Fillmore County

Pioneer Stories of the Pioneers of Fillmore and adjoining Counties title page

Charles Eberstein of Fillmore County

Charles Eberstein, born in Kalamazoo, Michigan, joined the army young and served during the Indian uprisings of 1865. In 1867, he moved to Omaha, Nebraska, and later homesteaded in Fillmore County in 1869. Eberstein narrowly avoided a fatal surveying expedition and became a pioneer in Fillmore County, where he broke the first prairie. He joined the State Militia, helping establish Fort Butler during conflicts with Native Americans. Eberstein also worked on the Burlington Railroad and contributed to the early settlement and development of his region alongside his family.

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Pioneer Stories of the Pioneers of Fillmore and adjoining Counties title page

C. A. Songster of Fillmore County

C. A. Songster moved from Centerville, Appanoose County, Iowa, to a farm near Exeter, Nebraska, in 1871 with his wife and two children. The family initially lived in a tent, then a dugout, and eventually a sod house. The first school in the district was held in their home. Cattle roamed freely, and tall Bluestem grass posed risks for children. Songster Sr. hauled lumber for the first house and store in Exeter, owned by Dr. H. G. Smith. He died in 1898 and is buried in the Exeter cemetery. Bert Songster, his son, provides these reminiscences.

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Pioneer Stories of the Pioneers of Fillmore and adjoining Counties title page

Doctor O. P. Baker of Fillmore County

Dr. O. P. Baker first visited the Exeter, Nebraska, area while accompanying grain buyer Joe Shaub. During his visit, he purchased a quarter section of land east of town. Returning to Morrison, Illinois, he successfully sold five farms based on his descriptions of Exeter’s potential. In 1874, Dr. Baker built a house on his land and continued promoting Nebraska, bringing large parties of land seekers from Illinois in 1874 and 1875, selling numerous farms. Moving to Exeter in 1880, he became the town’s first practicing dentist, working for 46 years until selling his practice due to failing eyesight. His efforts significantly contributed to the area’s settlement and development.

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Pioneer Stories of the Pioneers of Fillmore and adjoining Counties title page

Colonel N. S. Babcock Arrived in 1871

In 1871, Colonel Babcock arrived in Nebraska from New York State, walking from Seward to find a family near Indian Creek. He discovered a well-furnished dugout home before settling near Exeter, where “Boss” Woodard had the only visible house. Babcock’s journey with his wife involved a fifty-mile trip in a wagon without springs, cooking meals on a hillside, and using shingles as plates. They lost track of Sundays and encountered numerous rattlesnakes. During the Grasshopper Plague, Babcock sent evidence to skeptical relatives back East, proving the severity of the infestation.

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Pioneer Stories of the Pioneers of Fillmore and adjoining Counties title page

Charles N. Phillips of Fillmore County

In 1871, Charles N. Phillips and his wife journeyed from Pennsylvania to near Exeter, Nebraska, arriving on June 1. They built a sod house on their homestead with just $10. Despite hardships, they found support in the community, notably from Mrs. Smith at the local store. They ground corn in a coffee mill for flour and endured severe winters, including the notable 1873 snowstorm. The Phillips faced prairie fires and floods, and Charles sold the first load of wheat in Exeter in 1872. Despite his disability from the Battle of Gettysburg, Charles thrived in this new frontier.

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Pioneer Stories of the Pioneers of Fillmore and adjoining Counties title page

Mr. Charles Hole of Fillmore County

Charles Hole, originally from West Pennard near Glastonbury, Somersetshire, England, immigrated to America in 1870. After spending two years in Detroit, he moved to Exeter, Nebraska, in April 1872, where he homesteaded 80 acres of land south of town. He was joined by three other Somerset natives: Alfred Corp, Bill Haimes, and Frank Appleby. Frank Appleby, a carpenter, tragically died in 1872 and was the first white man buried in the district. Charles Hole married and settled in Exeter in 1878, building a home in 1881, where he lived for over 33 years. His long-used cook stove, bought on his wedding day, still serves him.

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Pioneer Stories of the Pioneers of Fillmore and adjoining Counties title page

Chester C. Stephens of Fillmore County

Chester C. Stephens, originally from Pennsylvania, moved to Michigan before settling in Nebraska in 1871. He homesteaded the northwest quarter of Section 4, Town 7, Range 1, west, initially living in a 10×12 ft. dugout. Early in his Nebraska life, Stephens encountered prairie wolves and deer near his homestead. He contributed to local efforts, assisting neighbors and dealing with harsh weather conditions. Notably, he and Patrick Murphy are among the few original homesteaders still residing on their land in Liberty Township. His pioneering experiences highlight the challenges and adventures of early settlers in Nebraska.

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Pioneer Stories of the Pioneers of Fillmore and adjoining Counties title page

James Horne of Fillmore County

James Home, born in Low Coats, Lanarkshire, Scotland, close to the birthplace of Dr. David Livingstone, immigrated to America in 1853. Initially employed on the Hudson River Railroad for sixteen years, he returned to Scotland in 1858 to marry Jenny Miller. The couple settled in Poughkeepsie, NY, and later moved to Amboy, Illinois. In 1870, seeking new opportunities, Home purchased land in Nebraska, despite his limited farming knowledge. Through perseverance, he transitioned from railway engineering to successful farming. Home built a sod house, later replaced by a frame dwelling, and engaged actively in the community until his death at age 75.

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Pioneer Stories of the Pioneers of Fillmore and adjoining Counties title page

James W. Dolan of Fillmore County

James W. Dolan, originally from Corning, Iowa, arrived in Lincoln, Nebraska, on February 1, 1871. After learning about available Government land, he traveled to Crete and then westward with John F. Evans to Fillmore County. Dolan homesteaded the Northeast Quarter of Section 20, Township 8, Range 1, West, and preempted land for his brother. In April 1871, he built a $65 house on his claim with lumber hauled from Lincoln. Despite hardships, including rattlesnakes and scarce resources, Dolan farmed successfully and engaged in community development. He co-founded Exeter, established its first store and post office, and served on the school board. In 1880, he moved to Indianola, Nebraska, and later to Los Angeles, California.

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Pioneer Stories of the Pioneers of Fillmore and adjoining Counties title page

Pioneers of Fillmore and Adjoining Counties

In 1915, G. R. McKeith compiled a series of narratives entitled “Pioneer Stories of the Pioneers of Fillmore and Adjoining Counties,” published by the Press of Fillmore County News in Exeter, Nebraska. This collection serves as a historical account, documenting the experiences and contributions of the early settlers who established the foundations of the local communities. While the book’s format and occasional errors reflect its humble beginnings, its content holds intrinsic value. The stories of these pioneers provide pleasure to the current generation and serve as a factual foundation for future historical research. The accounts included herein are not merely tales but are the documented realities of those who braved the unknown to build the communities we inhabit today.

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