Smiths in Buffalo County
David N. Smith
The Man who Located Kearney
Born in New York in 1810
Worked as land agent for Burlington & Missouri River Railroad
Came to Ft. Kearny in 1871 with friend Asbury Collins (age 61)
Marked spot where B&MRR was to form
junction with U P – Kearney Junction
Purchased land & involved with South
Platte Land Co. which platted town
Died before 1880
James A. & George Smith
First Homesteaders in Kearney
No proven relation to D. N. Smith
Born in Indiana, James in 1841, George in 1843
Attended Wabash Preparatory School and College
James - Attended Wabash Prep 1857-59;
George - Attended Wabash Prep 1858-60
Location unknown until 1871
Probably came to Buffalo County in early 1871.
Filed on land in Section 2-8-16 - now in southeast Kearney
George NE ¼; James NW ¼
Union Pacific track ran through their
Built sod house on line between
claims, possibly at intersection of all 4 quarters
Apparently as part of maneuvering by
the Burlington to own the land in Section 2
As soon as they had proved up their claims in November 1871, they sold them
to D. N. Smith
Living on their property in mid-May 1871 when the Collins family came to
Asbury and his sons came first, found
a place to stay with Smiths
Louisa and a niece arrived on the
train on May 13th.
Louisa has recorded her arrival in
She tells of “James and George Smith from Indiana who were singing and
playing when we arrived.”
Both James and George continued to live here,
James for at least the next six years
George for most of the rest of his
James A Smith
1872 – assessed for personal & property taxes
1876 - Lost election for City Engineer - City Minutes book for April 7, 1876
Buffalo Tales article on arts in
James A. Smith was manager for two plays, to be presented as a money-making
Project for a library.
Kearney Times on Dec. 2, 1876 noted a
“Benefit given for Mr. James A. Smith last Friday.
Success in spite of weather, local people put on play “Tottles”.
1877 – April - listed as officer in the IOGT - probably a fraternal
Sept. 6, 1877 - last reference – newspaper item –
“Shoemaker attached some goods bound
for Cheyenne at UP depot.
Let J.A.S. take boots without paying". (Assumption is Smith’s goods
George E. Smith
Married in 1873, not in Buffalo County
Filed on another piece of land about a mile of north of Kearney (S ½ SE ¼
SE corner of this 80 acres is now the
NW quadrant of 39th & 2nd
He & wife also purchased lots in Kearney Junction and erected buildings on
Lived at the corner of 23rd Street and Avenue D, about 4 blocks east of
George was a real estate agent for the South Platte Land Co.
This was the Burlington’s land
City Clerk off and on from April 1875 to April 1878 and possibly longer.
Must have had a retail store -
news item in May 1877 said he had added a large variety of musical
instruments to his stock
Also listed as real estate, books,
stationery, musical instruments, news depot.
1894 George turned in five ground squirrels to receive a bounty of 3¢ each.
1900 – Insurance agent
1907 Buffalo County atlas as a landowner.
But he had disposed of his land by the time of his death because there is no
Children – 4
Paul – born (date unknown), died 1880
Claude – born 1878; died 1934
Pauline – born 1880; died unknown
4th child unknown; not in census or
Claude became an insurance agent also
Pauline was still living at home in
1900 and working as a bookkeeper.
Sometime between 1900 & 1920 - family moved to Lake Forest, Illinois
1920 (census) –
Claude insurance salesman
Pauline was a secretary for a country
Maybe that is where she met her husband.
1926 she married Dr. Ben Parmenter, a physician.
1921 – Emma died
1923 – George died
Both buried in Kearney by Paul &
1930 (census) – Parmenter household
Ben – Physician
Pauline – at home
Claude Smith – still working for an
insurance company and still single
Described as tall, a long white beard, stood up straight.
Born in Indiana in 1830
Age 24 - went to Iowa, took 400 acres near Des Moines, stayed 2 years,
Omaha - real estate business 2 years
When war broke out, in 1861, he was
in West Va., in the interest of oil wells.
Went back to Iowa, and for several
years taught school
Ten years farming.
Age 49 when he came to Nebraska, Buffalo County in 1874
Brought household goods, six head of horses and grain for his teams and
provisions for his family (3 children – Laura, Mary & Charles) to last a
year to Kearney.
Disposed of one horse in Kearney. (now he had 5)
Went to look for land to claim leaving family in Kearney in rented house
Took a claim in Garfield Township
Floor in Kearney house broke under weight.
Had to move to claim before soddy was built.
Stayed with McGee family at
In crossing the Beaver, near his claim, the wagon containing his household
goods and provisions upset, all his goods were lost in the stream, including
a cook stove, and 3 of his most valuable horses were drowned.”
All crops & garden destroyed the first year by grasshoppers.
He was influenced by railroad advertising to come to this territory.
The ads said cattle could be turned out all winter, live and grow fat on
Brought a herd of 35 registered shorthorn cattle.
Engaged in the cattle business keeping an average of one hundred and fifty
head of registered and grade shorthorns.
December 11, 1878 - appointed first postmaster of post office called Beaver
1886 – Burlington Railroad came
Studied civil engineering
Smith sold to the Lincoln Land
Company a two-thirds interest in the town site of Ravenna
He retained every third lot.
July 23, 1886 – Ravenna, the name change effective
Unofficial version of how the town got its name –
A railroad representative came to
the Smith soddy to discuss establishing a town on their land. They discussed
names such as Smithville and Smithton but could not decide on a name. One of
the Smith daughters was studying her geography lesson at the table. Someone
suggested using the map in the book to find a name. The daughter stuck a
needle in the map. It landed near Ravenna, Italy.