Jonathan A. Horton of Fillmore County

Jonathan A. Horton is a native of Pennsylvania, as was his Father, who also homesteaded in this neighborhood, but his paternal Grandfather came from England. Mr. Horton lived for some time in Illinois, and came from there with his wife to Nebraska in a covered wagon, homesteading on Section 2, Township 8, Range 2, on November 23, 1870, and has lived there continuously ever since.

He built a sod house in which he lived for eleven years before moving into the present frame building. He gave an acre of land for a School lot, whereon was built a sod school house which did service for many years, both for a School and a Church, the building I believe was put up by the people as much for a Church as for the School.

As a result of the Services held in the district by the Rev. D. S. Warner of Ohio, there was organized a “Church of God,” with twenty-five members, Mr. Horton being elected an Elder along with Jacob M. Witter, (another Pioneer from Pennsylvania, coming Nov. 25, 1871), Samuel Bair and George W. Helms, were at the same time appointed Deacons. This Church carried on a successful work for many years, Mr. Horton being a leading spirit in its operations. Though it has ceased to exist as an organized body, Mr. Horton still claims membership in the denomination, and holds the records of the local church.

When friends began to die, and a burial ground was needed, he very graciously gave the land for a cemetery; wherein are sleeping many loved ones of the Horton district.

Since those earlier years the present frame School house has been used for religious services by different denominations, the United Brethren were strong there for a time, after which the Methodist Episcopal people held services and carried on a successful Epworth League Society. The Rev. W. B. Payne, Congregational Minister, preached there during his pastorate in Exeter, and was followed by the Rev. G. W. Stone, Baptist Minister, then, after several months without any services, the Rev. G. R. McKeith Congregational Church, Exeter, commenced services which are now held every alternate Sunday. A Sunday School along undenominational lines is successfully conducted every week for nine months each year.

During the pioneer years, Mr. Horton, like many of his compeers had to travel many miles seeking work to help make a living, and had often to camp alone on the open prairie. At other times he would fell timber; saw and chop it into stove wood, then haul it to Lincoln, when after finding a purchased he received the magnificent sum of $4, but $4 was not to be despised in those days.

As a result of his timber felling, he had the misfortune to cut his leg, destroying the use of the main leaders, he was laid up for three months, and retains a “mark”, which as a man said, with a similar misfortune “He will carry with him to the grave.”

Mr. Horton can tell many interesting stories about the wild animals of the Prairies, a few of which are here given.

Mr. Aaron B. Stonerook, another pioneer who homesteaded November 23, 1871, and has since gone to his reward, told Mr. Horton that he had never seen an Antelope; this was probably owing to his being very short sighted. One day they were on the prairie together, when Mr. Horton saw in the distance an Antelope making its way towards them, and knowing that as they seldom changed their course it would be a good opportunity for Mr. Stonerook to see one, so asking him if he would like to see an Antelope and receiving an answer in the affirmative; he drew him aside, had him crouch down on the grass, and told him to watch, then, as the animal drew very near them, Mr. Horton asked, “Can you see it?” “Yes!” said Mr. Stonerook, “I can see its eyes!”

One day Mr. Horton and Mr. Dave Kelly (a pioneer who homesteaded March 10, 1871) were out ploughing to make a fire break; the work was being done with two yoke of Oxen, when to their astonishment, two elks came up, and remained for some time within ten steps of the men.

It is well to put on record Mr. Horton’s observations regarding these animals and their movements. “The Antelope always ran in a straight line; While the Elk ran a zig zag course.”

On another occasion he was out with his half brother, Samuel Bair, (who homesteaded at the same time as Mr. Horton)’ when they saw two Antelopes and two Fawns, thinking they could catch the Fawns they jerked the harness off the horses, jumped onto their bare backs and started the chase. After following them for several miles, the animals, playing them many pranks, often being “so near and yet so far” they were glad to return home without the coveted prize.

Mr. Horton went with Mr. D. R. Bivens one time into Clay County, a distance of 40 miles to secure a harvester, and on the return journey, when between Fairmont and home, they were overtaken by a storm. The thunder and lightning were terrific, (after reports showed that some animals were killed and horses had the hair scorched off their backs, so severe was the storm.) The night was so dark they decided to leave the harvester and horses on the prairie, and make their way home afoot; having unharnessed and tethered the horses, they took hold of hands and struck out for home, and after walking for an hour they found themselves back to where they had started; more like drowning rats than ought else. The storm abated somewhat and they made a second attempt, this time reaching home. It is sometimes said in stormy weather, “Blessed is the man who hasn’t a home to go to,” seeing he is already there!

A sight which made Mr. Horton feel rather uncomfortable, if not nervous was when he saw a colony of about 100 snakes in a hollow place near the Indian Creek. It seemed that all the varieties of local snakes had gathered there that day, Rattle, Garter, Bull, Water, and Grass snakes, none of which was he anxious to be acquainted with, so he passed on as quietly and as quickly as possible.


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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