North Bend Township, Dodge County, Nebraska

What is now styled North Bend civil township was within Cotterell Township before township organization took place in Dodge County in 1886. North Bend Precinct, as once known, is not without its interesting local history, and the same is covered by the village history in this chapter. It was here that the first little colony of pioneer emigrants from Ohio settled in 1856. The first election after Dodge County was organized was held in North Bend the first Monday in February, 1860, at which time Fremont was made the county seat.

North Bend Township is now confined to the corporate limits of the village of the same name-see its history.

City of North Bend

This is a thriving city situated fifteen miles to the west of the City of Fremont, on the north bank of Platte River, in township 17, range 6, east. It now has a population of about 1,200, according to the latest United States census. It was platted October 12, 1867, by S. S. Caldwell, M. S. Cotterell and the officers of the Union Pacific Railroad Company. The population in 1876 was 250 souls and in 1890 it was placed at 897. It is within one of the richest agricultural sections of the state, where land is now worth from $250 to $400 per acre. The main line of the Union Pacific Railway runs through North Bend, which place is fifty miles from Omaha, the terminus of that great rail route from the Missouri River to the far-away Pacific coast. The altitude of North Bend is 1,275 feet.

Pioneer History

The first twenty years' history of North Bend was well described "Centennial Year" (1876) by J. Mason Smith, who responded to the general call made by President U. S. Grant that every township in the country make an effort to preserve its history on that occasion. This historical sketch was read before those who assembled on July 4th that year, and the same (by permission) is here inserted, and it is believed that no better account of the place between 1856 and 1876 can be given than Mr. Smith's graphic account of its first settlement, which runs thus:

The Town of North Bend takes its name from the bend in the Platte River on which it is located. Long before the settlement was made this point was a favorite camping ground for emigrants going to California, Utah and other points west. Here was an abundance of grass and water for their weary cattle; here was wood and water by which the hungry traveler could cook his victuals and refresh the inner man; here in the Platte's swift running waters they bathed their weary limbs and started anew on their journey, refreshed and invigorated.

Nebraska Territory was not long organized when some of its leading men saw that at North Bend was a good point to locate a town. Governor Izard, Secretary Cummings, John I. Redick, Judge Mathews, Squire Hallock and others-sixteen in all-formed themselves into a company known as "The North Bend Town Company." About the first of April, 1856, Mathews and Hallock came and located a town for this company. About the first of July, 1857, the town was surveyed and laid out by Charles Turner, United States deputy surveyor.

God made the country-man made North Bend a "Paper Town."

Most of the towns in the territory at that time were paper towns. Speculations ran very high and a number of land sharks made what they called a good thing out of it. They sold lots from $50 to $100 each to parties who never saw the lots and it may be reasonably supposed never will. The first settlement in the vicinity was made on July 4, 1856, by a few Scotch families who had for a few years previous been living in Illinois. The party consisted of Robert Miller, his wife and four children; John Miller and wife: William and Alexander Miller, brothers of Robert and John, and Miss Eliza Miller, now the wife of W. H. Ely of Fremont.

This little party had the night previous camped about four miles east of North Bend; finding no wood to cook their supper with they each drank some milk and went to bed. They arose early the following morning- July 4th, yoked up their oxen and arrived at North Bend about 9 o'clock A. M., where they found plenty of wood and water to cook their breakfast with. They liked the appearance of the country, but thought they would go further on and prospect. They got ready and started; after going a few miles they came to the conclusion that they would turn back and settle at North Bend, which they did. As soon as possible they put up shanties to live in, which were made of willows and hay. That fall two log houses were erected and were located on section 12, near the present farm of James Sloss.

In August that year the little colony was increased by the arrival of George Turton", who was strong and robust and a good practical surveyor. He was a host in himself and the right man in the right place; his experience as a surveyor was of much benefit to the little colony.

Early in the fall the town company put up what was called the "Town House." The contract was let to George J. Turton and William Miller. Its dimensions were 16 by 40 feet. It was built of cottonwood logs and stood a few rods west of what is now called 0876) the Old Bend House.

North Bend High School

It was fearfully and wonderfully made, a kind of cross between Noah's Ark and the house that Jack built. In 1866, it being too near the railroad, it was taken down and moved away. Part of the logs are now (1876) used, as they are rebuilt in a stable. (Many of the first events of the settlement were told in this history, read July 4, 1876, which have been cut out and added to the history of the surrounding townships.) June 29, 1857, an important addition was made to the settlement by the arrival of Alex Morrison, J. Humphries and J. M. Smith.

M. S. Cotterell, Jr., belonged to this party but did not arrive until July 12th. This party was from Cleveland, Ohio, and brought a steam sawmill with them as far as Omaha; they were looking up a site for their mill. They were pleased with the country and concluded to locate the mill here, which they did. They had left their wives behind, but August 2nd Mrs. Morrison. Mrs. Smith and Mrs. James Humphries with her five children arrived. In the anticipation of their coming, the Town House had been chinked and shingled, but the women were much disappointed with the looks in general, still with stout hearts they accepted the situation and went to work earnestly and energetically, cheered by the hope that by and by they would get their reward for all their toils and privations.

Mrs. Morrison and Mrs. Humphries brought chickens with them from Cleveland, these being the first chickens in the town and settlement. Now, with the prattle of children, the cackling of hens and a crowing rooster, things commenced to wear a little aspect of civilization. John Sloss arrived in September; he soon went to work for the sawmill company. He located on section 11, four miles east of North Bend, Cotterell Township. He later married a Miss Kelley. Robert Graham and wife and James H. Graham from Cleveland arrived late in 1857 and located in what was later Union Township.

On the first of January, 1858, the number of persons in the settlement was twenty-eight. Of this number fifteen were children under twelve years of age.

In the spring of 1858, as the town company had not complied with the law, failing to make the improvement the law required, it left them without a legal claim to the property, therefore the townsite was jumped by M. F. Cotterell and J. M. Smith. The company did not make much fuss, it may be supposed they had realized about all they saw any chance of doing, therefore let go without showing much fight!

When the colony first located here their nearest post office was Omaha, fifty miles away, which was very inconvenient for those who had left their wives behind them. It is related that M. F. Cotterell is one who whistled "The Girl I Left Behind Me" and footed it to Omaha for mail that was not there, returning the next day. It was a long ways back to North Bend. On December 31, 1858, the number of persons in the vicinity was thirty-seven, twelve of these being under twelve years of age.

The above paragraphs bring the settlement of North Bend down to what its citizens today are pleased to call "modern times." Before going into the details of business interests in this enterprising little city, some of the early events of interest will be narrated.

Early Events

The first election was held on the second Tuesday of November, 1856, when the County of Dodge was in three precincts. Robert Kittle and George Young were elected justices of the peace and George Turton was elected county commissioner.

The first marriage within the place was John B. Waterman to Elizabeth R. Graham, July 28, 1859. This refers to the "settlement" and the first marriage in the Village of North Bend was not until 1860, when George Bathrick and Miss Nancy Rhodes were united in marriage by Rev. I. A. Wilson, pastor of the United Presbyterian Church. The first male child born in this vicinity was Seth W. Young, November, 1856; he was also the first in Dodge County. Roderick C. Smith, son of J. Mason Smith, was born December 21, 1858.

The first family to set up housekeeping in the Village of North Bend was that of George J. Turton, May, 1857. He came to the county the year before, a single man, but in March, 1857, went east and returned with his bride.

The first sawmill of Dodge County was placed in running order in this vicinity and was operated until the fall of 1860, when it was burned by a prairie fire. This mill was brought from Cleveland, Ohio, in July, 1857, by Messrs. Cotterell, Smith, Morrison and Humphries. Indeed, this was the pioneer sawmill in all the far-reaching Platte Valley. It proved a financial failure to its various owners, but was of much value to the settlers. Persons came from Fremont and obtained small loads of lumber, cut from cottonwood logs sawed by this mill. This lumber took the place of the former hay roofs in use; also furnished their shanties with solid floors. A small iron grain-grinding mill was later attached to this sawmill and corn was ground constantly until the burning of the mill.

Commercial Interests of North Bend

The Union Pacific Railroad made its appearance at North Bend in the spring of 1866, and that marked a second era in the settlement of that part of the county. There was only one house on the site of the place when the iron horse first entered that green, glad solitude, that being one owned by M. S. Cotterell, Jr. George Canfield opened a small grocery store in July of that year, the first goods being sold on Independence Day.

The earliest hotel was built by Williams & Perkins in 1867. In 1872 it was moved to the tracks and converted into a grain warehouse by Dowling & Purcell.

From 1866 to 1876 there were shipped 19,000,000 pounds of grain from the North Bend depot. The first wheat shipped to Omaha was by John Burger. The freight rate was $18 per car. The first livestock was shipped by Robert Hall.

The first real, up-to-date grocers were T. B. Purcell and M. Dowling, at first in the Canfield Building, but built for themselves on Sycamore Street. For many years these men were heavily engaged in the grain trade at North Bend.

The first exclusive grain dealer was N. Merriam, who shipped the first car of wheat to Chicago in August, 1874. Down to that time the home-grown grain was usually all consumed by the flouring mills located at Fremont. This dealer paid Fremont prices at his warehouse at North Bend, which caused his business to be very extensive. He was always noted for his correct weights and honorable dealings.

In passing it should be stated that the first fat cattle were shipped from North Bend by rail on June 22, 1876.

A lumber yard was started in North Bend in the autumn of 1875 by J. B. Foote.

The pioneer "Village Blacksmith" was Robert Graham, who came in the spring of 1867, but soon sold his forge to Jerry Dion. Smith Brothers in 1867 built what was styled the "Corner Store." The first man to practice medicine at and around North Bend was Doctor Bell, a North Carolinian, who arrived here in 1868. He finally met with an accident by which he lost both his feet. He was caught out on a professional visit and had his feet frozen. Doctors Abbott of Fremont and Moore of Omaha amputated his feet.

For an account of the schools, churches and lodges the reader is referred to special chapters on such topics elsewhere in this work. The various newspapers and banks are likewise treated in chapters on such subjects for the entire county.

A good nursery was established by J. W. Stevenson in 1882. From this nursery he shipped transplanted stock to many western states and territories. The nursery joined the town plat and a large annual business was transacted. This being the only nursery in this part of Nebraska, his shipments were made many miles.

Many persons have been engaged in business in North Bend for a greater or less period of time with the passing years-some are still residents of the place, but most all have left for other fields or departed this life. At this time (summer of 1920) the historian finds the commercial and professional interests to be in the hands of the following persons:

Business Interests, 1920

Attorney-J. J. Gleeson.
Auto Garages-W. H. Westthal, U. S. Tym. W. H. Snyder, City
Garage and Ford Garage.
Banks-The First National and First State Bank.
Barbers-Al Hammond, N. L. Thorp, P. J. Laughlin.
Bakery-H. A. Miller, Frank Kenney.
Blacksmithing-G. A. Millar, Anderson Brothers, C. J. Lehmer.
Community Club-J. J. Gleeson, secretary.
Cream Station-Lincoln Butter Co.
Cement Tile Works-A home concern.
Drugs-J. R. Tapster, W. A. La Violette.
Dentists-Drs. J. H. Stebbins, T. F. Frederick.
Elevators-Farmers' Co-operative Association, C. A. Millar Grain Company.
Electric Supplies-All hardware dealers.
Furniture-P. F. Carey, who also does undertaking.
Farmers' Telephone Company, F. A. Howe, president.
General Merchandise-Houerfield Mercantile Company, and Fred
Young, also the "Baskett Store No. 46."
Hotel-The Hackney House, by C. O. Wagner.
Harness Shop-Adolph Kemper.
Hay Dealer-W. N. Pruyn.
Hardware-Griffin & Co., T. J. Gaughen, V. W. Jansen.
Implements-(See list of lumbermen.)
Ice Dealer-Earl Street.
Jeweler-J. T. Ostry.
Lumber-Cherny & Watson, Farmers Union Company.
Milling-North Bend Milling Company.
Meat Markets-William Buchta, John Buchta.
Millinery-Mrs. Roy Clay.
Newspaper-The North Bend Eagle.
Nursery-The "North Bend Nursery."
Picture Show-The Lyric, by Fred Mehaffey.
Public Library-"The Carnegie."
Photographer-G. C. Armstead.
Physicians-Doctors Hamod, A. E. Hoff, W. E. Doane, S. W. Yates.
Restaurant-Kenney Bakery and one more (proprietor's name unknown).
Tailors-R. S. Palmer.
Veterinary Surgeons-Drs. O. O. Wallace, James Thom.
Variety Store-V. W. Vauter.

Post Office History

The North Bend post office was established early in the spring of 1858, with G. J. Turton as the first postmaster. July 4th that year the first mail arrived over the tri-weekly stage line operated by the Northwestern Stage Company between Omaha and Fort Kearney, with a station point at North Bend. The first stage keeper here was Alexander Morrison. A daily stage line was had in the spring of 1859, when the famous Pike's Peak gold mining excitement set in. Before the post office was established at North Bend the few settlers there had to depend on trips by someone to Omaha for their mail facilities.

A money order office has been maintained here since July, 1879, and the first order ever issued from the West Bend post office was in favor of George W. Gray for the sum of $5.50 to be paid at Omaha. O. A. Hough was then the postmaster. Up to 1892 more than 11,000 money orders had been issued from this office. Since then the record is not accessible. For a number of years what was known as the "Postal Note" was also issued from post offices as well as regular money orders.

The postmasters from the establishment of the office to 1892 were:

George J. Turton
Charles Dickinson
Thomas Jones
M. Dowling
J. A. Hough
C. W. Hyatt
H. Williams
J. P. Yost

Since the last named the list of postmasters has included these:

A. L. Norris succeeded Yost, served one year under President Cleveland's administration.
Next was C. A. Long from May 17, 1897, served nine years and one month;
John Cusack then served eight years, ending April 25, 1914, since which time the present postmaster, J. E. Newsom, has been postmaster.

This is a third-class post office and the last year's business amounted to $5,800. Three rural free delivery routes go out from this post office.

Municipal History

North Bend has been twice incorporated into a municipality, first, April 20, 1876, as a village and again in 1886 as a "city." The original village officers were as follows: James H. Hough, M. Dowling, Peter Gillis, C. C. Kendal and A. L. Norris, as trustees; C. W. Hyatt, clerk:

Thomas B. Purcell, treasurer; Jerry Dion, assessor; Duncon Smith, marshal.
The following shows who served on the village board up to the time of reincorporating into a "city":
1877-Trustees: J. H. Hough (chairman), Merriam Dowling, A. Foote, D. M. Strong; clerk, Thomas Love.
1878-Trustees: Milton May (chairman), J. H. Hough, Peter Gillis, C. Cusack, B. P. Rice; clerk, Thomas Love.
1879-Trustees: J. H. Hough (chairman), J. J. Kelser, John Purcell, C. B. Treadwell, C. Cusack; clerk, N. M. Vedder.
1880-Trustees: J. H. Hough (chairman), Peter Gillis, C. Cusack, John Keith, Frank Stouffer; clerk, H. B. Millard.
1881-Trustees: A. J. Kenyon (chairman), F. F. Doubrava, A. Crawford, T. F. Keeton, D. M. Strong; clerk, R. Spence.
1882-Trustees: James Sloss (chairman), Frank Stouffer, Peter Gillis, A. K. Walla, T. F. Keeton; clerk, T. F. Keeton.
1883-Trustees and clerk same as for 1882.
1884-Trustees: Q. B. Skinner (chairman), A. Crawford, D. A. Hopkins, M. Dowling, A. K. Walla; clerk, C. B. Treadwell.
1885-Trustees; O. B. Skinner (chairman), A. K. Walla, J. Purcell, J. B. Foote, H. Williams; clerk, C. B. Treadwell.
1886-During this year the place was incorporated into a "city" since which time the mayors have been as follows:
1886-Q. B. Skinner. 1887-Q. B. Skinner. 1888-D. M. Strong.
1889-A. L. Norris. 1890-A. L. Norris. 1891-Same as for 1890.
1892-M. Dowling.
1892-M. Dowling, mayor; J. E. Newsom, clerk.
1893-T. J. Catterell, mayor; C. K. Watson, clerk.
1894-Spencer Day, mayor; C. K. Watson, clerk.
1895-C. W. Dodge, mayor; C. A. Long, clerk.
1896-Hugh Robinson, mayor; C. A. Long, clerk.
1897-Hugh Robinson, mayor; C. L. Norris, clerk.
1898-J. H. Johnson, mayor; J. C. Newsom, clerk.
1899-Hugh Robinson, mayor; J. C. Newsom, clerk.
1900-C. H. Wolrath, mayor; J. C. Newsom, clerk.
1901-John Cherny, mayor; J. C. Newsom, clerk.
1902-(No record).
1903-D. M. Dodge, mayor; Mr. Main, clerk.
1904-T. B. Percell, mayor; D. M. Dodge, clerk.
1905-T. B. Percell, mayor; D. M. Dodge, clerk.
1906-A. Harvey, mayor; D. M. Dodge, clerk.
1907-T. B. Percell, mayor; F. D. Howe, clerk.
1908-Alex Thorn, mayor; F. D. Howe, clerk.
1909-T. B. Percell, mayor; F. D. Howe, clerk.
1910-L. B. McClaren, mayor; F. D. Howe, clerk.
1911-William Nichol, mayor; F. D. Howe, clerk.
1912-L. B. McClaren, mayor; F. D. Howe, clerk.
1913-L. B. McClaren, mayor; F. D. Howe, clerk.
1914-L. B. McClaren, mayor; F. D. Howe, clerk.
1915-R. C. Brownell, mayor; F. D. Howe, clerk.
1916-R. C. Brownell, mayor; J. C. Newsom, clerk.
1917-R. C. Brownell, mayor; C. K. Wilson, clerk.
1918-Alex Thorn, mayor; J. C. Newsom, clerk.
1919-Alex Thorn, mayor; John Emerson, clerk.
1920-Alex Thom, mayor; John Emerson, clerk.

The present (1920) municipal officers are: Mayor, Alex Thorn; clerk, J. A. Emerson; marshal, D. G. Lehmer; councilmen, C. M. Black, D. F. Carey, Levi Williams, Martin Rees; treasurer, Roy J. Cusack; physician. Doctor Yates.

The place has a good system of water works, is lighted by an electric plant; has good streets with paving put down the present year. These improvements have all cost much money but the taxpayers are not finding fault, knowing that these things must needs all go with the building of a modern city.

A good city building was provided North Bend in 1890, a two-story brick structure on Seventh and Maple streets, costing $6,000. The beginning of the fire department in North Bend was in 1880, when the hook and ladder company was formed, as a safeguard against the ravages of the fire fiend. In 1892 the place had hook and ladder and engine company as well as a hose outfit well handled by competent men. At that day the company of volunteer firemen were all well uniformed and drilled for actual, practical service as fire fighters.

Among the greatest fires in North Bend were those of 1885 and 1892. The former occurred in August, when the southeastern block of the business portion was totally destroyed, but most of the property was well insured, and was soon all rebuilt. The 1892 fire was on September 29th, at 3 o'clock in the morning. This fire destroyed the opera house. First National Bank, post office. Star printing office, as well as other buildings on the west side of Sycamore Street, between sixth and seventh.

Miscellaneous Improvements, Etc.

The first opera house in North Bend was erected in 1884, a fine, large two-story brick block costing $4,000 and seated nearly 500 persons. It stood on the west side of Sycamore Street and was burned in the month of September. 1892.

The real flour mill industry commenced here by the construction of the roller mills in 1890, with a daily capacity of fifty barrels. The proprietors of this plant were York & Thomas, who sold to the firm of Collins & Thomas.

First Platte River Bridge at North Bend was the result of county bonds issued in 1875 to the amount of $10,000, and again another issue in 1880 of $4,000 was voted by the Precinct of North Bend. The bridge was completed and opened to the public in March, 1881. Its total cost was $15,300. It was built by the Union Pacific Company. Prior to this a ferryboat and later a pontoon bridge was used for passage over the Platte between Dodge and Saunders counties. The public park of North Bend consists of two full blocks of land, and is only partly improved as yet, but will in time provide the city with a most attractive spot. Then there is a small tract used for park purposes known as the Union Pacific Parkland belonging to the railway company.

Dodge County | Nebraska AHGP

Source: History of Dodge and Washington Counties, Nebraska, Rev. William H. Buss and Thomas T. Osterman, Volume 1, The American Historical Society, Chicago, 1921.

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