1890s Sod House in Southern Boone County

Biography of W. H. Miner

W. H. Miner came from Illinois in 1870 and located on the North West quarter of Section 12, Town 8, Range 1, West, and lived through the first summer in a tent, which became a well known land mark and place of call for many of the incoming settlers. That was the time when this country side was one vast open plain without a house or tree, the wild animals being glad of any shade afforded them by the kindly weeds.

An antelope was so enjoying what shads a large sunflower could give when Mr. Miner crept up and shot it, and in that way he secured a supply of good meat.

He had been over to Weeping Water for a load of corn and was within three miles of Cordova on his way home when he got lost in a snow storm; so he dug his way into the snow bank, and crawled in with his blankets, staying there till morning, the horses having to make the best of the situation.

An Irishman named Pat McMann whom he knew in Illinois, was passing over the plains to Colorado and called upon his friend Miner, and when he was going away he left him some nails, seeing his friend Miner would not accept pay for the hospitality. These nails were kept in a tub and Mr. Miner needing some one day put his hand into the tub, as he thought to get some nails, but instead, caught hold of a rattle snake.

The most trying experience for Mr. Miner during those pioneer days was his arrest on a charge of “Riot and Murder,” in connection with the well known Betz and Jones murder trial in Saline county.

William H. Betz and Frank Jones were involved in a dispute through the jumping of a claim, when, during the fight Jones seized a loaded gun and shot Betz. The unfortunate man dying soon afterwards not far from where he received his mortal wound. The particulars are as follows:

Frank Jones and Charlie Hanawalt a bible agent went to Jones‘ claim intending to spend the night, but on reaching the shack they found the Betz‘s in possession with the door locked, so they could not get in. They took their bedding and arranged it, sleeping outside the shack, and on the following morning they set out for Schulyer Jones‘ but met him on the way. He asked them where Betz was and they told him he was in the house, and they could not get him out, Schulyer Jones called them cowards, and said he could get him out, so they all went back and Schulyer put his shoulder against the door and broke it in. Betz then met him with a gun, and he took it from him handing it to Frank Jones, and then threw Betz out of the house. This created a fight in which Betz‘s wife, two boys and two girls joined with pitchforks, hoe and hatchet, intending as they said, “to clean them up.”

Then Frank Jones shot Betz in self defense. After that was over Pitt Jones came to tell the sister and brother-in-law “Karlis” who lived at Miner‘s house, and Mr. Miner hitched up his team and took them over to Jones‘ place. When they got there, they found a Constable and a Justice of the Peace had already arrested F. and S. Jones and Charles Hanawalt.

Mr. Miner then took them to Pleasant Hill and was there summoned to appear as witness, the preliminary examination was held that night, and F. and S. Jones and C. Hanawalt were bound over to the District Court, Chas. Hildreth and W. H. Miner being witnesses to appear at the same.

A day or two before the Court sat, the Deputy Sheriff came and arrested T. Karlis, McCormick and W. H. Miner as prisoners implicated in murder, and they were held at the District Court for the trial, but the trial would not come off till the next year, so they were liberated on their own recognizance’s of $100 to appear when called upon.

They appeared several times but the trial was put off each time, and at last Miner was acquitted, (with others) but it cost him a great deal of unnecessary expense, to say nothing of anxiety and suspense.

On April 13, Mr. Miner went over to Schulyer Jones‘ place as they had arranged to go over to Crete for some fruit trees. It commenced to storm, so Mr. Miner remained there overnight, but the blizzard had set in which lasted three days. After it was over he had to extricate his wagon which stood in fifteen feet of snow, this being finally accomplished by the aid of a team of oxen being hitched to the axle. He returned home and found that the only loss he had there was one chicken.


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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