John E. Fouse of Seward County

John E. Fouse was a native of Philadelphia, Pa., and was a son of Ezekiel Fouse, Professor of Languages in the Philadelphia College. The father had no less than seven languages at his command. John E. married Isabella McMichael who came from, Belfast, Ireland, in 1851, settling in Philadelphia. She was of delicate health at the time she made the memorable ocean voyage of six weeks on board the little sailing vessel “Tonawanda” so much so, that her friends hardly expected she would see America, but she not only survived the ocean voyage, but has passed through the experiences of a ranch keeper’s life; has had a family of twelve children, and now in the eighty second year of her age, she has favored us with a few of the reminiscences of Nebraska’s early days.

They left Philadelphia and came west to Page county, Iowa, where they lived through one winter. Mr. Fouse then set out with a wagon and team for Denver, and when crossing the Nebraska plains was induced to buy some land for which he gave his horses with wagon and load, and, in the year 1865 commenced the famous Fouse Ranch. It was situated between the forks of Beaver Creek and the Blue River, “Minne-to-wank-pala,” near what is now Beaver Crossing, in the south west comer of Seward county near the York County line, and therefore on the old trail of the western route crossing the Beaver Creek.

The house was made of logs with a dirt roof, thirty-six by sixteen feet, near which was an underground stable, the entrance which faced the creek was somewhat hidden from view, there being also a trap door communication from the ranch which provided a way of escape by flight in case of an attack from Indians. The ranch was a favorite stopping place and station for the overland stage coach. It was a lonesome and yet busy life; Mrs. Fouse falling in for a large share of the work, but there were no near neighbors for several years, and the only women she saw were those travelling over the country, or the Indian Squaws.

Every alternate day there was no sleep for the keepers of the ranch, for the stage on that day arrived at midnight, when the hungry travellers looked for the hospitality which was never denied them by “mine host.”

One night an extra stage arrived and eighteen hungry men and women who had been without food for thirty-six hours wanted a meal, there was no meat in the house and nothing was ready. As a result of their pleading. Mrs. Fouse said she might get something gathered up provided they would help; so with the assurance of their assistance she proceeded to the chicken house and secured three chickens, these were prepared and after some patient waiting: the hungry travellers were fed. In appreciation of the kindness shown not one paid less than fifty cents: some refusing to take any change’ out of what they laid down. The “‘Greenbacks” were new them, and one man a southerner, laid down a dollar bill, saying: “I do not want any change out of than Lincoln skin!” we are assured that the travellers calling at the Fouse ranch were always very courteous and kind.

The men were one time up the Beaver making hay when they received’ word that 500 Sioux Indians were on the war path and coming down the county. Mr. Fouse who kept the stage horses, got one of them and providing himself with his rifle (the Sioux name is ‘Ishtahbopopas) went out to meet them, and when within shooting distance, he pointed his ‘Ishtahbopopa’ at the Indians at which they all threw their ‘Ishtahbopopas’ on the ground, saying, “We good Indians,” meaning they were not the “Toka abe do!” i, e, the enemy.

At another time Mr. Fouse had just returned from Nebraska City where he had been to meet Mrs. Fouse’s sister; when he found the whole country side in agitation over a threatened invasion of the Sioux Indians. Many people were leaving for places of safety in the east, so Mrs. Fouse and her sister were sent back with instructions not to stop until they were safe in Iowa,. When they reached the Walnut creek many of the party were so filled with whisky which they had brought along that they could not proceed, but the wagon in which were Mrs. Fouse, her sister, and another woman with three children who had begged to go with them, was hastened on to “Tommy West’s,” and then on to Milford. When three miles from camp they saw what looked like a band of Indians, which seemed to head them off whichever way they turned, besides this; their horses refused to go, and great was the alarm of the women, but when the party came up with them they were found to be white people. They reached Milford, and when the stage arrived from the west it brought word from Mr. Fouse for the party to return as everything was now quiet.

There was a party of five hundred Pawnee braves camped near the ranch and Mr. Fouse provided them with a generous supply of watermelons much to the delight of the dusky warriors; these were soon eaten up “slick and clean.” One evening a party of two hundred Pawnees, who were returning from a buffalo hunt, camped in the grove, and Mr. Fouse for the amusement of his guests played a little joke on the Indians. Gathering together all the shotguns he could find he ran excitedly over the grove crying “Sioux! Sioux!” and handed the guns to the Pawnees presumably for their protection. They soon scattered themselves over the prairie feeling sure that their worst enemies were about to pounce upon them. After a while they found out the joke and returned to camp saying, “Ugh! John no good, heap lie!” They failed to hear the Sioux war cry, “Hi! yip-yip-yip-yip-yip-hiyah!”

One fall a party of Pawnee braves were in camp, and purchased a large dog from a settler that they might hold their preparatory feast and war dance. The sacrifice of a dog was one of their important religious observances, and if possible a white dog was always secured, which was an old time custom; having the significance of sinlessness, the idea is supposed to have descended from the ancient tribes of Israel.

They returned sometime afterwards having several of their number shot and wounded, they built a large fire in the shape of a circle, and sat around it for two days and nights without partaking of food, evidently mourning the result of their expedition. When questioned as to the cause of their misfortunes they replied, “Heap Sioux.”

In giving the following Pawnee Chant, called the “Day Song” let us say first, that this is the only known Pawnee song in Chant form, and second, in trying to understand its meaning we must remember that their lodges were always built with the entrance facing the East. Thus it is that the Sun shines in the lodge and then passes around and then in its rising shines down the chimney, and then passes on to the West to pass from sight.

Day Song

Now behold; hither comes the ray of our father Sun;
it cometh over all the land, passeth in the lodge, us to touch, and give us strength.

Now behold; where alights the ray of our father Sun;
it touches lightly on the rim, the place above the fire, whence the smoke ascends on high.

Now behold; softly creeps the ray of our father Sun;
now o’er the rim it creeps to us, climbs down within the lodge; climbing down, it comes to us.

Now behold; nearer comes the ray of our father Sun;
it reaches now the floor and moves within the open space, walking there, the lodge about.

Now behold where has passed the ray of our father Sun;
around the lodge the ray has passed and left its blessing there, touching us, each one of us.

Now beholds; softly climbs the ray of our father Sun,
it upward climbs, and o’er the rim it passes from the place whence the smoke ascends on high.

Now behold; on the hills the ray of our father Sun;
it lingers there as loath to go, while all the plain is dark, now has gone the ray from us.

Now behold; lost to us the ray of our father Sun;
beyond our sight the ray has gone, returning to the place whence it came to bring us strength.

It may well be recorded here, that the last battle of the Pawnee with the Sioux occurred in what is known as Massacre Canyon, between the Republican and Frenchman rivers, about 10 o’clock on the morning of August 5, 1873. The Sioux taking advantage of the “absence of the Pawnee chiefs” who were away hunting pounced upon the camp using their arrows instead of guns, evidently to save noise, so as not to arrest the attention of the hunters. “Some seventy five of the old men, women and children were killed,” the most notable being Sky Chief and Pawnee Mary, a white woman.

The Indians were always glad to have any kind of dead meat, hogs that had died with cholera, and even poisoned coyotes were acceptable in their bill of fare. It would seem that the process of stewing destroyed all danger in the meat, for no one has ever known of an Indian dying from that kind of feeding.

Mrs. Fouse remembers the sad incident of the two boys named Martin who were attacked by two Indians near Kearney. They were riding on one horse at the time when an arrow was passed through them both,” pinning them together. As they lay on the ground they heard the Indians conversing in English, one asked the other, “Shall we scalp them?” “No!” was the reply, “there is not time. “Shall we give them another arrow?” “No! we shall need all the arrows we have!” These boys often called at the ranch as they passed over the country to Nebraska City. She also remembers the case of the two girls who were carried off and held for a ransom of $1000 a piece, from near the junction of the Piatt road and the Steam Wagon road; the latter known also as “cut off” road, about twenty miles east of Kearney, The Government had to pay the Indians that amount to liberate the girls. The girls had been well treated, money being the only object of the capture. but it was always believed that this business was planned more by the white men living with the Indians, than by the Indians themselves.

A post office was opened at the ranch with Mr. Fouse as postmaster. In the old ranch building was opened the first store in the county, by Thomas Tidale, and the first school organized in 1870 was held in the same old building.

Mr. Fouse served in the Mexican and Civil wars, and died February, 25 1898. Mrs. Fouse lives with her daughter Mrs. Deffenbaugh at Blue Vale.


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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