Biography of John H. Anderson of York County

Mr. and Mrs. John Spencer Anderson
Mr. and Mrs. John Spencer Anderson, The First Homesteaders in York County, Nebraska, Locating Near Bluevale, in February, 1865.

John H. Anderson came to York County in February of 1865 with his father, John Spencer Anderson, and four brothers. The father was the first to homestead in that county, filing on Section 2, Town 9, Range 1, W. Their home was located on the bottom lands of the Blue, 1 mile west of the Seward County line. When quite young he had to break prairie with 5 yoke of oxen, and had often to go to Nebraska City a distance of 100 miles, driving 2 yoke of oxen. The trip was usually taken 3 times a year, and needed seven days to make it, and sometimes the journey was undertaken to get a new plough shear, or an old one sharpened. During these trips, which were along the Government Freight Road, he would meet trains of as many as 100 Government wagons coming west.

On one occasion he had been to Beaver Creek ploughing and, on returning home with his colts, and when between the Blue and the Government road, an old Indian named “Kee-walk,” a Pawnee with one eye, ran up to him and presenting a revolver tried to frighten him, hoping evidently that he would run away leaving the colts. But young Anderson snatched the revolver out of his hand and made his escape. On reaching home and telling his story a complaint was made, and the Indian had to quit the country.

Mr. Anderson has seen thousands of Indians passing up and down the Blue and could therefore give more stories than are here recorded. The following are selected because they are somewhat different to the others already given, and present to us a new feature of pioneer life.

In December of 1870 he went with a well armed hunting party composed of nine men and five wagons. They made their way up the Blue to the forks, and then crossed over the country to the Republican River, and crossing the old Cottonwood ford, passed on South into Kansas, going up the country between the Sappy and Prairie Dog Rivers. One man had been sent ahead on horseback to find a camping ground and was seen to suddenly stop and turn back. He reported that he had seen nine Indians, and then as soon as they saw him, they jumped onto their ponies, and said he; “They are coming!” The party at once made a barricade with the wagons, the whole arrangement being in charge of Anderson senior, a stalwart Kentuckian.

The Indians soon rode up, and one came near, saying, “We are tame Indians, we won’t hurt you! come with us to wigwams.” After some parleying, they accepted their invitation and went to their camp to spend the night, but someone stood guard, and they were careful to refuse to turn their horses loose with the Indian ponies. In the morning the Indians told them where they would find the buffalos, “they had to go one steep (i, e, sleep or night) and they find heap of buffalo.” The party set out as directed and found as the Indians had said, “heaps of buffalo.”

It was Sunday when they made ready to return, having secured all the meat they could haul. It was getting dark and they were thinking of their night’s rest in preparation for the return journey; when the air was filled with the most unearthly noises. It was as though the whole country was filled with wild Indians and buffalos, which made them feel alarmed, they very naturally wondered what was going to happen to them. Soon a band of Indians came from out the distance, yelping and howling like wild beasts, until the hunting party felt scared. At last one of the Andersons ventured to go and ask what they wanted. It appears that the Indians had lost the location of their wigwams, and this was their method of making the fact known to those in their camp.

They departed for home on the Monday morning, and in three days reached the Republican river but were unable to cross because large quantities of mush ice were floating down, so they camped overnight. The weather became so cold that by morning the river was completely frozen, then by leading the teams and pushing the wagons across the ice, they were able to start again for home, completing the journey in nine days.

The brother, Boon, was working one time near Kearney, when it was reported that the Sioux Indians were coming down to make war with the Omahas and Pawnees. All the men were put on guard and this brother was lying somewhere in the grass armed with a double barreled gun filled with buck shot; when he heard a movement and saw something In the distance at which he fired. There was a rush for the house, but soon all was quiet, and raking up courage to go and investigate as to what had happened they found a calf lying dead.

In April 1869, the first sermon ever preached to the pioneers of York County was delivered by the Rev. Wm. Worley of the M. E. Church in the Anderson home. Another of the early preachers who held services there was the Rev. Colwell of the U. B. Church, a full cousin to Mrs. John H, Anderson, he came on horseback from Swanton, Saline county. Another preacher of that day was Reuben Manning of the Disciple Church, he was a soldier and homesteader, but would preach in the Armstrong sod school house. His chief characteristic was the wearing of a blanket over his shoulders instead of a coat, which he would lay off in the middle of the service.

The social side of life in those days was well developed, and though things were more of the rough and ready order, the people were undoubtedly happy helping toward each others comfort. Mr. Anderson lived for a time near McCool and came to Exeter in 1899, where he is well known as the “dray man.” His son, William, works in the Fillmore County News office, and has charge of the Linotype Machine and makes the type for the setting up and publishing of these stories.


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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