PAWNEE COUNTY HISTORY, Internet home for the honored past of Pawnee County, NEBRASKA


South Fork history
by Mabel Ord



BEGINNINGS OF HISTORY OF SOUTH FORK PRECINCT, PAWNEE COUNTY  Written by Mabel Ord, of Du Bois, Nebraska, 1940.


      South Fork precinct is located in the extreme s.e. corner of Pawnee County.  It is so called from the south fork of the Nemaha River which crosses it from s. to n.

      I choose to give first a short preview of the history of this part of Nebraska that I may lead up to the first settlement within the precinct.

      In 1541 Coronado traversed this western country.  France claimed it by exploration, so it was held variously by these countries till 1803 when United States secured it by purchase from France.  The Missouri Compromise of 1820 excluded slavery from its boundary till set aside by the Kansas-Nebraska Bill of 1854 which gave squatters the right of sovereignity.

      Slavery never existed in South Fork precinct, but early memories tell of a negro settler - that fact giving name to Nigger Branch, a stream of the precinct.  Gold was discovered in California in 1849 and some with visions of gold found their "dreams" fulfilled here.

      1854 is also noteable in our local history that actual survey of lands n. of parallel 40 degrees began that year.

      In 1859 Nebraska land was first offered for sale by United States to settlers at $1.25 per Acre.  Speculators took up much of the land.

      January 1st, 1863 the first free homestead act went into effect and, at that time, and following the Civil War was the greatest influx of settlers.

      Christian Bobst was the first settler in South Fork precinct.  Concerning his settlement I state this from his diary now in possession of his descendants … About April, Robert Archer and John Fisher left families and household goods with relatives at St. Joseph, Missouri, and together with Jacob Fries and Jacob Adams (a bachelor) started with a full determination to travel thro to California; in case the promised land was not discovered ere they got there.

      Baker's Ford near what is now Seneca, Kansas was the last stopping place for rest to their herds.  Next day they came to the bluffs east of Du Bois, and Bobst, so delighted with the desired spot, the South Fork (or Nemaha) must be forded.  Adams carried Bobst across on his back.  Over the river, Bobst drove a stake with the inscription "I locate my claim here April 14, 1854."  That claim is now N. W. Quarter Section 25, township 1, Range 12.  A cabin was built, and the family came in June.  Turner, the son-in-law took as his claim the S. E. Quarter of the same section.  A part of Turner's original log cabin stands today, incorporated in the farm dwelling now used.  Nothing remains of the original Bobst buildings.

      Christian Bobst had been born in Reading, Pa. of German parents who took up thousands of acres of coal lands there.  His wife was Sarah Book.  Bobst had been engaged in mercantile business at Rushville, Ohio before coming west.  There were 12 children born to them, 7 died young in the east, of the other 5, (1) Mary was the wife of Robert Turner (before mentioned) and had a son one year old when they came to Nebraska, (2) Robert, enlisted for service during the Civil War and died in the war, (3) Sam, lived his life out in Humboldt, Nebraska, (4) Martha, married Emigh and left her family in Wyoming, (5) George II (the youngest) has many descendants in South Fork precinct.

      Christian Bobst died October 1, 1859 at the age of 57 years.  Sarah Bobst the wife lived to the old age of 86 yrs.  And died November 14, 1892.  She had lived alone in her own little house built for her on the Turner homestead near the daughter Mary.  Sarah smoked a pipe as many pioneer women did.  Christian and Sarah lie buried in the Cincinnati Cemetery a mile or two south of their homestead.  A tall white shaft under a pine tree marks their resting place.

      Of the Robert Turner family, their second child Elizabeth born August 20, 1855 was the first white child born in the precinct.  It is told of her that Indians passing offered to swap ponies for the fair white child.  She became the wife of Monroe Sterm and died at the age of 37.  She is buried at Du Bois Cemetery as are also the parents Robert and Mary Turner.  It is told of Robert Turner that he taught his oxen to trot, an unusual and hard thing to teach.  Mary Turner, known to all as Aunt Mollie, was always a lively and attractive woman.

      I found nothing more of Robert Archer or John Fisher and no confirmation of my notion that a certain South Fork stream now called Lore's Branch, and formerly called Jake's Run, may have had on its bank the cabin of Jacob Adams, he who carried Bobst to his location not far from the mouth of Jake's Run.

      Cincinnati soon grew up as a pioneer town, and its beginnings source in the Bobst caravan through Joseph Fries (pronounced Freece) who joined Bobst at St. Joe.  Fries took as his claim a part of Section 35 which touches Section 25 on the south west.  A brother, John, soon came.  He was a miller, and his mind soon saw the advisability of locating a saw and grist mill at the south end of Cincinnati Lake - then after called "The Pond".  Yet a third brother, Henry, came from Ohio with funds to finance the project, and the suggestion that the name Cincinnati in honor of the city son named in their home state be applied to the little settlement bound to grow up there.  Before the 50's were past, the town was started.  It thrived thro the 60's, and the Fries mill was no small concern in the pioneer town.  The mill stood on the lake till an iron bridge was erected across the Nemaha in 1872 when it was moved to a site just below the bridge.  All Businesses of the day prospered there.  There were several general stores, one occupied a three story building.  There was a blacksmith shop, a hotel, a post office supplied by a stage route, and just several residences.  Business gradually dwindled as the other towns sprang up and the coming railroad instead of passing thro took a higher level.  Floods also were a menace to settlers in the little village.  Main Street ran north and south on the west side of the pond.  Continuing north "the Street" forded the river a ways north of the lake.  The lake itself has never had an outlet.

      Early families in the Cincinnati vicinity who came yet in the 50's - John Vanier who came in 1856 - also Fred Koester.  Coming during the 60's - Mart L. Harrington, J. W. Allen, De Witt, Britt, Johnson, Smith, Welsey, Bullare.  Harrington was long and intimately connected with Cincinnati history.  He had been a stage driver and living here kept a store, post office, hotel and general law and order.  As late as 1876, a directory notes these names:  E. W. Cone, Gen'l Mdse,; E. E. Ewing & A. W. Jackson, M. D's. W. Bartlett, blacksmith; M. L. Harrington, hotel; John Fries, Mill.  The hotel burned in 1882, set on fire by vicious persons.

      I have stated the first birth, I could not find first marriage in the precinct.  Looking for the first death, the Cincinnati cemetery has a small white stone to one Catherine Vanier who died December 2, 1858.  The little body was first interred near the home in Section 34, and when later moved had re-interred with it, the remains of two small children of Joseph Fries.  I cannot state the date of their deaths, but it was mid winter and the Fries home storm bound, and the father too ill to do it, so the mother dug the graves and laid away her babes who died of that dread disease diphtheria … Dr. Andrew Cromwell, early Cincinnati physician, died there in 1868.  There possibly are lost and forgotten graves, maybe of some who were only transients.

      Following Cincinnati, Du Bois came into existence, but I do not choose to trace its history - rather to pick up some other odds and ends of the precinct's first history.

      The church and its interests came with the first settlers - Christian Bobst having had a service in his cabin home in 1855.  This was the fore runner of Methodism in the precinct, tho no church was erected till 1889.  The United Brethren erected a building in 1887.  These both in Du Bois as also a building which housed the Christian group for several years.  In early day the Dunkards had strong groups, and held regular services at Cincinnati, Prairie Star and Kennedy school houses.  Very early, by 1868, the Germans had a stone building and held services.  This may have been the first church erected in the precinct, and stood on the state line in the extreme south east corner of Section 31.  Their resident minister alternated years with a smiliar group south in Kansas a few miles.  In 1888 the Lutherans erected a commodions building in Section 30.  This thrived and then died down.  All school houses of the precinct, especially the older ones had union Sunday School services in the early days, and preaching services when opportunity offered.

      The precinct has 8 school, Districts numbered 7, 8, 9 and 10 must have been organized at about the same time.  District 7 now called Prairie Star, now has its building in Clay precinct, but the first school known as Nigger Branch was held in a log cabin on the James Boston farm, and stood in the extreme north east corner of Section 31.  The first teacher, John Osborne taught there in 1868.  Other early teachers were:  Loantha Young, Allison, David Dusenberry, Mag and Em Alexandria, Mrs. Northway, J. G. P. Hildebrand.  A second building erected before 1875 stood ½ mile west in Section 30.  In 1890, the present building was erected, following the division of the district and the creation of District 70 and 72.  Families in that early District 7 were:  Allen, Boston, Bonine, Christ, Crocker, Glasford, Meyers, McClure, Young.

      District 8, J. P. Lore, first teacher is now Du Bois had its first building in Sec. 27.  It was moved to the precinct north, and after several more moves attained its present location.  Early peoples in Du Bois, besides those moving in from Cincinnati, were:  Lore, Miner, Pyle, Lucky, Koester.

      District 9, Cincinnati, first held school in a log cabin on the Robert Turner homestead, with ____ Margrave, teacher.  It was soon moved to the present location in Sec. 35 where it is now using its second building.

      District 10, Avondale, was organized in 1869 in Section 12 in a cabin of native lumber, teacher, Melissa Margrave.  A pupil yet living was Anna Hubka now Mrs. John Lang.  Early families were:  Albert Grubb and Frank Thompson.  The postoffice for District 10 was Athens.

      District 13, known as Kennedy, also Hazel Dell is in the north east corner of Section 7.  It was originally a large district with school house 1 mile south.  In 1888, it was divided giving a part for District 70, North Star.  The Peckhams have long been identified with this district.  Colin Young, homesteader in the 60's in Section 19 gave land for site of school house in District 70.

      District 31, Union, is in the northeast corner of Section 9.  No authentic records of first school house, but it was south west of the present building.  The first teacher was Venus Moss.  Early families were:  Whitmore, Mallory, Arnold, Hildebrand.


(submitted by Yvonne Dalluge -- January 2000)

copyright © Dick Taylor, 2001-2007 -- Pawnee County History website    updated: Saturday, January 20, 2007

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