Biography of Leonard Bradley Sage of Fillmore County

Leonard Bradley Sage left his family safe in Waukisha, Wisconsin, and before Thanksgiving Day, November 1871, was on his way to the South West. He traveled by rail to Lincoln, where he bought a little mule, and on this mule he rode over a large portion of south eastern Nebraska, continuing his traveling throughout December and January, occasionally making his way back to Lincoln for Divine Worship. He left the Nebraska prairies in February, being at that time well covered with a deep snow, and returned to Wisconsin. When the long Wisconsin winter was over and the roads were clear he prepared for his second trip to Nebraska. Having gathered together various farm implements and carpenters tools, he packed them in the bottom of the wagon, the kitchen utensils, bedding, etc., were placed next, then his wife and three small children were seated among these, and having a good strong cover over all he started out about the middle of May 1872.

Mr. Heath of Fall River, Wisconsin, mapped out the route for him, which lay mostly along the old military or government road. He drove a team of mares, and had a boy on horseback to drive his two cows along behind. The weather was beautiful and the load heavy so they journeyed slowly along making between twenty and twenty-five miles a day, but resting on Sundays. The journey was quite uneventful until they were well on their way through Iowa, when they came to a deep swift stream and stopped there for dinner. Mrs. Sage went down the steep bank to the stream for water, and the oldest child intending to go with her ran down the bank going faster and faster until unable to stop, she fell right into the stream, and was being carried swiftly away by the water when her mother who was just below grabbed the child just in time to save her.

When they had left the old military road and almost finished the journey through Iowa, they were overtaken by the first severe storm. Hail fell and rain poured down in torrents, then the wind capsized the wagon in a little ravine. Mr. Sage sprang from the front of the wagon over the horses seizing them by the bits to prevent a runaway. Water ran down the ravine in a good sized stream and poured right through the cover of the wagon. Just before this they were joined by other immigrants traveling to the south and these women helped to pull Mrs. Sage and the babies from among the pillows under the load. Mrs. Sage’s left arm was broken, this happened on Wednesday and they had to travel until Saturday before they came to a place where it could be properly attended to. On the Friday they came to the home of kind Mrs. Yerga who wrapped the broken arm, cared for the babies and fed all the hungry travelers. The next day at Red Oak a doctor gave the arm proper attendance. Mrs. Sage will never forget the grating bones of that arm as she carried it over the top of her head as the wagon jarred along over the rough roads.

After they had crossed the Missouri the other people turned south towards Peru, while they kept on to the west towards Lincoln. They stopped some fifteen or twenty miles the other side of Lincoln, where Mr. Sage did a good big washing, and the next day they arrived in Lincoln and stopped for a short time in the street when her father put his head in the front end of the wagon cover, when they were all very glad to see him.

Mrs. Sage stayed in Lincoln for a few weeks while Mr. Sage came out to the claim, it being the South East quarter of Section 12 in Liberty Township. There were six acres broke on the claim, so he planted beans, potatoes and cucumbers, the beans turned out very well, they sold a good many bushels at seven cents a pound, besides putting up pickles enough for a year. The babies were all sick while in Lincoln, so Mrs. Sage came out to the claim while her arm was still useless, things were not very cozy, but they lived only one moment at a time, and matters soon improved.

A little later Mr. Sage went to Crete and secured a big load of lumber and before long a tiny house went up on the claim with a floor en which as someone remarked, “The neighbors will hear you walk for miles around.” They had brought several things with them such as a barrel of pork, a good many pounds of sugar, etc., so they were quite comfortable that first winter. It was during that winter that they had their first glimpse of their new neighbors, and in the spring when the ladies visited them they were very pleased indeed. Even now after the old home is broken up and Mrs. Sage has left the district, she sometimes thinks of the old times and says, “O for my dear old ‘neighbors!”

She also remembers the visits from the Indians, and how “The pipe of peace” was passed around, and how the “big Indian” tripped his toe and fell headlong over a squash vine as he was chasing down a chicken; much to the amusement of the children.

They were all glad to attend the Sunday school at the J. K. Barber’s sod house, and later the preaching in a sod house not far from the north east corner of his place.

One morning in the early spring as Mr. Sage was looking over the place he came across a nest containing what looked like nine little kittens; every one exactly alike, and thinking to please the children he brought them home, but O! what a disappointment there was when they understood just what they were. These were evidently skunks, sometimes mistakenly called polecats.

One morning he was starting to the field and the children were playing outside when they heard a great commotion and on looking out they saw the little boy’s heels (then nearly two years old) sticking out of a box of lime which lay already prepared for plastering, it was thick and heavy for the hair and sand were mixed in it. He pulled the little fellow out and took him to the tank and had his clothes removed immediately. The blood oozed through what little skin was left on his face, and for a week or two they despaired of his ever seeing again, but he finally same out all right no doubt with the help of the clear air and the bright sunshine of the prairie country.

Mr. Sage has passed to his reward and Mrs. Sage spends her time among her family, and in looking back over the years she remembers that in spite of difficulties and the newness of it all, as long as they were well they were happy.


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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