Chester C. Stephens of Fillmore County

Chester C, Stephens, brother to Mrs. Downey was born in Pennsylvania, but lived for some time in Michigan. He came to Nebraska in 1871, and located on the North West quarter of Section 4, Town 7, Range 1, west. His first home was a dug out, size 10 ft. by 12 ft., close to where his house now stands, such was its construction that he might very reasonably be called one of Nebraska’s early cave dwellers. Before this cave was made he used his wagon cover which was on a good frame as a tent, having it well staked to the ground. One warm night he lay sleeping with the cover up, thoroughly enjoying the prairie air, and as contented as a monarch on his land; when he felt something cold against his face, and on looking up beheld a prairie wolf with its paws upon his bed, and carefully scenting the occupant of the same, while another wolf sat on her haunches a short distance away. He immediately reached out his hand for his revolver, but before he could fire a shot, the unwelcome visitors had made their escape.

On another occasion he was lying in his bed in the dugout with the door wide open, when a wolf made its appearance, and showed signs of a desire for closer investigation, when he got his revolver and fired, but again the shaggy coat made an escape.

About two months after he came to the country he had been busy at the Ramsdell home, and the return help was to be given at his place. Mr. Ramsdell had gone to secure the services of Mr. J. K. Barber, and Mr. Stephens was coming towards his home with “Uncle” Jim Horne, and were travelling in a north westerly direction when they saw a herd of twelve deer coming in a north easterly direction. Snow was falling at the time, the ground being covered, but neither men nor deer changed their course; with the result that they met within twelve feet of each other. The deer seemed quite tame and the men not attempting to interfere with them they walked quietly away. This was one of the most interesting and pleasing experiences of their prairie life, but such pleasures are of the distant past.

In these days the Ramsdell’s were living in the Henry Eberstein house; the same house wherein they had the snowstorm experience already mentioned. On this occasion it was spring time and instead of the snow finding its way into the house it was a large rattle snake that found an entrance and like many others of its tribe was careful to find the bed, where it was found under the bed tick, much to the discomfort of the household. There was only one thing possible for such visitors, and it went the road of its kind.

One of the worst wind storms even experienced in Nebraska by Mr. Stephens was when he tried to make his way from Camden, to a place near Crete, where he had previously camped. He failed to reach the place, and had just crossed the railroad track, and unhitched his team, when the storm came up; such was its violence that he had to use lariat ropes and chains to keep his wagon in place.

It is worthy of note that only two of the homesteaders of Liberty Township now live on their homesteads. Mr. Stephens and Mr. Patrick Murphy carrying that honor. There are two or three other homesteaders who still own their land, but they live in town.

Source

Pioneer Stories of the Pioneers of Fillmore and adjoining Counties, by G. R. McKeith, Press of Fillmore County News, Exeter, Nebraska, 1915.

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