McCook was established by railroad men in 1882. But long before that time, before the rails came, Indianola was the thriving hub of commerce in this corner of the state. Many of the early businesses in McCook had originated in Indianola in the 1870s.
In a 4th of July Address, in 1861, newly elected President Abraham Lincoln stated that, "It is the purpose of government to elevate the condition of men, to lift artificial burdens from all shoulders and give everyone an unfettered start and a fair chance in the race of life." In 1862, in the midst of the Civil War, Lincoln took a giant step in this direction, when he signed into law the Homestead Act of 1862, arguably the most significant and enduring event in the western expansion of the United States.
In practice, the ever west reaching railroads controlled much of the good land along their rights of way, and in some cases were unscrupulous in selling this land to farmers and adventurers, who were lured West by the railroads themselves, with their cheap fares and tour packages, which enabled potential settlers to "see for themselves."
Still there were many who followed Daniel Freeman (the first man to file a claim under the 1862 Act, and whose homestead is now a National Monument near Beatrice), in establishing a claim on Nebraska soil. Under the Homestead Act individual Homesteaders could "claim" 160 acres of unclaimed government land and, after paying a small fee, could gain title to that quarter section of land after five years.
During the Civil War years, 1861-1865, there were relatively few Homestead claims, but in the post-war era the number of Nebraska settlers who made Homestead claims grew to great numbers.
Taylor Knapp Quigley was one of the early settlers in Red Willow County. He and his new bride, nee Ceraphine Celeste Stonecipher, of York, Neb., took up a homestead five miles north and west of Indianola, in 1870. To make ends meet, for a time T.K. and his wife operated a saloon in Indianola, and T.K worked as a peddler for the Lark and Soap Company, selling his wares to housewives over a wide area of Southwest Nebraska and Northwest Kansas.
In the spring of 1873 the Quigleys moved to their homestead and built a sod house on their property. In 1898 they erected a two story frame house, which has been incorporated into the present Quigley home of today.
T.K. and Ceraphine had 11 children, one of whom was Earl, who took over the farm from his father, in 1919. Earl remembered trudging the three miles to the Red Willow School with his seven brothers and three sisters. Since all farm children were active in the planting and tending the crops, school did not begin until November, after harvest was completed.
Life on the Quigley farm in those early days was hard for children, with chores to do -- feeding the stock, milking the cows, often by lantern light, in extremely cold weather. But life was difficult for all the settlers in this new country, with drought, grasshoppers, ten-cent corn, and worry over mortgages, that were difficult to pay.
These problems were not kept from the Quigley children. The family was a team, and each member shared in the problems and the rewards. In doing so they all developed self-discipline, and an appreciation for the inter-relationship of soil and weather, and animals, with man. They learned that what they did not have they would have to make for themselves, earn the money to buy the item, or do without.
But in addition to the problems in those early days, there was also fun for the family. In the fall neighbors came together to help one another in threshing parties, going from one farm to another to process the grain. At these times the young boys engaged in races and other games, including baseball, which Earl especially enjoyed.
In the winter months country dances, often in the hay mows of large barns, were very popular and neighbors came from miles around to dance (and visit). Earl Quigley played the fiddle in a band for these community dances for a number of years.
When Earl was just 17, T.K. passed away, leaving the responsibility for the farm to Earl and his mother. When his mother moved to Colorado for health reasons, Earl was left with the farm and its mortgages.
Even though money was scarce and there were troublesome mortgages, the life cycle still went on. Earl married Anna Tines, of Bartley. They were the parents of Elaine and Stan (who still lives, with his wife, Mitty (Huggins) on the original homestead today.
The 1930s (The Dirty Thirties) were especially difficult for Earl and Anna Quigley, with drought, no crops and the ever present mortgages and land taxes coming due. Earl and Anna made thousands of popcorn balls, which they sold for a penny each.
They also made and delivered butter, cream, eggs, and dressed chickens, for sale in Indianola and McCook -- anything to make ends meet.
Things gradually improved for the Quigleys, and Earl was something of a pioneer in soil conservation practices -- planting shelter belts, terracing his land and developing irrigation. He believed in conservation and felt that such practices would keep his land producing for his family far into the future.
Earl Quigley was honored with the Nebraska Pioneer Farm Award by the Knights of Aksarben, in 1970, for long and meritorious service, recognizing the Quigley Family's ownership of the same Nebraska farm for 100 years.
By hard work and determination the Quigley Homestead grew to become a much larger, more productive farm, and Earl was able "to feel the pride in a good life that he had lived... Despite the hardships and disappointments that he had known in farming, he felt that farming was the most honorable way that a man could spend his days on earth. His work in farming the land had made it possible for him to give more to the world than he took from it".
Earl Quigley passed away at the McCook Hospital on Oct. 13, 1970, at age 79. He was buried in the St. Catherine Cemetery at Indianola on Oct. 15, 1970.