Red Willow County pioneer Gotlieb Weyeneth

Monday, February 6, 2017
Gottlieb Weyeneth

One of the very early pioneers to Red Willow County Nebraska was Gottlieb Weyeneth, from Neufechatel, Bern Canton, Switzerland, where he was born, in 1848.

At that time, in Switzerland, all young men had to fulfill a military obligation to their country. This obligation was distasteful, enough so that many of the youth chose to emigrate from their native Switzerland, rather than serve in the military. Not so, Gottlieb Weyeneth. He " faced that problem, and played his part well, without a murmur or complaint. He served his native country faithfully and well." Then, after he had been discharged from the service, and had fulfilled his responsibility (as the eldest of eight children) to his family, he immigrated to the United States, arriving in 1873.

Gottlieb was an interesting individual, a private person, but one who spoke his mind. In 1925 a McCook Gazette reporter took advantage of a chance encounter with Mr. Weyeneth at the Devine Motors agency on B. Street. The reporter knew of Mr. Weyeneth as a very early settler to Red Willow County and asked the old man to tell him about the early days. Mr. Weyeneth was reluctant to talk about himself. But, when he saw that the reporter was not going to leave, he lit up a big black cigar, sat back in a chair and began to talk. The Gazette reporter found Mr. Weyeneth to be a very colorful interview.

The reporter began his conversation by asking if Mr. Weyeneth planned to come to McCook for the upcoming County Fair, and "bet on the ponies?" (the horse races were the premier attraction at the Fair (held at the in those days in the old grounds south of the viaduct.). "No," was his reply. "I get beat up enough as it is without betting on the ponies!" Then he continued, "And besides, I don't care for crowds. I like to come over to McCook when there is nothing extra going on."

When the reporter fished out a pad and pencil to take notes on their conversation, Mr. Weyeneth took notice.

"Now, what are you up to?" he asked.

"Just taking a few notes. Now what was the year you came to this country?"

"Well, young man, it was so long ago that I guess your readers don't care about that."

"Yes, but I believe they do!" Mr. Weyeneth began to talk:

When Gottlieb Weyeneth first arrived in the United States in 1873, he made his home in Crete, Nebraska, with an aunt and uncle, Mr. and Mrs. Jacob Bigler. During his time in Crete he became acquainted with a fellow by the name of White, who had traveled to western Nebraska and was enthusiastic about the possibilities of great wealth that awaited able young men who were wise enough to homestead in the west.

In 1874, Gottlieb, with a friend, a fellow by the name of Schlickner, traveled by stage to Indianola, to look over the land prospects for themselves. In Indianola they met up with a land locater, Mr. Starbuck, who took them to see farms in the Republican River bottom, in the vicinity of the present city of McCook. Gottlieb and his friend decided that those farms were too sandy, so the next day Mr. Starbuck took them south, to look over the land in the Beaver Valley. The fertile acres in the valley appealed to Gottlieb, and he settled on a homestead a short distance west of the place, which became Marion, land which is in the Weyeneth family still today.

In 1881 Gottlieb was united in marriage to Emma Jane Irish at Indianola, Nebraska. To this union eight children were born -- five daughters and three sons. Gottlieb and Emma Jane lived on that homestead until 1919, when they moved into Marion, in retirement.

"Who was there in the Beaver Valley when you came?"

"Well, I remember Bill Hinton was there, the Ashton brothers, and Gene and Joe Dolph. Sol Stilgebouer came the following year.'

"You've seen some changes since those days" the reporter interrupted.

"I should say there is. And the one thing of it all and that I don't like is the way a lot of the young people carry on. When my wife and I were courting it was in a lumber wagon and we didn't have to pull out to the side of the road in the moonlight either, to convince each other of our sincerity!"

Here the old gentleman's eyes filled with tears as he continued. "God bless her, she was a wonderful woman for a poor man, and "worth her weight in gold." We were married in '81 and I guess I had about $60 saved up, and when I started to Indianola to buy a table and some chairs for the shack, she said, 'Now Gottlieb, don't spend a lot of money. Let's wait until we get further along. We can get along very well with what we have.' It meant a lot to me at that time, but I was considerable of a spender and went to Indianola and bought what I thought was a lot of furniture, and still had money left over from that $60. Of course, nowadays the ordinary bride would throw a fellow down who suggested starting up housekeeping under such circumstances."

"Anyone come over to McCook with you today?" the reporter asked.

"No; I like to travel alone," he replied. "Then I know that I am in good company."

Mr. Weyeneth's life-long partner, Emma Jane, died in 1923, from complications of the flu. Gottlieb was never really able to reconcile himself to this loss. Their five daughters, Corene, Ruby, Stella, Elsie, and Bertha, and three sons, Clyde, Ernest, and Joe H. were born in Red Willow County. At the time of the interview all continued to reside here, with the exception of one daughter, Mrs. Mathers, who lived in Pierce County, Nebraska.

The Gazette reporter's assessment was, "Mr. Weyeneth is one of the interesting, substantial characters of Red Willow County, and always a welcomed visitor to the county seat where he is known to many of the "old timers" as well as a good many of the younger generation who love to meet these noble characters, who blazed the trail across the barren prairies in the early 1880s and withstood the trials and tribulations through the process and development of what has become the garden spot it is today."

At the end of his life Mr. Weyeneth "was tenderly cared for by his daughter, Bertha." He died in 1932 in Marion, Nebraska, after a brief illness from an attack of influenza. He was buried, beside the love of his life, Emma Jane, the lady "worth her weight in gold," in the Danbury-Marion cemetery, "with the impressive Masonic rites."

Source:1925 Gazette interview, and Trains West by Rutledge and Ray

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