|PAWNEE COUNTY HISTORY, Internet home for the honored past of Pawnee County, NEBRASKA|
Early History of
Mrs. Alfred Eastwood
For nearly two decades during the 1870's and 1880's there was a settlement known as Mission Creek in the southwest corner of Pawnee County. The name came from the creek which had been so designated by the early settlers because of a Presbyterian mission for the Indians near the stream south of the state line.
Besides being near the creek and close to a never-failing spring, the settlement was on a trail that led west from Pawnee City for several miles before angling southwest toward Marysville and the crossing of the Big Blue. Another trail from St. Joseph to Beatrice crossed the Pawnee City-Marysville trail on what is known locally as the Miller Farm on Section 29.
Settlers had come into the area soon after Nebraska became a territory. The first recorded land filing was by a man named Bartholomew who chose the quarter where J. D. Barr now lives. He filed in 1856, the year that Pawnee County was laid off in sections. In 1857 David Neal and Henry Musfeldt filed on land in section 21. The first settler to make a permanent home in the community was George Tanner who built a cabin in 1859 on the quarter south of the Mission Creek Church. He and his family lived there until 1873. Abe Manley came to the precinct in 1866, Thomas Clark and John Bowhay came in 1867 and Perry Miller in 1870. After that the land was taken up very rapidly.
Before there was the beginning of a town there was a cemetery. The first death in the community was that of Jacob Tanner, the father of George. Since there was no burial ground, George gave an acre of his farm to be used for that purpose. From the old stones it is known that several graves in the plot date from the early 1870's. After that period, burials were in the present Mission Creek Cemetery, the land for which was deeded to the local cemetery association by Abe Manley. Interested persons continue to maintain the cemetery association and care for the cemetery.
In 1870 W. J. Halderman opened a store on Section 22 at the corner east of the Mission Creek Church. The building was constructed and owned by Mr. Carothers who owned all of Section 21. Later the store was operated by M. K. Walker. Utter's Harness Shop was on the second floor of the store. Miss Nellie Kinkade had a millinery shop across the road. There was a blacksmith shop and several houses in the cluster of buildings.
On the corner one mile west of Halderman's was another store built on land leased by Christian Rees to the Grange. It was known as the Grange or "stone" store. The hall above the store was used for public gatherings such as oyster suppers and parties. The store was also a polling place. For a good many years it was operated by Perry Miller and Daniel Swarthout. On the same corner was a drug store, another blacksmith shop and five dwellings. There was usually at least one doctor in the community, sometimes one at each corner of the settlement. Over the years the postoffice was sometimes in one store, sometimes the other depending upon changes in political power. At first Mission Creek was served by a mail route from Pawnee City to Marysville. After there was a railroad through Liberty the delivery came from that point.
The Mission Creek United Presbyterian Church was organized in 1872 and a building completed the following year. It was on land donated by Mr. Carothers a short distance west of Halderman's store. Later he gave additional land for a parsonage beside the church.
By the 1880's all available land in the locality had been taken. Many quarters had been divided into 80 acre farms. Families were living on all of these and some farms had only 40 acres. This brought considerable business to the Mission Creek stores. Many travelers stopped, too, during the peak years of the westward migration. About 1882 someone counted 30 wagons that traveled west past the church corner in a single day.
In the early 1870's a survey for a proposed railroad was made. Since both Mission Creek settlements were to be on the line, enthusiastic boosters in the community predicted a town a mile long would be built along the new railroad. The corner where the stone store stood was surveyed and laid out in town lots.
Across the road there was a fairgrounds where fairs were held from 1876 to 1880. This was considered by local residents to be the Pawnee County Fair. The one at Mission Creek was discontinued after 1880 as that was the first year a fair was held in Pawnee City. According to records of the 1879 fair, county entries for the Nebraska State Fair were selected from exhibits at Mission Creek. Indians had won the pony race, there was a traveling photograph gallery on the grounds, a local boy had demonstrated an improvement for a butter churn, and tombstone salesman who had shown a sample of his wares made several sales.
By the mid-1880's it became evident there would be no railroad through Mission Creek but the town hung on until 1888-1889 when the Northwestern Railroad built a line two miles from Mission Creek. Within a short time several buildings, including Halderman's Store, were moved to the new town of Bookwalter which sprang up along the railroad. Other buildings were moved to scattered locations. For several years mail was delivered to the Mission Creek Postoffice which was in the home of Thomas Griggs. After that was discontinued there was nothing left on the one corner but the church, the parsonage, and a farmhouse. At the other corner the stone store was eventually razed. The floral hall on the fairgrounds was remodeled into a barn which stands as the only reminder of the heyday of Mission Creek.
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