could be Buffalo's crossing the platte

 Research Papers

Today is:

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; college 1859-61
        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 claims.
        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 Kearney.

        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 her diary.

        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 life.

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 early Kearney
                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 organization

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 attached.)

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 26-9-16).
        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 them.

Lived at the corner of 23rd Street and Avenue D, about 4 blocks east of downtown

George was a real estate agent for the South Platte Land Co.
        This was the Burlington’s land company.

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 probate record.

Children – 4
        Paul – born (date unknown), died 1880
        Claude – born 1878; died 1934
        Pauline – born 1880; died unknown after 1930
        4th child unknown; not in census or cemetery

        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) –

        George retired
        Claude insurance salesman
        Pauline was a secretary for a country club.
                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 & later Claude

1930 (census) – Parmenter household

        Ben – Physician
        Pauline – at home
        Claude Smith – still working for an insurance company and still single

Erastus Smith

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
        Traveling salesman
        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 Sweetwater.

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 Buffalo grass.

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 Creek.

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.


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