The early settlers of Antelope County suffered but little molestation from the Indians. From a little pamphlet descriptive of the county, written in 1878, by A. J. Leech, one of the early settlers, we make the following extracts: “In 1870, the settlers suffered from the first Indian raid. A party of ten Indians visited the new settlement, appearing friendly at first, but in two or three instances becoming extremely insolent, firing a number of shots into the house of Louis Petras, finally stealing nine horses and hurrying off toward the Sioux reservations in the Northwest.”
“In November, 1870, the Indians made a second raid upon the settlements, breaking into the house of Robert Horne, living on the head of Cedar Creek, carrying off or destroying all his household goods. These Indians were followed by fourteen of the settlers, overtaken and severely punished, a few miles below O’Neill City. Two of their number were killed and two or three known to be wounded. The whites also suffered in this little battle, two of them receiving severe arrow wounds and having one horse killed and two or three wounded. Since that time the settlers have not been molested by Indians.”
There were in addition to the difficulties mentioned in these extracts, a few Indian “scares.” One of these scares occurred in the spring of 1872, in the St. Clair Valley. A party of Ponca were on their way to pay a visit to the Pawnees, when they stopped at the house of Mr. Blankenship and ordered something to eat. Perceiving that the settlers feared them, they decided to have some sport, and so made the children turn the grindstone while they ground their hatchets and knives, chased the dog off the place, scattered a sack of seed corn to the winds, etc. Mr. Blankenship now appearing on the scene, took down his musket and ordered them to “Poccachee,” which order, not desiring to have any difficulty, they obeyed. After going through similar antics at the house of David Cossairt, they pursued their journey, and no Indians afterward disturbed the settlement.
One of the old settlers of Frenchtown gives the following account of an Indian begging and thieving raid in Frenchtown, of the Sioux tribe, which occurred March 1, 1870. He says there were but four families in the settlement at the time. About a dozen Indians passed down the river (Elkhorn), stopping at Frank Patras’, wanting something to eat; they stole a revolver and passed on to Louis Contois’, asked lodgings, but the house was full already, so went on to Martin Freeman’s, who was not at home, but his brother and wife and child were there. Mrs. F. Was frightened by them, so started for a neighbor’s, but they overtook her and told her to come back or they would kill her papoose; so she returned and gave them something to eat. Mrs. Freeman was so thoroughly scared that she was determined to leave the place; so Mr. Freeman sold and they went down the river about eight miles. The reds then went to Louis Patras’ and succeeded in getting away with most of his chickens and ducks; also shot a cow and pig with their bows and arrows, and, to wind up with, fired a gun-shot into his house. The next day, March 2, Frank Patras, Louis Contois and Andrew Thiboult started for Dakota City, at that time a land office. The following evening, the aforesaid Indians took their back tracks, stealing two horses from Louis Patras, one from Martin Freeman, three from Louis Contois and two from Frank Patras. On learning the condition of affairs, Louis Patras started on foot to meet and notify his neighbors, which, of course, was a useless trip. They lost no time in pursuing the Indians, going first to the Pawnee reservation. On arriving there, they were assured that the thieves were not of their number; they went from there to Lee Snyder’s settlement, near Oakdale; while there, saw an account in a Omaha paper of some horses being stolen by the Indians, stating that they had been turned back to the Government at Fort Randall. To this point they directed their course, finding them (the horses) in a reduced condition, scarcely able to walk home, and disabled from performing ordinary work during that season.
In August, 1872, a party of about two hundred Ponca, returning from a hunting expedition, in which they had had a difficulty with the Sioux, paid this portion of the county a visit, and made themselves very obnoxious by their persistent begging; during the few days they were here, they also spent considerable time in hunting, killing thirty elk and a large number of deer. In the month of June previous, a large fine buffalo was killed here, which was the last seen in this part of the country.
“There are various indications that at some former time the site of Neligh City was the camping-ground and home of some large body of Indians. Traces of their camps are still visible on the surface of the earth, and in excavating cellars, bones of buffalo, elk, deer and antelope, stone arrow-heads and portions of human skeletons are frequently unearthed.” –(O’Neill’s Northern Nebraska, 1875.)
Were there ever any Mound-Builders in Nebraska? Possibly. About three-fourths of a mile west of Neligh, previous to the advent of the plow, there were indications of the existence of a race anterior to the red man. At this point, when first the early settlers came, a circular embankment, from one to two feet high, was visible, inclosing a space about one half-mile in diameter, and with an opening at the southeast, as if for an entrance. This enclosure, with its embankment, which may have been, in the centuries long ago, breast high and designed for defense, was called by the early settlers “The Fort.” Near “The Fort” toward the north were two irregular rows of mounds, about fifteen in number, and of about the same elevation as the embankment. Near by were also found, by Hon. William B. Lambert, numerous specimens of what appeared to be remains of a rude pottery or earthenware, one piece in particular being found nearly entire, bearing a strong resemblance to an urn. Now the embankment and the mounds have been reduced by the plow to a common level with the surrounding prairie, so that their former location is not distinguishable to the eye.