Biography of Thomas Nugent of Fillmore County

Thomas Nugent came from County Galway, Ireland, in 1866, to Scott County, Iowa, and in the spring of 1871, settled on a homestead south of Exeter, in Liberty Township. He drove a horse team and wagon and brought some cattle along when he came to Nebraska.

Money and employment were scarce in the community, so he would walk for miles through the country to such places as Beatrice and Lincoln, looking for work to help provide a living. He worked on the B. & M. Railroad for some time, grading where the town of Fairmont is now located.

He would at times seek work in the distant west, thus using up the time allowed off his claim. It was during those trips that he experienced some thrilling adventures. On one occasion when returning over the prairies, his mate and he taking turns in driving the team or sleeping in the bottom of the wagon, they were surrounded by a band of 300 or 400 Indians. He knew that two could do little by way of self defense in such a crowd and thinking his end had surely come, it was time to turn his attention upwards. To their great relief one of the Indians rode up and presented a piece of paper by which they made known that they were friendly Indians. They were begging however, and would not accept Buffalo meat; they could kill that for themselves. “Give us bacon!” was their request, then, as we might expect, everything possible was forthcoming, so as to be rid as soon as possible of such a crowd.

In was no uncommon experience to meet with large herds of Buffalo; 500 to 1,000 strong. Mr. Nugent thinks it was a great shame the way these animals were killed off, as it was too often done, not for need, but to satisfy a lust for killing. The dead animals were seldom put to any practical use.

One Sunday a band of Indians came near his homestead, and found their way into Dan Dillan’s Melon patch. An Indian had no more welcome into a melon patch than had a Negro, though he might like melons just as other people do, needless to say, the Indian soon had a “hint” as the young man said, ‘”when the girl’s father lifted him out of the house on the end of his shoe toe,” that his company or his harvesting aid was not required. It may even remain a mystery, “who gave the last blow first.”

Speaking of the great blizzard of 1873, Mr. Nugent was caught out in this, and had to take shelter for three days in a windowless and doorless dugout. It was simply impossible to make his home during the storm, but it may be his native wit presented itself for his consolation, “I would just as soon stop here as remain where I am!”


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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