Phelps Helps Newsletter Winter 1997

Phelps Helps Newsletter
Holdrege Area Genealogical Society

To Subscribe, Write:
The Holdrege Area Genealogy Club
P.O. Box 164
Holdrege, Phelps County, Nebraska

Vol. 6-4
Winter 1997
The Holdrege Area Genealogy Club
meets at the Phelps County Historical Museum
on the first Monday of the month at 2:00 PM.
The public is welcome!

Phelps Helps Newsletters can be found on the Internet at


1. Janet Kress of Austin, TX

2. Kay Thompson of Orleans, NE

~New on Our Bookshelf~















Three Ring Binders for the Library


I'm sure everyone one who attended the Heritage Quest Workshop on September 13th went home excited about getting started in furthering their genealogy. After the seminar, our speaker Leland Metzner and family spent the weekend at Harlan County Lake and came back to Holdrege on Sunday to research their Harlan county relatives. I know they were pleased with the information they found.

Researchers are continuing to find Holdrege Area Genealogy's data on the internet and contacting our Club for copies of our newsletters and other information.

Renate Emken is a new volunteer in the museum library. She is developing a card file for the P.O.W. Camp Atlanta material. We wish to welcome her to our team of volunteers. When time permits, the office staff, Harry Stuart, Dora Lee Allen and Nadine Lind are producing indexes for much of the material in the library. The library is an active part of the museum because of all the efforts by so many individuals.

An early Merry Christmas to you all.

Sandra Slater, President




Holdrege Area Genealogy Club members have voted to purchase all remaining 1920 Nebraska Census. This will be funded by any remaining funds from the Betty Rae Whitlock Memorial fund and from our club treasury. WE WILL NOW HAVE ALL NEBRASKA FEDERAL AND STATE CENSUS AVAILABLE AT OUR LIBRARY. We will now start to purchase the 1880 Nebraska Soundex for the census. The microfilm is a indexing system to help locate any person on the 1880 Nebraska census much quicker. Thanks to everyone who has helped with this project.



Any member of Holdrege Area Genealogy Club can save $6 on the "Genealogy Bulletin" by purchasing this publication through our club. The Bulletin is sent by bulk mail to our Club and you MUST PICK UP YOUR PUBLICATION AT OUR MEETING OR FROM THE LIBRARY STAFF. The cost of the Bulletin is $12 for six issues. Make your check to Holdrege Area Genealogy Club and give to our treasurer Ada Hinson. Please let Ada know by December 15th as she will have to get the order in before January 1, 1998.


Remember you can help our club by subscribing to the Heritage Quest Magazine through our club. By ordering a regular subscription of $28 through Holdrege Area Genealogy Club, $5 will be given back to the club.




Compiled by Ben Boell, Republican City, NE., Published by Holdrege Area Genealogy Club. ($15.75 including tax plus $4.00 postage and handling)


Includes all Phelps County Cemeteries except Prairie Home Cemetery. ($15.75 tax included plus $2 postage and handling)


Includes Prairie Home Cemetery. (15.75 tax included plus $2 postage and handling).

IMMANUEL LUTHERAN CEMETERY, Harlan County, NE ($3.50 tax included plus $1.25 for postage and handling)




This publication will be an addition to our other cemetery books. Will include corrections and additional burials found since our last publication.

For more information or to purchase any of these publications, contact

The Holdrege Area Genealogy Club

P.O. Box 164

Holdrege, NE 68949






July/August 1997 Issue


William Joseph Barnds, in his history of the Episcopal Church in Nebraska, states that "the first clergyman to serve regularly in the area of Indian Territory which came to be called 'Nebraska' was the Rev. James De Pui, a chaplain to the army at Fort Kearny near Omaha. Bishop Kemper mentioned him together with the Rev. W. Vaux of Fort Laramie in his report to the 1853 General Convention."

Last fall, while doing research for a woman in Oregon trying to document the illness, death, and burial of the daughter of Nicholas Springers daughter Abigail in June of 1852 while on the Oregon of Mormon Trail, I learned of a diary which noted a sad story with a humorous reference. The entries, spelled as written, are as follows: "June 1, 1852, Abigal Springer took sick. Jen 2, A. Springer worst. June 3, went about 12 miles stoped in 1/2 miles of new fort Kerny. A Springer a goodeal worse. got a doctor at the fort. he said she would Dye. June 4, staid all day camped. June 5, Abigal Springer Dyed at about 9 oclock. we burried her at 4 oclock p.m. in the graveyard at fort kearney. June 6, at 11 oclock we had the funeral of A. Springer preached by a pisco palian at the fort. very good. Springers take it very had but they put there trust in the Lord and think it mite be worse."

If you have any questions about the history of the Episcopal Diocese of Nebraska or researching matters in general, please feel free to contact me through the Diocesan office.




P.O. BOX 597



The Peterson/Nelson family arrived together in Phelps County, Nebraska in December, 1883.

Included were the older folks, Ola Nelson, 54, his wife Elna (Larsdotter), 52, and two of their children, Hanna, 26 and Nils 12. Nels Peterson 25, the husband of Hanna and their children, August, 3 and Johanna, 1 1/2, completed the group.

Those two families were from a special area of Sweden from which very few people emigrated to this country. Most of Swedes who came to the US were from Smoland or its neighboring areas further north where the land was relatively poor and rocky and subject to drought.

These people came from Skane at the southern tip of Sweden where the land was rich and easy to work. It was a part of Sweden that had shifted back and forth between Denmark and Sweden as their wars went on. In its architecture and appearance, it looks more like Denmark than the Swedish areas of little red houses further north.

These peoples' speech was heavily influenced by Danish. In Phelps County, the speech of people from Skane was something of a joke. They were kidded and mimicked because of their funny accents by some of their neighbors and friends.

Why these people emigrated and came to Nebraska is a puzzle that probably can never be fully solved at this late date. While Nels Peterson had just been a young worker in Sweden, his father-in-law, Ola Nelson, had been a successful farm manager.

They both worked just north of Kristianstad for the Rabelov Castle estate which owned thousands of acres of nearby land. The estate provided them with living quarters and nearly everything else they needed to get by. They worked hard, earned little and lived their lives around the nearby Fjalkestad Parish church.

But Nels had matured while carrying a heavy burden. He had lived with his parents and sister on a farm called Sladderboda. Since this name was somewhat insulting (meaning "gossip corner"), it was later changed to "Fararp".

On a bitter cold morning shortly before Christmas of 1871, Nel's father, Peter Olson, had taken grain to market at nearby Torsebro. We know there was snow because he took the sled and horses.

The horses and sled returned home later on their own, but without his father. Peter Olson was found later frozen and dead along the road among the empty grain bags. The police records are now missing although there is evidence there was a thorough report made. The local newspaper referred to Peter Olson as "Known for his love of the grape" and reported that "having a lifetime addicted to strong drinks, had probably fallen off in the strong cold".

For a 13-year old boy, such published news must have been a terrible blow. He now not only had lost his father, but had to live with the insults and taunts from the situation. He also had to take over as man-of-the-house and prime supporter, doing the farming to care for his mother, Hanna Oldsdotter, and one-month-old baby brother, August. His sister was dead. He probably would have liked to have been as far away from the area as possible!

As he matured, he met is wife-to-be and apparently developed a close relationship with her father, perhaps even working for him. In 1879, Nels and Hanna were married at Fjalkestad Parish church. By 1882, the two families had put together the money needed to get the whole group of seven people to America. Hanna's sister Elna, was already living in Sioux City, Iowa. Nels mother stayed in Sweden with young August and soon remarried.

The opportunity to come to America was probably just what Nels wanted more than anything. Here he could start over. Here he could get land which was an impossibility in Skane with its huge closely-held estates. And he could avoid the possibility of military conscription in which he as strongly opposed.

At the end of October 1882, all the members of the group left the castle estate and moved to nearby Vinslov Parish, preparing to leaving for America in the spring. In April they signed up for the trip that left from Malmo, Sweden by ferry to Hull, England; across England by train to Liverpool; and then by ship to New York.

Before the end of May, they were in Marcus, Iowa, their original goal, but by the end of 1883, they were in Phelps County, Nebraska.

For 10 years they were "living at various places around the county". In 1884, another son Oscar, was born, followed by Hilma in 1886, Emma in 1888 and Alfred in 1890.

In 1893, Nels was able to purchase 120 acres of Section 15, Township 7, North Range 20 in Garfield Township in Phelps County, Nebraska. First a sod house was built on the newly purchased land, followed a few years later by a wood frame house.

They built their lives around the Westmark Evangelical church. Nels was a faithful member and at various times served as elder, chairman and secretary. (His beautifully-written church records are now at Augustana College in Illinois.) He was particularly interested in missionary work and fought hard against the use of alcohol. He became a citizen in 1906.

Nels Peterson was a very successful farmer who was able to retire at about 54 years-old, shortly after the death of his wife, Hanna. He lived until 1933 and is buried in the cemetery of his beloved Westmark Church. He never returned to Sweden.

No one will ever know the suffering and hardship he went through to build his new life in America, but today, his many descendants are living upstanding lives through Phelps County and other parts of the country.

The stockings are hung

by the chimney with care,

It reminds me of Grandpa's

long underwear.


The family traditions

are all now in place,

I'd love to see the look on

great-grandma's face.


So let's make a toast

to our friends far and near,

and remember our ancestors

who brought us here.

Early Settlers

on Spring Creek

James Sweezey Recalls How

Blizzard Greeted Him

On Arrival Here


(Taken from the Citizen, 1933)


To James Sweezey, who is still a resident of the county, we are indebted for the early history of the settlement on Spring Creek, in the southwest corner of the county.

The creek takes its name from the spring which is the source of the stream, and it has never been known to go dry. The country in this portion of the county is broken and very rough, but the stream is heavily timbered and it was the running water and the timber which attracted the early settlers that way. At a point near James Sweezey's residence, is a huge rock in the bed of the stream which extends from bank to bank. The rock is smooth and flat on top and it makes a fine natural crossing except when the stream is high. Passing over this rock the water falls perpendicularly a distance of four or five feet. From this rock and the water fall the post office and the township have received their names and the names are certainly appropriate as this is the only rock to be found in the county and the same can be said of the waterfall.

It was on this creek that the Indians had their rendezvous, and from there they sallied forth to waylay, murder and scalp and burn the emigrants and the escorts of government trains as they slowly wended their way up the valley of the Platte river, dragging their weary limbs toward the land of gold and a country where winter is never known.

Mr. Sweezey was the first settler within the present limit of Phelps county on Spring Creek, and we give our readers his own story of his life experiences there.

"My first introduction after landing was what is known in the early history of Nebraska as the great 'Easter Storm', which occurred on the 14th day of April, 1873. After getting into a temporary kind of dugout, while trying to get a little rest, our peaceful slumbers were disturbed by the howling of wolves and the roar of an approaching storm, which was soon upon us. It was a perfect tornado of wind and snow, but we crawled into our hole in the ground pulling the hole in after us and passed the night about as the reader may imagine. Morning came at length and after digging my way out through the snow I looked first for my wagon which I found after a diligent search, part in one place and part in another, and its contents scattered to the four winds of heaven. It took a long time to gather them all up.

The storm lasted four days and thousands of cattle and horses on the ranges were frozen to death. This, gentle reader, was our first introduction to our new home in the far west. Soon after this the Red Skins introduced themselves to us. They were Pawnees, and about fifty or a hundred of them were camped near us on the creek. We soon learned to our great relief that they were not very hostile, and their main object was fishing, hunting and begging. They remained but a short time, however, when they broke camp and went to parts unknown.

During the summer of 1873, Samuel Moser, Jacob Moser, Joseph Golladay, John Dagget, Mr. Feaffhopper, William P. Miller, William Whitney and Tom Downing all settled along the creek and took government land. After getting all settled down to business, all commenced to turn over the sod and put in crops. Corn, potatoes and garden truck, all that was planted grew nicely, and our hopes were high and we felt sure of harvesting a fine crop; but in August came the hail storm and the hail was immediately followed by the hungry swarms of grasshoppers. But we did not despair for game was plenty and our powder was dry. Our best hold was beaver, mink, coon, grouse, badgers, rabbits, porcupine, wild turkey, prairie dogs, deer antelope, and buffalo. So you see the game business ran rather high, and we had fun and fresh meat any time we desired.

Some time during the year 1873 the election of county officers was held, but Spring Creek failed to get the notice of the organization of the county and of the election. Some more settlers came in the year, but a good many did not stay with us a great while on account of the drawbacks of the country. The year 1873 ended without any gain to us but on the contrary our finances were very much reduced; but we took courage and pitched in trusting in luck. We had some new recruits to our settlement, which seemed more encouraging, as all of them had means to make a start with.

Our supplies were what troubled us the most, such as seed, wheat, oats, corn, etc.; but we got the seed by going to Lowell or Kearney sixty miles away, by paying exorbitant prices for a very poor article. The journey took four or five days, with good luck, and we had to stop anywhere, wherever night overtook us. Many times we have gone into camp without coffee and slept under wagons. That was what you might call 'roughing it,' but we always got through. It was sixty miles to a grist mill, but we had little use for one.

It was in May, 1874, that buffaloes began to make their appearance, and they were very welcome as our meat-house was nearly empty. Our guns were in good order, and we were prepared to receive them. They came in herds here and there, just as it happened, but not so many as the previous year; but we had no trouble to keep up our supply of meat.

Our crops in the year 1874 promised well and we anticipated a bountiful harvest, but when August came the drouth came and grasshoppers by the million, and we were left again bare-handed, and no work to earn a cent. Our means were exhausted. The neighbors came together for consultation, and it was agreed upon to surrender up our homes and to try it another year. Those who had friends in the east wrote them for help, and some got it but others nothing.

A new means of subsistence now presented itself. A market for bones was advertised at Kearney, and the settlers went to work. These bones made splendid fertilizer, and were ground up and used for that. The price paid was $5 per ton. At this time flour was $5 per hundred, and a load of bones would about buy a hundred pounds of flour. Thus we passed the year 1874."

In the year 1874 three school districts were organized. No. 1 had its headquarters at Rock Falls, but embraced a territory equal to the southwest one-fourth of the county. District No. 2 embraced the northwest one-fourth of the county, and District No. 3 embraced all of townships 7 and 8, ranges 17 and 18. These districts were placed in running order, but as for our friend Sweezey says, "It was hard to make much headway in school matters, owing to the financial condition of the settlers and teachers did not want to teach and trust to providence for pay."

"In the spring of 1875," continued Mr. Sweezey, "the state proposed to furnish wheat to the settlers who would stay and make another effort to raise a crop. After a long delay in getting the seed ready for distribution and then the long, weary trip to Kearney, through mud, which was hub deep, we found a very poor quality of seed wheat and seed corn. However, it was that or nothing, and as 'beggars could not be choosers,' we loaded up and trudged along back. But the season was so far gone that it was too late to sow; but some did put the seed in the ground, while others had it ground up and put it down their throats, and once in a while a feed of it would go into the horses, as they were reduced to skeletons. Some fair crops were raised this year, but not half enough for home consumption."

~Harlan County Nebraska~

NOTE: The Phelps Helps Newsletter highlights Harlan County Nebraska in this section. With many of our subscribers interested in and from Harlan County, and since Harlan County is a connecting county to Phelps County, the Phelps Helps will carry a page of history information on Harlan County.

~ Early Harlan County ~

We found this certificate of Election and card to the Worlds Fair in the museum archives and thought it might be of interest to some of our readers. A small biography of Joel A. Piper in an 1882 Nebraska History Book and the "History of Alma", Nebraska book states that Mr. Piper was born 3 Jun 1851 at Piper's Corners, Ontario, Canada. He was Sheriff of Harlan County in 1875, Superintendent of Public Instruction in 1879 and clerk of Harlan County in 1881. He had come with his father to Nebraska in 1868 farming and teaching in Nemaha County. He came to Harlan County in 1872 homesteaded 320 acres of land in Washington Township. By 1882, he owned 480 acres of Land.

Joel Piper might be most remembered in Harlan County for removing the county records from the County Seat of Melrose which was located a mile west of Orleans, NE. This occurred when Judge Daniel Gantt, sitting at Republican City, ruled that because of an 1871 election, Alma should be ruled the County Seat.

Mr. Piper arrived at Melrose one evening and while an accomplice distracted the guard, someone stole the records and Joel Piper took them to Mr. Cook's dugout at Alma. The town of Alma was named after Mr. Cook's daughter.

Mr. Piper lived in Lincoln, NE for several years and died 22 July 1942 at 92 years of age.

Citizen, April 23, 1931

Permits to Wed Indicate Changing Ideas Since Good Old Days of 70's

Cupid's darts were few and far between way back in the "good old days" that the older generation extols today. At least, the marriage records for Phelps county indicate that Dan Cupid had a hard time finding victims for his fatal shaft.

Since 1871 when Phelps county became a county, the ideas and customs concerning weddings, brides and bridegrooms have undergone some significant changes. Two fires which ruined the court houses of Phelps county in the '70s turned to ashes all the records of the bridal pairs who sought "license to wed" within the county before the fall of 1877.

On October 18, 1877, "Solomon Harris, son of Swan and Annie Harris, white, aged 24, was granted license to wed Emma Johnson, daughter of Gustave and Stina Johnson, white, aged 20" thus begins the opening entry in the official records existing for and in Phelps county today.

Along with the records of marriage licenses of those early years, were the few probate notices, the filing of bonds for county officials and any and all legal procedure within the office of the probate judge.

Turning the yellowed pages of carefully written, long-hand notices, one discovered that the early marriage records were kept simply and with little questioning.

Jacob Danielson, pastor of "Swedish Evangelical Lutheran Mission Church," according to his own hand as to his official status, performed all marriages on record in the county that year -- Miss Johnson has the distinction of being the only bride listed on the records of Phelps county for the year of 1877.

Business for the judge picked up considerably for the next year, however, he was called upon to issue four licenses during the twelve-months period.

Seventeen-year-old Hilda Johnson became the bride of Gustave Danielson on a May morning of 1878, the second wedding on record in Phelps county. The proud husband was 29 -- old enough to rule his bride with a firm hand.

And June, the month of brides, had its bride, for Augusta Granlund, 19, was wedded to Aaron Johnson, 26, during the early part of the month.

July 13 saw J. Lewis march to the court house to get a license to wed Lila Nelson and on November 7, the judge issued a permit to wed John Olson, 21, and Caroline Aspelin, 23. Facts of that marriage were out of ordinary, for in that year and succeeding years the records show the husbands, as a rule, chose brides several years their junior.

Nor was it unusual for a bride be ten years younger than her master. The young spouses ranged from 1(?) to 37 and the husbands of those early years ranged from 19 to 39.

Business doubled during the year of 1879 when eight couples were wed in Phelps county, the marriage records show.

In the year 1900, 74 couples were granted licenses to wed, with the brides ranging from 16 to 43 and their husbands from 20 to 60.

Records thus far in 1931 show that only two brides in Phelps county have been under 21 and a lone bride groom needed consent of his parents or guardian for his marriage.

From the simple, handwritten records of 1877 through a series of stages the marriage license recordings have gone. On the more recent records, the names of the contracting parties, places of birth, names and birthplaces of their parents, names of witnesses, place and date of marriage as well as of the issue of the license are required. Occupations of both the husband and wife must be stated on the application, while in the olden days it was taken for granted that the bride was a "lady" -- participating in nothing more unmaidenly than dish washing or cooking.

Citizen, December 6, 1928


Jolly old Santas have already appeared in many merchants' windows, advertisements are beginning to appear in frames of holly and mistletoe, and even the weather man is beginning to suggest to the observant that the Christmas season is close at hand. Sooner or later, everybody, young and old, will be engaged in Christmas shopping - for the holiday is less than 18 shopping days ahead.

The natural procrastinator will wait until Christmas eve when store aisles will be jammed by other procrastinators, stocks picked over, clerks weary, and customers in a flutter all because the remainders of today have been neglected. Every year the more sensible shoppers do their Christmas buying early. They reap the advantages of variety in selection and leisure of choice and when Christmas eve comes it finds them well-pleased, unflurried, and ready to enjoy the holiday.

The advertisements are full of holiday gift suggestions, and it would be well to get out your pencil and paper to make a list of your needs which can be nicely supplied by the local dealers from their holiday stocks.

Thanks for stopping by!

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