Mr. and Mrs. John K. Barber of Fillmore County

Mr. and Mrs. John K. Barber came to this neighborhood from Woodstock, Illinois, with a wagon and team. They were five weeks on the road, and were laid up one week because of bad weather. They arrived here on October 14, 1870. When upon recommendation he bought a filing without going to see the land. They used a sod shanty near the Turkey Creek, until their Dugout home, dugout barn, and cellar were ready for use, this being accomplished, they entered the new home in January, 1871.

They soon opened their home for religious purposes, and had the first preaching service held in Fillmore County, the Rev. Whiting, a Free Methodist, being the preacher. In their home was organized the first Sunday School in the County, a Mr. Snowdon coming from Lincoln, for that purpose, he bringing with him some twenty volumes of books to commence a library. After some months the preaching service and Sunday School were moved to the Mount Zion School House, where the Free Methodists carried on the work, the room often being packed full for the preaching.

Their first year of farming was not very encouraging, they had planted Sod Corn, Buckwheat, Squash, Turnips and Beans. Everything looked promising until a hail storm struck the farm, which dashed everything to pieces, excepting the turnips. This was in the month of July, the ‘hailstones being as large as pigeons eggs. Then it was that Mr. Barber longed for the old home and would have returned had it not been for Mrs. Barber refusing. She believed they could fight it out, so they remained and have made good. In spite of drawbacks they were able to have “high” living in those days, at any rate they can boast of having Venison for food; this was considered so good that some Esau came round when the Barbers were away from home and stole half of the precious “deer.” Mr. Barber also killed two Antelopes and received a share of Buffalo meat from Palmer Lancaster, this Mr. Lancaster, on one occasion, secured, with his own and Mr. Barber’s shot gun, thirteen out of a flock of fourteen wild Geese. During these early days the Geese and Cranes were so numerous that he paid a man one dollar a day to kill them off, otherwise there would have been no crops.

It was no uncommon thin^ to have their home full of passing strangers, this of course meant a pull on their larder callers were usually fed. The Indians would often call, begging for “meat”, they must have heard of the good game caught near this homestead.

The Barbers like others suffered with the grasshoppers. The day of their arrival was very hot, even the meadow larks sought shade in the houses, then, what appeared to be a black cloud was seen to the North, and making its way in a South Westerly direction, grasshoppers began to fall and in twenty minutes the ground was covered, devastation, began, and soon everything green in the garden was eaten, the vines were stripped clean, and a beautiful cornfield of 100 acres was soon nothing but a patch of short coin stalks. Mr. Barber tried to save a cabbage patch by covering it with straw, but it was found the grasshoppers had made their way underneath, and only stalks remained, so he set fire to the straw, many thousands of grasshoppers perishing in the conflagration.

Mr. Barber helped to organize Fillmore County, this taking place in Mr. McCalla’s dug-out. He also helped to secure the placing of the County seat at Geneva; having the help of the Germans living in the South Eastern portion of the County in deciding the deal.


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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