Biography of William Downey

The Old Downey Home, And the Last "Soddy" in Fillmore County, Neb.
The Old Downey Home, And the Last “Soddy” in Fillmore County, Neb.

William Downey was a native of New York State, and went with his parents to Michigan, where he grew up to manhood, living in Kalamazoo and St. Joseph Counties. He came to Nebraska in May 1871 along with Messrs. Ramsdell, Stephens and Krader, the latter settling in Dodge County. They traveled all the way with wagons and teams, and were six weeks on the road. Mrs. Downey and the children stayed near Lincoln about nine months. Mr. Downey and Mr. Stephens came to this district and sought claims, Mr. Downey homesteading in July on the west half of the north east quarter of section 2, town7, range 1, west, but did not go onto the claim until June, 1872.

A sod house was built in which they lived for some time without a floor, their frame house was built fifteen years later.

When they were on their way to Nebraska they would camp over the Sunday in some suitable place, Mr, Downey being careful not to travel on Sundays. One Saturday they camped near a wood in Iowa where the women did a good washing, but they were told that the place would not be a suitable one in time of a storm, so they decided to travel on Sunday against the protests of Mr. Downey. After traveling twelve miles, they camped about three o’clock in the afternoon near a large wood just previous to the coming of a storm, which they could not see coming owing to the surrounding trees.

Picture of Turkey Creek, Southeast of Exeter, Nebraska
Picture of Turkey Creek, Southeast of Exeter, Nebraska

A spring wagon in which was Mrs. Krader and her twins was placed between two large trees, and they had just got out of the wagon when a large limb fell from one of the trees, and another tree fell over smashing the wagon. Mr. Krader was able to repair the damage, but the time lost for the repairs, (to say nothing of the danger to life and limb) was more than they had tried to gain by their Sunday traveling.

On one occasion a bed had been made on the floor of the sod house, using a buffalo robe, on which was placed the bedding. On the following morning when the bedding was taken up a rattle snake was found among the clothes, which had evidently come into the house through a mouse hole in the sod wall. Needless to say that snake did not make a second visit, Mrs. Downey proving quite able to settle that part of the business.

During the great blizzard, having only a sod chicken coop, they found it necessary to bring the chickens into the house, all of which were carefully placed under the bed. Mr. Downey died on March 30, 1901, since then Mrs. Downey has made her home with her son, Herman, and spending some of her time among the other members of the family.


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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