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Reminiscences about Washington County Nebraska

by Thomas M. Carter
Nebraska Pioneer Reminiscences complied by Mrs. Laura B. Pounds. Second and Sixth State Regent, Nebraska Society, Daughters of the American Revolution.1896 1897, 1901 1902

In the spring of 1855, with my brother, Alex Carter, E. P. and D. D. Stout, I left the beautiful hills and valleys of Ohio, to seek a home in the west. After four weeks of travel by steamboat and stage, horseback and afoot, we reached the town of Omaha, then only a small village. It took us fourteen days to make the trip from St. Louis to Omaha.

While waiting at Kanesville or Council Bluffs as it is now called, we ascended the hills back of the town and gazed across to the Nebraska side. I thought of Daniel Boone as he wandered westward on the Kentucky hills looking into Ohio. “Fair was the scene that lay before the little band, that paused upon its toilsome way, to view the new found land.”

At St. Mary we met Peter A. Sarpy. He greeted us all warmly and invited all to get out of the stage and have a drink at his expense. As an inducement to settle in Omaha, we were each offered a lot anywhere on the townsite, if we would build on it, but we had started for De Soto, Washington county, and no ordinary offer could induce us to change our purpose.

We thought that with such an excellent steamboat landing and quantities of timber in the vicinity, De Soto had as good a chance as Omaha to become the metropolis. We reached De Soto May 14, 1855, and found one log house finished and another under way. Zaremba Jackson, a newspaper man, and Dr. Finney occupied the log cabin and we boarded with them until we had located a claim and built a cabin upon the land we subsequently entered and upon which the city of Blair is now built.

After I had built my cabin of peeled willow poles the Cuming City Claim Club warned me by writing on the willow poles of my cabin that if I did not abandon that claim before June 15, 1855, I would be treated to a free bath in Fish creek and free, transportation across the Missouri river. This however proved to be merely a bluff.

I organized and was superintendent of the first Sunday school in Washington county in the spring of 1856.  The first board of trustees of the Methodist church in the county was appointed by Rev. A. G. White, on June 1, 1866, and consisted of the following members, Alex Carter, L. D. Cameron, James Van Horn, M. B. Wilds, and myself. The board met and resolved itself into a building committee and appointed me as chairman. We then proceeded to devise means to provide for a church building at Cuming City, by each member of the board subscribing fifty dollars. At the second meeting it was discovered that this was inadequate and it was deemed necessary for this subscription to be doubled. The church was built, the members of the committee hewing logs of elm, walnut, and oak for sills and hauling with ox teams. The church was not completely finished but was used for a place of worship. This building was moved under the supervision of Rev. Jacob Adriance and by his financial support from Cuming City to Blair in 1870. Later it was sold to the Christian church, moved off and remodeled and is still doing service as a church building in Blair.

Jacob Adriance was the first regular Methodist pastor to be assigned to the mission extending from De Soto to Decatur. His first service was held at De Soto on May 3, 1857, at the home of my brother, Jacob Carter, a Baptist. The congregation consisted of Jacob Carter, his family of five, Alex Carter, myself and wife.

The winter before Rev. Adriance came Isaac Collins was conducting protracted meetings in De Soto and so much interest was being aroused that some of the ruffians decided to break up the meetings. One night they threw a dead dog through a window hitting the minister in the back, knocking over the candles and leaving us in darkness. The minister straightened up and declared, “The devil isn’t dead in De Soto yet.”

I was present at the Calhoun claim fight at which Mr. Goss was killed and Purple and Smith were wounded.

The first little log school was erected on the townsite of Blair, the patrons cutting and hauling the lumber. I was the first director and Mrs. William Allen nee Emily Bottorff, first teacher.

I served as worthy patriarch of the First Sons of Temperance organization in the county and lived in De Soto long enough to see the last of the whiskey traffic banished from that township.

I have served many years in Washington county as school director, justice of the peace, and member of the county board.

In October, 1862, I joined the Second Nebraska cavalry for service on the frontier. Our regiment lost a few scalps and buried a number of Indians. We bivouacked on the plains, wrapped in our blankets, while the skies smiled propitiously over us and we dreamed of home and the girls we left behind us, until reveille called to find the drapery of our couch during the night had been reinforced by winding sheets of drifting snow.

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