Job Hathaway, Willard Payne and Elam Wilcox of Fillmore County

Job Hathaway, Willard Payne and Elma Wilcox came together in the spring of 1871, from Greenwood, Illinois, making the journey with covered wagons. They settled on section 30, one mile west of town, the other quarter of the section was taken later by the Rev. Ingham. In due course Mrs. Hathaway came west, and was met by her husband at Lincoln, coming from there to Exeter in a covered wagon.

Mr. Payne built a frame house in the middle of the section, so that a portion of it was on each claim, and they all lived in the one house; each homesteader having his particular corner, and in this way met the requirements of the law by sleeping on his own land. This house ultimately became the property of Mr. Hathaway.

On one occasion a man came up to the house on horseback and asked for a night’s lodging. Mr. Hathaway was away from home and Mrs. Hathaway did not like the idea of having the strange man in the house, so she asked Mr. Payne what he thought about it, and he, looking the man over, thought it would be all right as the man looked respectable. The man slept with Mr. Payne, and sometime during the night, Mrs. Hathaway was alarmed to hear that Payne was receiving a good pounding and shouting to the man, ” you donned old fool.” The fight seemed so real, that Mrs. Hathaway jumped through the bedroom window; but leaving the baby behind her in bed, and was making her way to the neighbor’s when she heard the call “come back lady! come back lady!” It appears that the strange man had been dreaming about a fight, and in his sleep had commenced to let fly at Mr. Payne. Needless to say, the man was full of apologies for the unhappy event, but it hindered Mrs. Hathaway from ever again taking a stranger into the house.

Another homesteader of the neighborhood was named Clark, he had been a shipbuilder in England, but having read in newspaper advertisements a glowing account about this country being a “Land of Eden;” had made his way hither with his wife and two sons. They are described as a cultured people, having moved in good society, and had received on leaving England some very valuable presents including a Silver Tray beautifully engraved and bearing their name. Their experience here was undoubtedly a rough one and certainly not in keeping with their past associations. The conditions of life were entirely different from what they had expected, and they knew little about farming, and especially pioneer farming. During the winter, owing to the severe weather, and the scarcity of their farm improvements, they kept a cow in the house to help ‘keep it alive. They had a sister who came to them, she was met at the Depot by Mr. Payne who had taken along for her convenience a hayrack. The young lady on seeing the kind of conveyance awaiting her, said; “that’s the queerest chaise I ever saw!”

This young lady and one of the sons soon died, and are buried in the Exeter Cemetery. Mr. and Mrs. Clark who were getting along in years, felt they could not meet the demands of the new conditions at their time of life, and the remaining son had a desire to follow the sea as a profession; so they sold out after remaining here about two years and returned to England. It is believed that the son who returned with them eventually went to sea and was drowned at the West Indies. Mr. and Mrs. Hathaway moved to Lincoln some years ago, where he for a time was a chief in the City Police, a position which he honorably filled, and which he liked. He passed away ten years ago and Mrs. Hathaway still makes her home in Lincoln.


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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