[mccookgazette.com] Mostly Cloudy ~ 36°F  
High: 54°F ~ Low: 36°F
Sunday, May 1, 2016

Trials of a new community

Monday, December 31, 2012

Early McCook, looking north cross the rail yards. Note roundhouse, foot viaduct, and on the left horizon the Red Willow County Courthouse and first Methodist Church.
From H.P. Waite's Collection of McCook Tribune Papers

June 1882: The editor of the Indianola Courier in his issue of June 8, reports what he calls a case of "scammage" in our town, which is considerably bedaubed with the venom and malignity sweltering in his own veins and vials. The young man accused, he calls "a brute in human form."

I now want to ask that same editor what a brute in human form was it that some years ago was put in jail in Iowa, for the seduction of Mary Bacon? What brute in human form was it that married her to get out of jail and escape the penitentiary? What brute in human form was it who basely abandoned her and her child and fled to Indianola, Nebraska, where he tried fraudulently to procure a divorce from his wife aforesaid, but failed? His name is known, and I would advise that same editor that as the glass in his house is very thin, he had better not throw any very large rocks around, for fear that some of them might rebound and cause a crack that might be very damaging to the scenery about his dwelling. I. S. U."

Oct. 26, 1882: A regular go-in-and-scratch-out-bloody-nose-and-thumb-chewing fight took place on our streets Friday evening. The cause -- both men were plasterers, and one man said he was the best workman, to which the other man took exception.

McCook is certainly getting to be a disgraceful town. We hate to say so, but 'tis a fact. Almost every week there are two or more fights. All are from too much "budge." Monday there were several cowboys in town, and of course a huge old drunk and a "scrap" or two.

Sometimes the troubles in the area were more serious. "As C.E. Millett, a grocery man of Hastings, was going from his store to his residence one night last week, he was overtaken by three masked men. He tried to escape by running, but as he jumped over the fence surrounding his house, he was shot by one of them. He managed, however, to reach his house. A search of the vicinity was made, and a mask worn by one of the men was found. Certain persons who had been staying at a hotel in Hastings were suspected. Their rooms were searched and the oil cloth from which the gunman's mask had been made, was discovered and the men were arrested.

"Fearing violence, the authorities took the men to Lincoln, but returned them to Hastings for the coroner's inquest. An armed mob took the prisoners from the sheriff, and two of them were hanged to the railroad bridge on the line from Grand Island to Hastings. Wednesday morning, as the train crossed the bridge half-mile from Hastings, the passengers, who had heard nothing of the lynching, were horrified to see the bodies of the two men dangling at the ends of ropes from the bridge. The rope was tied around the rail, so that the wheels of the cars cut one of the bodies down and it fell several feet into the ravine below. The other body remained hanging, and was swinging to and fro in the wind when the train pulled out of sight. Those who saw the faces of the strangled men say it was a sickening sight. The tongues of the men were hanging out and the faces showed every indication of great pain, even in death."

Nov. 23, 1882: A young man by the name of John Enyeart became slightly intoxicated last Friday, went so far as to get absent minded, and consequently got a pair of gloves in his pocket from Rogers Store, and some other things at Hayden & Co.'s, but was caught and relieved of the burden, and promised to pay for same. Now, where will John's course end? Possibly with the little angels, but more probably at the stone pile at Lincoln.

One week later, Nov. 30: In an item in last week's issue we were in error in stating that John Enyeart was the person who appropriated several articles from Hayden & Co. and C.H. Rogers without the consent of the owners, and was also under the influence of too much "tanglefoot." The name should have appeared as W.H. Enyeart. Mr. John Enyeart, we are happy to say, is a gentleman of honesty and integrity, whose temperate habits are unquestionable. We hope this will set the gentleman right before the people ... Name should have been W.H. Enyeart.

But there were also signs of a civilizing influence on the community -- even if it was mainly still in the talking stage. For instance: Up to the present time no place for burying the dead has been provided. "No one here is able or equipped to do embalming, so the bodies of those who die in warm weather must be put away as quickly as possible. They are interred on the open prairie. Sometimes the graves are surrounded by board fences, but those are destroyed by the half-wild cattle that roam unrestrained, and the mounds are soon leveled. Coyotes often dig down to the boxes, in which the bodies have been placed. It is doubtless due to the fact so few deaths have occurred among the population that nothing has thus far been done about this important matter".

The first public school commenced, with Mrs. Alma Churchill as a teacher, in an old log house near the river about one mile from McCook, with the organization of District 17.

At the services held by the Rev. G.W. Merritt, of Lincoln, the State Agent of the American Missionary Society, held this morning in Rider's Store, the Congregationalists perfected a church organization and arrangements have been made to hold services each Sunday.

At times a wistfulness, a longing for companionship that transcends into pathos, comes over the new settlers in this country, as seen in a lonely woman, gazing from the door of her cabin. If a stranger stops to inquire his way, or to water his horses, every member of the family greets him, and if it is near mealtime, he is asked to eat with the family, and if he does so, no apology will be offered for the meagerness of the fare, and no pay will be accepted for the entertainment provided.

Sunday is visiting day for the settlers. Ni Sunday passes, when the weather permits, that there are not community gatherings. Every neighborhood has its Sunday School, which meets, until a church is built, at some settler's house. The Townsmen are asked to contribute to the cost of whatever is necessary to be purchased for use in erection of the house of worship. Labor is the homesteader's contribution. Box Elder has had a church structure for some time. Ash Creek is building one now. For the latter, $116 was collected in McCook, an amount sufficient to pay for everything that need be bought. Sod, which is the principal material, costs only the work entailed in its procurement. The walls are of sod, as is the roof. The floor is of earth.

There is in every vicinity at least one among the settlers who professes to have been a minister, or preacher, as he is generally called, in the locality from which he came a-pioneering. Rough boards serve as seats in whatever building is the church, and the pulpit is a wooden box. The minister may have a wooden chair to sit upon when he is not standing.

There are a few hymnals brought from the homes of worshippers. There is always someone who believes he can sing to lead the singing. There is seldom a musical instrument to sing with -- sometimes a reed organ loaned by some devoted member of the congregation, but singing without an accompaniment is quite the rule. On every occasion when there is excuse for a meeting -- on Sundays, Memorial Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas -- the church is open.

And thus it is that Christianity is brought to the prairies. It plays here as important a role as it does in older and more conservative centers. Different Christian sects may hold divergent doctrinal views, but they are agreed the teachings of the New Testament have shaped the mental and moral attributes of the peoples of the western nations.

And there was compassion shown for the unfortunate. October 1882: A little babe, of the female order, came into this wide world Tuesday night, which is to be pitied.

Her mother is a young girl, some 17 or 18 years old, who has been working on a boarding train at Eckley, Colorado, and only came to the city Tuesday, and Tuesday night she was a mother. Such is life.

Fact Check
See inaccurate information in this story?

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration:

Walt Sehnert
Days Gone By