James H. Berryman Family of Merrick County, Nebraska

Shortly after his honorable discharge from the Union Army on the 29th of November, 1865, at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, James Hayden Berryman came to Merrick County and settled in what was then known as Lone Tree, Nebraska, subsequently Central City, in 1866. He was born near Hartford, Kentucky, on June 20, 1837. At the outbreak of the Civil War, he enlisted in the Southern Army and served under General J.C. Breckenridge until he was captured at the Battle of Five Forks, Virginia. He was taken to the Rock Island prison in Illinois where he was kept prisoner for twelve to eighteen months. He then enlisted in the Union Army and was sent west to guard the frontier. At the close of the war, he lived for a brief time at Milford, then came to Lone Tree where he engaged in the mercantile business.

He erected the first frame building, aside from the depot and section house. He built near these two buildings, and his combined residence and business quarters became at first the meeting place for law, circuit riders, and social events. In this building was held the first session of District Court, in charge of Judge Crounse.

James Berryman was married in 1865 to Miss Mary Comstock, who died a short time after marriage. In 1870 he married, in Omaha, Nebraska, Miss Kate Howsley, daughter of Dr. Wm. McNear Howsley and Ann Hardin of Hardin County, Kentucky. To this union, three children were born: Minnie Ola on June 15, 1872, Mabel on June 25, 1875, and Karl Hardin on March 12, 1878. Karl died June 21, 1882, at the age of four years. James’ wife, Kate, died September 27, 1878. In 1879 he married Kate’s sister, Amanda Lutetia Howsley, to which union two children were born, Kate Lillian on July 20, 1880, and James Dana on March 3, 1884.

The mother of Kate and Amanda, Ann Hardin Howsley, lived in the Berryman household the later years of her life and died at Central City on August 17, 1899. The Howsleys had emigrated to Leavenworth, Kansas, sometime after the Civil War. William was an M.D. but became very interested in horticulture during his later years. “September 23, 1905, Mabel married George J. Eoff in Central City.”

G.E. Persinger in his History of Merrick County describes the Berryman house in detail. James Berryman was actively associated with the early development of the county. Since settling there he continuously engaged in the mercantile business, a portion of the time in partnership with his brother, Bell E., and part of the time independently.

Early in life James joined the Methodist church, but in 1890 he became a member of the Friends’ Church. He was faithful and regular in the performance of his religious duties. He was a charter member of the Masonic Lodge in Central City and I believe it early met in the Berryman Store Building. He saw the passing of the era of the stagecoach and the laying of the rails for the Union Pacific Trans-Continental Railroad. Ironically, he was killed by one of the trains while crossing the tracks, carefully watching one and not seeing one switching. This was January 17, 1905. He was sixty-seven years old. The graves are in the family plot in the Central City Cemetery.

Remembering, like a telescope, brings the distant near.

By Evelyn Eoff Sandall Grass

Bell Berryman House
Bell Berryman House


Merrick County Historical Society, History of Merrick County, Nebraska (1981), Volume I, Dallas, Texas : Taylor Publishing Company, 1981.

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