director and later as treasurer. He is now filling the office of town clerk for a third term. He has thoroughly identified his interests with those of Platte county and can be depended upon to further the general advancement in any way possible. He is widely known throughout the county and those who have been the most intimately associated with him are his stanches" friends, which is proof of his genuine worth.


FRANK AERNI.

  Frank Aerni owns and occupies a farm that comprises the east one-half of section 11, Columbus township, and in his chosen life work employs the most progressive methods of modern farming, his labors being attended with excellent results. He has lived in Platte county continuously since 1884, although he is a native of Switzerland. His birth occurred in Canton Solothurn on the 6th of January, 1846, his parents being Alois and Elizabeth (Stempfly) Aerni. The father followed farming on a small scale in Switzerland and, according to the laws of the land, rendered military service to his country. Both he and his wife, who were members of the Catholic church, have now passed away.

  Frank Aerni acquired a common-school education while spending his youthful days in his parents' home and later learned the business of cheese making, becoming an adept in that work for which his country is famous. He also served his time in the army and continued a resident of Switzerland until he reached the age of thirty-eight years, when he determined to try his fortune in America, crossing the Atlantic in 1884. He made his way direct to Platte county, Nebraska, where he was employed as a farm hand for three years, during which period he carefully saved his earnings until he felt justified in engaging in farm work on his own account. He then rented one hundred and sixty acres of land, which he farmed for six years, and during that time his diligence and economy brought him sufficient capital to enable him to invest in property. He became the owner of three hundred and twenty acres, which he carefully tilled for eighteen years, and then sold the entire half section. He then purchased one hundred and sixty acres on section 11, Columbus township, and also about five acres of timber. He has since resided upon this place. which is largely devoted to the cultivation of winter wheat -- a crop which he raises with great success. He also raises some stock and the various branches of his farm work are carefully managed and directed. He has erected a modern residence and good outbuildings and his farm presents a neat and thrifty appearance. The place is divided into fields of convenient size by well kept fences and the latest improved machinery facilitates his work.

  In 1870 Mr. Aerni was united in marriage to Miss Magdalena Christian, who died in 1879, leaving six children: Mary, now the wife of Jack London, of Columbus; Elizabeth, also living in Columbus; Frank, whose home is in Columbus township; Albert, who resides in Columbus township; Lydia, the wife of Ed Eissenwoin, of Creston, Nebraska; and Freda, living in Columbus. Mr. Aerni was again married, his second union being with Rosina Eckert, who died June 23, 1912, leaving four children: Emma, the wife of Charles Gotel, of Columbus; Jacob, whose home is in Bismark township; Clara A., a chiropractor, following her profession in Columbus;

 FRANK AERNI

 

PAST AND PRESENT OF PLATTE COUNTY 477

and Arthur, who is in Bismarck, Nebraska. On the 19th of September, 1913, Mr. Aerni wedded Marie Eckley, who was born in Canton Bern, Switzerland, May 20, 1870.

  Mr. Aerni is a democrat, yet is very liberal in his views concerning politics and many other questions. He belongs to the German Lutheran church and his has been an upright, honorable life that conforms to its teachings and that has won for him the merited respect and high regard of his fellow townsmen.


JAMES A. BAKER.

  When the tocsin of war sounded and men from all ranks of life flocked to the standard of the nation, going from the fields, the countinghouses, the banks and the offices, James A. Baker was among the number and merits the gratitude which the country owes to her soldiers, who preserved the Union intact. He is now a valued member of the Grand Army post at Monroe, having made his home in that town since he retired from active connection with farm work, to which he devoted many years. He was born in Washington county, Ohio, November 28, 1841, a son of Benjamin and Polly Baker, also natives of that state. The father, who was a cripple, devoted his life to tailoring. In 1848 he removed to Illinois, settling at Weatherfield, Henry county, where he was a pioneer tailor, continuing in business there until his later years and also becoming the owner of lands in that county. He died when past the age of eighty.

  In his boyhood days James A. Baker pursued his education in a little log schoolhouse provided with slab seats and he met many of the experiences incident to life on the frontier. He remained at home until February 28, 1862, when he enlisted for service in the Civil war as a member of Company D, Sixty-fifth Illinois Infantry, at Chicago. Thus in the prime of young manhood he went to the front to face danger and death for his country. The regiment proceeded to Tennessee and joined the brigade of the Third Division, Twenty-third Army Corps, under General Schofield, of the Army of the Tennessee. Mr. Baker with his regiment participated in the battles of Nashville and Lookout Mountain, the siege of Atlanta and started with Sherman on his march to the sea, but his command was turned back to guard Nashville. He was assigned to duty at driving a tool wagon, driving six mules on a jerk line. He was slightly wounded at Strawberry Plains, Tennessee, and for three years was active in service, being mustered out at Chicago, May 2, 1865.

  Mr. Baker then returned to Weatherfield and was employed as a farm hand in that locality until May, 1873, when he came to this county and secured a homestead claim on section 14, Monroe township. He broke a part of his prairie land with ox teams and immediately after his arrival built a little frame house fourteen by sixteen feet. He started in to make a good home, but it was a difficult task in the early days, requiring patience, perseverance and close economy, but his labors wrought a change as the years went on and he kept adding to his lands until he had three hundred and sixty acres, of which he still owns two hundred acres. He carried on general farming and developed a valuable farm, in which the fields were carefully tilled, while good improvements were added, enhancing the attractive appearance of
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his place. He was an active and progressive man in all that he did, furthering the public welfare as well as advancing his individual interests.

  Mr. Baker assisted in building the schoolhouse near his home in the early days and has ever been the champion of the cause of education. In his political views he was a republican for many years, "voting the way he shot,' but later he has been identified with the progressive movement. He has also been interested in the moral development of the community and assisted in building the Congregational church near his home. In faith, however, he is a Methodist and was active in advancing the interests of that denomination when church services were held in the schoolhouse. From that time to the present he has done all in his power to promote the moral interests of the community and his influence has always been on the side of right and progress.

  On the 1st of January, 1867, Mr. Baker was united in marriage to Miss Matilda Wiley, who was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. They have become the parents of five children: Stella, the wife of Joe Hollingshead, a real-estate agent and general merchant of Arcadia, Nebraska, by whom she has eight children; Eva, the wife of Joseph Sallach, living near Albion, Nebraska, by whom she has five children; Olive, the wife of James R. Smith, a farmer of Monroe township by whom she has three children; Benjamin J., a farmer of Monroe township, who is married and has two children; and Blanche, the wife of F. Mohler, a farmer residing near Spaulding, by whom she has three children.

  Mr. Baker continued to reside upon the old homestead farm with his family until 1911, when, their children all having married and left home, he and his wife removed to Monroe, where they now occupy a pleasant home. He has retired from active business and is enjoying a well earned rest. They have both displayed sterling traits of character and their many good qualities are appreciated by friends and neighbors, who entertain for them warm and enduring regard. Mr. Baker has never believed that patriotism means merely applauding the flag, but gave demonstration of his loyalty upon the battlefields of the south and has always manifested his public spirit in unfaltering devotion to those interests which tend to uplift of the individual and of the community.


MATHIAS WILSON.

  For thirty years Mathias Wilson, who is now living retired in Woodville township, has resided in this county and for much of that time he has actively engaged in agricultural pursuits. He is a native of Denmark, though born in what is now North Schleswig, Germany, on the 24th of May, 1854, and is a son of Willis S. and Anna Matilda Christina (Marquison) Wilson, also natives of that country, who in 1881 came to the United States. They resided in Ogle County, Illinois, until 1888, but in that year they removed to Platte county, Nebraska, where they passed their remaining years. The father died at the age of seventy-one and a half years and the mother reached the advanced age of eighty-four years and nine months.

  Mathias Wilson was reared under the parental roof and received his education in his native country, where he remained until he was twenty-six years of age. He

 

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then accompanied his parents to the United States and in 1888 came with them to Platte county. He devoted his time and energies to farming and was very successful in that occupation. Three years before he became a resident of this county he purchased eighty acres of land in section 27, Woodville township, and he has since added forty acres, his holdings now comprising one hundred and twenty acres. He has good buildings, including two substantial and commodious residences, and his farm is one of the best developed in the township. As the years passed his resources increased and, feeling that he has accumulated a competence, he is now living retired, renting his farm to his son-in-law.

  On the 7th of March, 1882, occurred the marriage of Mr. Wilson and Miss Adele Christina Senoxsen, also a native of Denmark, who came to the United States with her parents, Carl and Anna Christina (Troustes) Senoxsen, at the same time as Mr. Wilson. They had known each other well in Denmark and were married the year following their emigration to this country. They have two children: Anna Christina, the wife of Andrew C. Johnson, who is operating his father-in-law's farm and by whom she has a daughter, Adele; and William S., a farmer of Woodville township, who married Miss Ruth Wingren, by whom he has two children, Viola Adele and Leland.

  Mr. Wilson casts his ballot in support of the candidates whom he believes best fitted for office without regard to party ties, and has not taken an active part in politics. He is a consistent member of the Danish Lutheran church, to the support of which he contributes, and his life has always been guided by high ethical principles. He is recognized as a valued citizen and there are many who hold him in the warmest personal esteem.


E. A. GERRARD.

  E. A. Gerrard, publisher of the Monroe Looking Glass, is a pioneer resident of Platte county, his memory forming a connecting link between the primitive past and the progressive present. The past, with its Indian disturbances and the intervening times of turmoil and prosperity, is all an open book to him. That he fosters every move that tends to promote the welfare of Platte county is admitted by all. He was born in Manchester, England. His father, Joseph Gerrard, was also a native of England but became a naturalized citizen of the United States and took up his abode in New York. His mother was of the historical Allen family, born in New Bedford, Massachusetts. E. A. Gerrard was reared in Rock Island, Illinois. When eighteen years of age, in 1853, he went across the plains to California. The. trip was quite long with ox team, taking five months and five days from the crossing of the Mississippi to the crossing of the Sacramento. Rock Island had but recently secured a telegraph line and had no railroad. Gerrard saw his first one after years and at Sacramento. There were only the usual incidents on the trip. The Platte river had overflowed its banks and no buffaloes were seen except a few while hunting in the hills. The Indians were usually friendly, only once making trouble by shooting arrows into cattle and taking one rifle shot which passed over Gerrard's head, he being quite short.

  He spent six years on this first trip away from home and traveled over much

 

480PAST AND PRESENT OF PLATTE COUNTY

of the northern part of California, in the mountains and amid all the wild life of that region. He saw much of life in the mines and of the Indians, Chinese, etc. He hunted grizzly bear and followed hostile Indians and saw the changes that came to the state under the vigilance committee in 1856 and 1857. He returned home in 1859 by way of Panama, taking his first ride on a railroad across the isthmus and arriving at Monroe (old town) in July. He saw the returning warriors after the absurdities of the so called Pawnee war, the bloodshed being one Pawnee pony killed, the white warriors making it good by giving them the pony of Moreland. Mr. Gerrard was present when the Pawnee tribe moved to Genoa from south of the Platte. He was a regular active participant in all the frontier life of the locality and was present at a battle between the Sioux and Pawnees. He hunted deer and elk on the Elkhorn and Cedar with Arnold and Frank North, being out thirty-two days in midwinter on one trip.

  In 1862 Mr. Gerrard enlisted in the United States army, becoming a member of the Second Nebraska Cavalry. He made a trip to Pike's Peak, Colorado, in 1864 and was on the plains when the Sioux war broke out, the first hostile act being the killing of a settler near Denver. Two men were killed and Mrs. Pat Murray was wounded on the same day near Monroe.

  Mr. Gerrard was elected county clerk of Monroe county at the first election after coming to Nebraska. He was a participant in the taking over of Monroe county as a part of Platte county. He was elected county commissioner of Platte while away from home. He was out after the Sioux when they stole settlers' horses several times, followed them when they took the Gerrard horses and exchanged shots with them near Monroe. In 1868 he moved to Columbus, handling cattle and horses. He was engaged by government contractors to guide cattle herds from the Loup near Genoa to Fort Randall on the Missouri river in 1869, making the first trail across the then unknown country. The first herd was ambushed on the Niobrara, but Gerrard surprised the Indians and thwarted their efforts.

  He was appointed postmaster of Columbus, under Hayes, without being consulted. After three months, being continually solicited, he accepted and served for five years. Gerrard says this is the only case he knows of where a good office chased a man so long to secure acceptance. During the St. John campaign he became a political prohibitionist and has supported and voted the ticket ever since.

  Mr. Gerrard was united in marriage to Thirza B. Smith, who has been an active worker in church and temperance lines, having been the active agent in the organization of the Baptist church of Columbus and the Women's Christian Temperance Union of Monroe, of which she was the presiding officer for twenty-five years and until her death in October, 1915.

  In 1889 Mr. Gerrard laid out the present town of Monroe, putting a clause in the deed to all lots making the agreement not to allow the alcoholic liquor traffic in any form on the property a part of the purchase price and starting the Looking Glass in the first building on the site of the town. As a result of the opposition to the booze business Mr. Gerrard waked up the enmity of the business, who vented their spleen upon him by throwing the material for publication of "Looking Glass" into the irrigation ditch and wrecking the presses and office. In the course of years he has won the friendship of the better class of people.

  He united with the Presbyterian church in Columbus in 1871 and has been an elder in the Columbus church and later in Monroe since that time. He was at one

 

PAST AND PRESENT OF PLATTE COUNTY 481

time nominated for governor by the prohibition party and has taken an active part in the life of the community. He was active in planning and organizing the Monroe Farmers Association, whose plan of cooperation has become the standard in the state and the model for the cooperative law in the Nebraska statutes. He still in 1915 is a progressive advocate of the general welfare in every department, being earnest for government ownership of public utilities, including railroads and banks, which he has advocated for years.


JOHN BAKENHUS.

  An excellent farm property of two hundred and eighty acres pays tribute to the care and labor of John Bakenhus, whose home is situated on section 5, Bismark township. The place bears little resemblance to the farm which came into his possession, for he has made many modern improvements which have naturally changed the appearance of the farm. Platte county numbers him among its native sons, his birth having occurred in Shell Creek township, October 13, 1872. His father, Henry Bakenhus, was born in Oldenburg, Germany, and when a young man came to the United States, settling in 1869 in this county, which was then a frontier district, the work of development and of civilization having scarcely been begun here. He married Annie Wilke, who was also a native of Oldenburg, Germany, and they took up their abode upon a farm in Shell Creek township, their first home being a sod house, in which all of their children were born. The father secured land by homesteading and, while not a furrow had been turned nor an improvement made upon the place, he at once began its cultivation and soon the sod was broken and the once wild prairie was bringing forth good crops. Mr. and Mrs. Bakenhus became the parents of nine children, of whom seven are living. The mother passed away in 1880 but the father long survived, his death occurring in 1910.

  John Bakenhus had the usual experiences of the farm lad. When about six years of age he began his education by attending the public schools and therein mastered the common branches of learning, continuing his studies through the winter seasons. In the summer months he worked in the fields and he continued to aid in the cultivation of the home farm until he reached the age of twenty-seven years, when he married and began life on his own account. When he purchased his present home property, now comprising two hundred and eighty acres of rich and productive land on section 5, Bismark township, there was only a shanty upon it, but before his mind there were pictures of a future that would be different. He determined that energy and diligence would bring him success and he has worked hard year after year until he is now one of the substantial farmers of the community, owning an excellent property, upon which stands an attractive modern residence, good barns and outbuildings and, in fact, all of the modern improvements, equipments and accessories of a model farm.

  Mr. Bakenhus was united in marriage to Miss Helena Buss, of Platte county, but after traveling life's journey together for a number of years they were separated by the death of the wife on the 28th of February, 1910. They were the parents of four children: Anna Kathrina Magdalena; John Paul, who died at the age of one month: Martha Helena; and Johannes Helena. Mr. Bakenhus maintains

 

482PAST AND PRESENT OF PLATTE COUNTY

an independent attitude upon political questions, voting according to the dictates of his judgment and the demands of the time. He is a member of the German Lutheran church and his salient qualities are such as command respect and confidence in every land and clime.


HERMAN AHRENS.

  The home farm of Herman Ahrens is situated on section 33, Bismark township, and comprises one hundred and sixty acres of land on which he has lived since 1905. He represents a family that has had much to do with the upbuilding and substantial development of the county and the work which was instituted by his father has been carried on by himself and brothers, who rank with the leading agriculturist of the community. The old homestead farm of his parents, Edwin and Anna (Loseke) Ahrens, on section 23, Bismark township, was the birthplace of Herman Ahrens, whose natal day was August 25, 1872. His experiences were those of the other members of the family. He was reared to farm life in the usual manner of the boys who spent their youth upon the Nebraska frontier. His education was such as the district schools afforded and in the school of experience he has learned many valuable lessons that have been of marked worth to him as the years have gone on. He continued to assist his father and remained upon the old homestead until 1905. In that year he removed to his present place of residence, having now a quarter section in Bismark township. It is a good farm property, well improved with substantial buildings. There is a comfortable home, in the rear of which stand commodious barns and outbuildings and these in turn are surrounded by well tilled fields from which he annually gathers substantial harvests. He raises the cereals best adapted to soil and climatic conditions and that his methods are practical is shown in the excellent results which he achieves. Weather might cause a crop failure with him, but such would never occur as the result of his indolence or carelessness. He is ever watchful of the best interests of his farm and his labors are bringing well deserved prosperity.

  On the 21st of June, 1905, Mr. Ahrens was united in marriage to Miss Emma Labens, a daughter of Carl Labens, who was born in West Prussia, Germany, on the 15th of May, 1845. He was a son of Andrew and Caroline (Reinke) Labens, who came to the United States in 1869 and secured a homestead claim in Bismark township, Platte county, Nebraska, where their remaining days were passed. Carl Labens was a young man of twenty-four years at the time of the emigration to the new world and on reaching Platte county homesteaded eighty acres. He met all of the hardships, privations and conditions of pioneer life and lived for three years in a sod house before he had a chance to build a more modern home. Success, however, has attended his efforts and he is now the owner of two hundred acres of land in Bismark township, whereon he resides, and one hundred and sixty acres in Colfax county. He is engaged in general farming, having a nice place improved with good buildings. His political allegiance is given to the democratic party and his life is guided by his religious faith, which is expressed in his membership in the German Lutheran church. On the 18th of December, 1875, Carl Labens was married to Miss Augusta Benning, whose birth occurred in Pomerania, Germany,

 

PAST AND PRESENT OF PLATTE COUNTY 483

in December, 1848. Her parents became early settlers of Bismark township, this county. To Mr. and Mrs. Carl Labens have been born nine children, as follows: Mary, who is the wife of Ernst Greiner and resides in Arizona; Minnie, the wife of William Meyer, of Polk county, Nebraska; Emma, who became the wife of Herman Ahrens; Carl and William, who follow farming in Colfax county; Albert, Augusta and Lizzie, all at home; and Anna, who died when eighteen years of age.

  As stated, Emma Labens became the wife of Herman Ahrens and to them have been born three children, namely: Walter and Elmer, who are attending school; and Roy. The Ahrens family all adhere to the Protestant faith and, like the others of his father's household, Herman Ahrens is identified with the German Evangelical Lutheran church. He is a democrat, having voted for the party since age conferred upon him the right of franchise, but he has no time nor inclination to seek public office, as he always feels that farm work awaits him and he prefers to concentrate his energies upon the capable management and further development of his home place.


JOHN JAMES.

  John James, who is farming on section 21, Joliet township, is at once practical and progressive and has gained a gratifying financial success. He was born in south Wales, December 22, 1861, of the marriage of John and Ann (Davis) James, both of whom passed their entire lives in that country.

  John James received a fair education and grew to manhood in his native land. In the spring of 1885 he emigrated to the United States and settled in Waukesha, Wisconsin, where he remained on a farm for six months. At the end of that time he came to Joliet township, Platte county, Nebraska, and for a year and eight months worked as a farm hand here, while for two years he was similarly employed in Nance county. At the end of that time he had accumulated sufficient capital to enable him to buy eighty acres of land in Joliet township, this county, which he rented to others for a year and a quarter. During that time he worked as a farm hand in Nance county but on the expiration of that period he returned to Joliet township and operated rented land for two years, after which he purchased an additional eighty acres, making his holdings a quarter section. He has since purchased another eighty acre tract and a ten acre tract, and the cultivation of his land and his stock-raising interests now demand his entire time and attention. He raises registered Polled Durham cattle and a good grade of hogs, the sale of his stock yielding him a good income.

  On the 2d of November, 1891, Mr. James was married to Miss Maggie Davis, who was born in Glamorganshire, South Wales, November 16, 1867, a daughter of David H. and Elizabeth Ann (Thomas) Davis, who came to America in 1873 and settled on section 27, Joliet township, this county. They were among the early pioneers and experienced the hardships and privations that those who began the development of the county had to endure. As time passed, however, prosperity came to them, and the conveniences and comforts of the older east were introduced in this county. They were very public spirited and contributed to the general advancement in many ways, among others helping to build the house of worship

 

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