Stories of Early Nemaha County Settlers

F. L. Woodward Tells Of Aspinwall and Nemaha City

My father was Manson J. Woodward, and my mother's maiden name was Fannie D. Abel. They lived at Concord, Massachusetts, where father was a carriage and coach trimmer. They came to Galena, Illinois, then to Des Moines and finally to Aspinwall in 1864, when I was seven years old. A relative had come there first, and my parents talked it over and decided to come. Father opened up a harness shop.

Aspinwall at that time was a town of about five hundred people. The town site was owned by a company, General James W. Denver, Louie Neal, and Rumback and Ballard being members. During 1864 there was a good deal of trouble over titles. The town was on a boom. One of the best stores was run by Ed Weisenreder, who had as many as seven clerks. He not only sold goods, but he bought grain and was quite a shipper. Aspinwall had the best steamboat landing on the river. An eddy cut into the bank and made deep water right up to the wharf. There was a big trade from inland. Other business men at that time, as I remember, were J. S. Minick, general store; Burl Hoover, general store; J. W. Thurman, general store; J. W. Worthing, wagon maker; J. W. Mitchell, hotel; Dr. Baker, physician; and there were three or four saloons. One saloon was run by Adolph Herman and another by George McGathney. There was also a distillery near town.

Henry Hart, a homesteader, took charge of the lands belonging to Ben Holladay, of Denver. General Denver had a large amount of land near Aspinwall, and the Denver estate still has it. Rumback was Denver's father-in-law.

In the matter of shipping Aspinwall overshadowed Brownville and Nemaha. Much trade came from over in Pawnee. I have seen in town sacks of corn piled the length of three blocks, and three sacks high.

A railroad finally went down the other side of the river and crippled Aspinwall, and the Atchison and Nebraska came up the Nemaha to the south and took off a lot more trade. There was much agitation for a road running down the river to Aspinwall, but it came to Nemaha, which was only four miles away, and that was the finish of Aspinwall. Some of the buildings were moved to Nemaha, and many were torn down or moved out onto farms. There are only two houses on the site of the boom town now. The Denver estate and Dr. Gandy now own the town site.

There were in the early days several attempts to run newspapers at Aspinwall. Dr. Holladay moved the Nebraska Herald down from Nemaha about 1860, and others tried it.

Aspinwall was not a Sunday school sort of a town. Even at its most prosperous time it never built a church. The saloons furnished the excitement. Sometimes there were efforts to divert trade to other nearby towns. San Francisco started up right in sight, and Hillsdale was only a small distance away. St. Deroin was eight miles south and Nemaha was in plain view four miles north. It was a great time to boom new towns, in the sixties.

Once in about 1867 we went to Rulo by way of Arago. I was ten years old, and I thought Arago was a fine big town. Rulo was quite a shipping point, and there were a good many Indians around there. Father continued in business at Aspinwall until the town died, in the seventies. Then he moved to Kansas City.

In 1875, when I was eighteen, I married Martha Tidrow, daughter of a storekeeper. I had quite a time getting the license. When I went to Brownville after it the county judge. Dr. McComas, looked me over and told me I was in the wrong place. Said I was too young to get married. This worried me, but I talked politics with the judge and told him politics at Aspinwall was all his way, so he concluded I was all right to get a license.

I worked in the store three years and then took up the real estate business in which I have continued to the present time. John L. Carson had bought the Holladay land, and I took charge of it.

About 1888 I moved up to Nemaha. It was a poor town then, not so good as it is now. There were three saloons, but legitimate trade was light. There were no decent sidewalks. I came up here because of tile schools, as I had two boys.

In the old days the liquor element was mighty strong in Aspinwall. Dr. J. N. McCasland of Pawnee came down here to organize a Good Templars lodge, and they threatened to throw him in the river. When I moved to Nemaha the fight against the saloons was going on. I foolishly believed in the saloon system at that time. On the streets I had argued that, inasmuch as we were only getting ten cents a bushel for corn, if the country went dry we wouldn't get anything for it. But I got tired of liquor domination and helped to put it out of Nemaha after all. At that time the school district was $4,000 in debt. Without saloons it has built a good school building and has money in the treasury.

At Aspinwall, before the town died, I was on the school board. Weisenreder and another older man, Jerry Marlatt, were the other members. One day a young fellow came along and applied for the school. The two old members did not take to him because he was so young, but I liked him, and talked them into the notion of hiring him. The new teacher and I became great friends and have kept up that friendship ever since. His name is John H. Morehead, recently governor of Nebraska.

Morehead taught school in town a few months and boarded at Weisenreder's. It was noticed that one of the Weisenreder girls was his favorite. Next he taught a term out in the country and then came to town and married Miss Weisenreder. The parents of the Weisenreder girls were Catholics and objected to taking Protestants into the family. But the girls did not want to be Catholics, and they had their way when it came to marrying.

Weisenreder had made money and went out of the store business when the town declined, and later went to California. I think he lost most of his wealth in unfortunate speculations.

We had two boys and one girl. Both boys are at Kansas City. Charles M. is on the board of trade and Leslie is a druggist. Marie is now attending school at Kansas City. My wife died in 1910.

Nebraska AHGP

Source: Nebraska History and Record of Pioneer Days, Volume I, Number 1, Published Monthly by the Nebraska Historical Society, February 1918.


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