Biography of William Dyer of Fillmore County

William Dyer was born in Hambridge, Somersetshire, England, where he received his education, afterwards going to Glastonbury where he was apprenticed for five years to the dry goods business. He was afterwards employed at Wallingford, then in Hastings for five years; going again to Wallingford where he lived about ten years, prior to his coming to America.

Mr. Dyer’s English associations were of a very interesting kind, but having already given something about Somerset, we confide ourselves to the place where he found his two wives.

Wallingford the birth place of the Sevells, is in Berkshire, pronounced locally “Barkshire,” and is styled the “Royal county” of England because it contains Windsor Castle, the residence of the English King, the royal seat of Frogmore, Cumberland Lodge, and Cranbourn Lodge. It was the scene of many of the most important struggles during early English history.

Probably no particular place in the county has figured more in that history than Wallingford. This town seems to have stood in the forefront, having a past history and glory which none can deny. The beginning of the town is practically unknown, but ancient coins have been found in the neighborhood which dates it back to 150 or 200, B. C.

In known history we find that the town belonged in turns to the Kingdoms of Wessex and Mercia, finally becoming simply a town in England In the ninth century it was the scene of some of the struggles between Alfred (afterwards the Great) and the Danes, the town was burned by the Danes in the tenth century.

The ruins of its ancient Castle stand as witness and evidence of a past glory; it was the home of Wigod the Saxon, who was cupbearer to Edward the Confessor. Being favorable to the Normans, he afterwards accepted a Norman Baron as a son-in-law; Doyley the Baron marrying his only child. The castle being completed by him in 1071 is therefore recognized as a Norman Castle.

The civil war in England was concluded in 1153 by the signing of a treaty outside the walls of this castle. Its last royal occupant was Edward the Black Prince who was the first man to bear the title of “Duke of Cornwall” a title now held by the Prince of Wales. The castle afterwards became a fortress, and in the year 1646 withstood a siege lasting sixty days. Its demolition was ordered in the year 1652.

The town also bears the marks of Roman thought and influence, the neighborhood was said to have been visited by Julius Caesar, and not far distant is the historic Runnymede where King John signed the Magna Charta which gave the English people their liberty, and freed them forever from feudal control, because they had so deliberately “Run-a-muck.”

These, then, are a few of the historical associations of a family who came into these plains to help build a new town (to them) a new world, and the public press of this town has borne testimony to the worthy character and sterling manhood of William Dyer who passed away suddenly in September 1901, and was buried in the Exeter Cemetery.

He came to America in 1871, bringing with him his wife and child (Bert Dyer, Implement Dealer) and came direct to Exeter. He bought some railroad land in Saline County, but in the fall of 1872 he homesteaded on Section 24 in Liberty Township, Fillmore County, where he farmed for several years, and taught school in the district and other places. Railroad land at the time he settled here was worth from $6 to $7 an acre, the same land is now worth at least $130 an acre.

They lived in a dugout until the year 1880 when he built a frame house, but in that year his wife died leaving him five children, in the early days Indians were sometimes seen passing along on their hunting expeditions, the men riding their shaggy mustang ponies, (ponies with long hair) these were fitted up with two long poles reaching behind, on which they carried their camping outfit; and what they were unable to load on the ponies, was carried by the squaws who, in meek subjection walked behind their mounted lords. One day Mrs. Dyer had just finished washing the baby, and had placed it in its crib when on turning round she beheld some Indians standing in the room, they having come into the house very quietly. They wanted permission to hunt beaver along the creek, and also asked for bacon and rice, there were all given “discretion being the better part of valor.” It was her first experience with “the children of the plains.”

On another occasion she was busy making bread, when, on looking round she found three Indians in the room, who as usual had walked noiselessly into the house. They wanted bread which she showed them was not yet baked, but promised that they would receive some by night. When Mr. Dyer returned home from his school and learned of the visit of the Indians, he took them three loaves of bread, carrying them to their camp two miles east along the Turkey creek. These are the experiences of the past; these friends are gone, so are the Indians, let us ponder wisely the gift of life and do good while we can, for as the Omahas taught: Man’s Life is Transitory.

“Mo yho sho gete tho
Mo yho sho gete tho he tho
Ho thi ge de sho gete tho
Mo yho sho gete tho
Mo yho sho gete tho he tho
Sho gete tho he.”

The land, the scene one beholds shall long endure; when I am gone. Therefore said the Omaha Indian: “I shall vanish and be no more but the land over which I row roam shall remain and change not.”

During the great blizzard, the windows and door of the dug-out were completely snowed under, Mr. Dyer and his family lay in bed till twelve o’clock noon wondering when it would be daylight, not knowing it was so late, until they noticed a streak of light shining into the stove; the chimney being a straight one.

He gave up farming in 1887 having already commenced work for the Home Insurance Company of New York, and was located in Exeter, though his insurance interests extended over a very large area. He was recognized as a faithful and industrious worker, doing a large business including Auctioneering, and was at the time of his death serving in the J. N. Cox Store. He was an active worker in the Congregational Church, having been accustomed to have religious influences around his life in the old country; he sought such influences here, and was always endeavoring to comply with the requirements of a true Christian gentleman. It was said at the time of his death that Fillmore County had lost one of her best citizens. His widow (The second Mrs. Dyer) and several of his children still live in the town or district.


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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