Thomas Nugent came from County Galway, Ireland, in 1866, to Scott
County, Iowa, and in the spring of 1871, settled on a homestead
south of Exeter, in Liberty Township. He drove a horse team and
wagon and brought some cattle along when he came to Nebraska.
Money and employment were scarce in the community, so he would
walk for miles through the country to such places as Beatrice and
Lincoln, looking for work to help provide a living. He worked on the
B. & M. Railroad for some time, grading where the town of Fairmont
is now located.
He would at times seek work in the distant
west, thus using up the time allowed off his claim. It was during
those trips that he experienced some thrilling adventures. On one
occasion when returning over the prairies, his mate and he taking
turns in driving the team or sleeping in the bottom of the wagon,
they were surrounded by a band of 300 or 400 Indians. He knew that
two could do little by way of self defense in such a crowd and
thinking his end had surely come, it was time to turn his attention
upwards. To their great relief one of the Indians rode up and
presented a piece of paper by which they made known that they were
friendly Indians. They were begging however, and would not accept
Buffalo meat; they could kill that for themselves. "Give us bacon!"
was their request, then, as we might expect, everything possible was
forthcoming, so as to be rid as soon as possible of such a crowd.
In was no uncommon experience to meet with large herds of
Buffalo; 500 to 1,000 strong. Mr. Nugent thinks it was a great shame
the way these animals were killed off, as it was too often done, not
for need, but to satisfy a lust for killing. The dead animals were
seldom put to any practical use.
One Sunday a band of
Indians came near his homestead, and found their way into Dan
Dillan's Melon patch. An Indian had no more welcome into a melon
patch than had a Negro, though he might like melons just as other
people do, needless to say, the Indian soon had a "hint" as the
young man said, '"when the girl's father lifted him out of the house
on the end of his shoe toe," that his company or his harvesting aid
was not required. It may even remain a mystery, "who gave the last
Speaking of the great blizzard of 1873, Mr.
Nugent was caught out in this, and had to take shelter for three
days in a windowless and doorless dugout. It was simply impossible
to make his home during the storm, but it may be his native wit
presented itself for his consolation, "I would just as soon stop
here as remain where I am!"
Pioneers of Fillmore and Adjoining
Source: Pioneer Stories of the Pioneers of Fillmore and adjoining
Counties, by G. R. McKeith, Press of Fillmore County News, Exeter,
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