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Centennial History Book

An important part of Farnam’s beginnings were the FARMS

Farming and the production of livestock were and still are important businesses of the Farnam area. Years ago when the settlers first came, farming and ranching were the principal reasons for coming. They came for this land that had not been "taken up" at that time.

There were different ways of acquiring this land. The Homestead Act of 1862 gave, for the first time, the citizens of this country the right to acquire land by paying a small entry fee and living on the land five years and making improvements on the land.

This act gave each settler in the public domain 160 acres of land on condition that he make his home and improve it for five years.

Another method of acquiring land was by taking a tree claim as it was called.

The first timber culture act became a law on March 3, 1873, and under this act a person could acquire a quarter section of land by planting at least 40 acres of trees on the quarter section and cultivating them for eight years, and upon proof thereof a patent would be issued by the government. It also permitted homesteaders who had in cultivation, for a period of two years, at least, one acre of artificial forest for each 16 acres of their homestead to make final proof of three instead of five years. The next year this act was amended so that only 10 acres of trees had to be cultivated on 160 acres of land.

Another method by which land could be acquired was by the Pre-emption Act of 1841.

This act allowed every person over the age of 21 years who was the head of the family, or widow, or single man, a citizen of the United States and who did not own 320 acres of land in the United States to secure 160 acres upon the public domain, by improving it, making his home upon it and paying the government $1.25 per acre. He was allowed one year to make his payment on the land.

The land is farmed with different machinery today, however, when the pioneers farmed, they had the same result in mind that the farmers of today have -- making a living.

Corn was the crop that was important to the pioneers. They not only could use it in a variety of ways for food for themselves and their animals, but it also grew better in the newly broken sod where only grass had grown before. The grass, too, was easier to control in a field of corn than in a field of wheat.

The following are pictures of machinery that were used after the turn of the century in our area in the production of corn.

Fern Clement mowing hay.

Hazens with hay sling, full of hay, ready to be stored for later use.

Ray Harper’s mower

Adkisson’s horses and two two-row cultivators

Corn was the crop that was important to the pioneers. They not only could use it in a variety of ways for food for themselves and their animals, but it also grew better in the newly

One of the Devine boys shucking corn.

Franzens ready to unload their shucked corn. Piling it until it will be shelled.

Horse Power Shelter, shelling corn on old home place
James Emma and Ray Harper shucking corn.
Whitney, 1910.

Hazens shelling corn with gasoline motor.

Hauling corn to market.

Sophie Franzen, 1918, lumber wagon and fly nets on horses.

Hazens shelling corn.

Hazens shredding corn fodder.

After a hardier variety of wheat was introduced, and the newly broken-up land was cleared of the native grass, farmers planted wheat. Also, the wheat didn’t need as rich of a soil as corn did to grow.

A picture story of the harvesting of a wheat crop after the 1900’s is shown here.

Push Binder - Arvel Beery driving header teams, Ed and Minnie Beery and Children.

Power Binder - Claude Clement in harvest time northwest of Farnam.

Fred Franzen with pull type eight-foot binder, 1920’s.

After the binder cut and bound the wheat,
the bundles were put in shocks -- Franzen’s field.

Members of the threshing crew would pitch the bundles
from the shocks into a hayrack.
The next stop was the threshing machine -- in Franzen’s field.

Sometimes the bundles of wheat were put into stacks.
It was threshed here at the stacks -- Tillotsons threshing. Header with header barge.

When a header was used in the wheat field, it cut the heads of wheat off and the heads were elevated into a header wagon. Heading crew of J. A. Harry, John Stedman and Charlie Helms. Pictures are Charlie Harry, Evert Harry, Charlie Helms, J. A. Harry, John Stedman and Oliver Dunbar.

A necessary piece of equipment with every threshing machine was the water wagon.
Roy Heath running the water wagon.

Through the years of early Farnam there were quite a number of threshing machines that harvested the grain.

Bardwell’s threshing machine - Max McNickle and Judd Burrows grain haulers.
Gus Gaudreault pitching bundles. Frank Rupe on separator.

Gardner’s threshing rig -1904

Hazen’s steam engine and thresher

"Daddy" White’s threshing machine and crew.

Bloomquist machine -1920

Threshing crew at Harve McNickles

In the days of the threshing machine a new invention emerged. It combined the processes of threshing wheat - it was the combine.

The first combines were pulled by tractors.
Here’s a Rumley tractor pulling a combine.

Ray Harper’s combine.

Hazen’s John Deere tractor

Bessie McNickle on F-20 Farmall tractor.

First F-20 Farmall tractor sold in Farnam. The buyer was Ed Beery.
The year was 1926.

Jay Rice describes a horse-power threshing machine in the
following article that was much like the one in the picture.

J. B. Rice had a horse power threshing machine in the 1890’s. Dad always drove power, that way he could see what was going on.

The power was powered with either 12 or 14 horses, they went around in circle, possibly 30 feet across, and the driver sat on top of the "power".

The power was connected to the separator, with a "tumbling rod", it drove the separator thru a bevel gear, on the cylinder shaft. The horses stepped over the rod. A man stood in front of the cylinder and "fed" the grain into the machine. In bundle grain there was a couple of (generally) boys who stood on platforms beside the feeder and cut the bands with knives made of a mower section on a wood handle.

The grain was augered out of the bottom of the separator into half bushels that were emptied into the wagon. There was a counter mechanism that totalled the number of pails. The straw came out the rear of the machine, and was carried to the top of the straw pile on a web that was about 48 inches wide, there it was stacked by a man, who usually just kept pushing it off the sides of the stack.

There were always two men who looked after the machine, one would feed part of the time, then the other would take over. Two of dad’s feeders were Tom Caster and Amos Hampson.

When I was eight or nine years old, I cut bands on Rob Lydic’s machine for 50 cents a day. The feeders would change off but they expected the band cutters to work all the time. Each band cutter had a table where the pitchers would place the bundles, and the boy would cut the band and then push it to the side of the table, so the feeder could reach it.

Two important factors of farming today that were not as extensively practiced by our pioneers were fertilization and conservation of the farm lands.

Irrigation, too, has come a long way since it was first introduced in Nebraska. In 1866 it was used to water a vegetable garden near North Platte. This irrigated garden patch was used to furnish corn and vegetables for the soldiers at Fort McPherson and pioneers on their way west. People in the 1880’s couldn’t understand the need for irrigation. They thought wherever the land was farmed or tilled there would be rain. Since the 1800’s were wet years, the people were convinced that irrigation was not for us.

However, there were drouths in 1890 and 1893, and the driest year on record was 1895. Interest in irrigation was gaining.

Along river routes where water was easily obtained and ditched to fields, was the most popular and first place that was able to use irrigation. Later, canals were built which carried water from the mountains and stored water from the lakes. The Farnam area was too far from any of these sources to make use of them, so the people put down wells to furnish their water.

In 1954, there were 11,698 wells in Nebraska irrigating some 697,310 acres.

In the fall of 1954, Ellis Widick put down his first irrigation well. This well was 240 feet deep and pumped about 600 gallons a minute. The water from this well was used to irrigate about one hundred acres of crop land. The corn was irrigated during the summer months and during the off season the land that was in alfalfa was irrigated.

The same year that Ellis had a well put down, which was the first in this area, Harvey Klooz also put one down. Many other farmers and owners have wells now in the area south of Farnam. Irrigation became popular north, east and west of Farnam, also, not only on the flat land but on some land that is quite sloping; not only on the cropland but also on pasture land. In September of 1971 a well was drilled on the Kenneth Bellamy farm that is 750 feet deep. The well pumps 1,000 gallons of water per minute. It took 150 yards of gravel to gravel pack the well and it took 24 hours to drill the well.

When the pioneers that settled around Farnam secured their land, most of them had in mind they were going to make a living and get a deed to their land. This was going to be their home and the home of their children. Due to problems that arose, some were not able to see this dream fulfilled. The thirties seemed to be a stumbling block for many who had been successful in keeping their land that long. The drouth, poor crops, the grasshoppers and sometimes mismanagement, caused the settlers to lose faith and their holdings and leave for what they hoped would be a better tomorrow.

Among the farms that have been kept in the family by a direct lineage through the years from the time they were first homesteaded or first bought from the railroad or the state are: The original homestead of Heb Boyle taken in 1886, SWV4 of Sec. 13-7-26 Horrell Precinct of Frontier County, belongs to Bill and Maxine Hill; Maxine is Heb’s daughter. The land was homesteaded.


The original homestead of C. J. Crampton bought in 1905, NE1/4 of Sec. 36-9-26, Walker Precinct of Lincoln County, belongs to Don Laverne Gaudreault; he is a great grandson of C. J. Crampton. The land was school land that was bought from the state. The Cramptons moved there in 1892.


The original homestead of H. G. Hicks taken in 1884, W1/2 NW1/4 of Sec. 4-7-26 Horrell Precinct of Frontier County, belongs to Mildred Edson and Gerald Hicks; they are grandchildren of H. G. Hicks. The land was homesteaded.


The original homestead of Arthur McNickle bought in 1892, NW1/4 of Sec. 36-9-26, Walker Precinct in Lincoln County, belongs to Dale McNickle; he is the grandson of Arthur McNickle. The land was school land that was bought from the state.


The original homestead of Roswell Reynolds bought in 1882, E1/2 of Sec. 7-9-25, Farnam Precinct of Dawson County, belongs to Dean and Phyllis Reynolds; Dean is Roswell Reynolds’ grandson. The land was bought from the railroad.


The original homestead of J. 0. Tillotson taken in 1885, SE1/4 of Sec. 6-8-25, Plum Creek Precinct of Frontier County, belongs to LeRoy Tillotson; he is the grandson of J. 0. Tillotson. The land was homesteaded.


The original homestead of Frank E. Wilcox taken in 1886, NE1/4 of Sec. 2-9-26, Walker Precinct of Lincoln County, belongs to Russell and Eucillis Wilcox; Russell is the grandson of Frank E. Wilcox.


There are other farms and homesteads that have been kept in the family but not in direct lineage: Land that was homesteaded by Heb and George Boyle belongs to Maxine Hill and grandchildren of Heb Boyle; the Catherine Hicks farm owned by Donald and Evelyn Heath. Evelyn is a grand-niece of Catherine Hicks.; Land belonging to H. G. Hicks and Wm. Hicks, owned by Mildred Edson and Gerald Hicks. They are grandchildren and grand-niece and grand-nephew of the Hicks; Land belonging to Marion Messersmith is owned by Keith and Lea Messersmith. Keith is a grand-nephew of Marion Messersmith; Jay Rice’s farm is owned by Russell and Chariot Williams. Russell and Jay are brother-in-laws; Land owned by Frank Wilcox belongs to his grandson, Russell Wilcox.

Other homesteads that are owned by family members now, but have not continually been kept in the family are: The Anthony Garven farm owned now by Russell and Chariot Williams. Russell is his grandson; The Lonnie Messersmith homestead is now owned by Keith and Lea Messersmith, Keith is his grandson; the William Johnston farm is now owned by John Ralston. John is William Johnston’s grandson.

Some years ago moving was an annual affair for many people as this article from the March, 1928 paper affirms.


March, 1928
The numerous annual changes of renters have been taking place the past few days and we are endeavoring here to make a list of those who are or have moved and the places they are moving to. If your name is omitted from this list, it will be mereTy because we did not know of the change and if you will call our attention to it, we will be glad to mention it next week.

Harry Wilkens is moving onto the E. P. Stewart farm north of town and Robert Zeeh from near Eustis is taking the place vacated by Wilkens. Ray Mackey is moving to the Tunis farm near Ingham and Raymond Mercer of Maywood is moving on the Gaudreault farm vacated by Mackey. C. C. Williams and family are moving to the Jackson place north of Ingham, and Holly Williams to the old Garven place vacated by Williams. Otto Ommert to the J. V. Dawson farm north of town and Elmer Jackson to the Victor Anderson farm vacated by Ommert. R. M. Earhart is moving to the Buss farm vacated by H. Williams and Jim Hoppes to the D. Case farm vacated by Earhart. Claude Clement to the C. R. Peterson farm vacated by D. E. Banks and Harrison McKnight is going on the old Whitney place vacated by Clement. Bud Hathaway is moving to the Adolph Gewecke farm vacated by McKnight. Roscoe Siemiller to the Frank Rylander place northwest of town and Jim Martin to the place vacated by Siemiller. Jim had purchased this place some time ago. Paul Fredericki, of North Platte, is moving on the A. G. Beisner place vacated by Martin. The Henry Kolbet family is moving to a place near McCook. Morris Wyckoff to the Harve McNickle place west of town. Frank Duis to the Burling farm south of town vacated by Starling. Albert Covey to the 0. W. Oman farm northeast of town. J. J. Millers are moving into town and John Miller from Wyoming is moving on the home place. John Franzen is moving from the S. Jones place and will work for his uncle, George Duis. We know there are many others around here that are moving, but have been unable to get full particulars. If we didn’t get mixed up too bad, we may tell you more next week.

From June 15th, 1900 paper: Grasshoppers are so numerous that farmers are experimenting with a "catching" machine. J. B. Kitchen says that he caught eight quarts in a few minutes of small hoppers so small that they are almost invisible to the naked eye. Now is the time to destroy those vicious pests, if each farmer will catch a few gallons now, it will save him hundreds of dollars before the season is past.

Here is a market report taken from the February 16th, 1881 issue of a Dawson County paper: Eggs, 20 cents a dozen; wool, 18 cents a pound; potatoes, 25 cents a bushel; oats, 20 cents a bushel; wheat, 55 cents a bushel; corn, 25 cents a bushel; barley, 20 cents a bushel; onions, 50 cents a bushel; flour, $2.25 per hundred; graham flour, $2.40 per hundred; live hogs, $3.80 per hundred; butter, 15 cents a pound; dried beef, 18 cents a pound; Hams smoked, 17 cents a pound.

The market report for January 25, 1901, had changed considerably in content and in some of the prices from the 1884 market report: Butter, 13-16 cents a pound; eggs, 15 cents a dozen; potatoes, 70 cents a bushel; apples, 40 cents a bushel; buckwheat, five cents a pound; chickens, six cents a pound; turkeys, seven cents a pound; corn, 35 cents a bushel; oats, 30 cents a bushel; wheat, 47-50 cents a bushel; baled hay, 35 cents; hogs, $4.65-$4.75 per hundred; cows, $2.25-$3.00 per hundred; steers, $3.50-$4.50 per hundred; flour, $1.00-$1.10 per hundred; cabbage, three cents a pound; coal, $6.00-$7.25 per hundred; horses and mules, $30 to $100.

Livestock production in our area included rangeland for cattle. Some of the cattle were brought with the settlers when they came and some were bought in large numbers from Texas. Hogs, sheep, chickens and horses were generally brought along with the possessions of the pioneers when they arrived.

Some of the purebred livestock producers in our area were E. W. Crossgrove and Sons, who raised Shorthorn cattle and Duroc hogs. It was said that he had one of the finest herds within the state of Nebraska. The herd was built up from a modest beginning and developed into the pride of the country.

Orvie Stebbins on the left, E. W. Crossgrove on the right with one of Crossgrove’s purebreds.

taken from 1910 paper

The farmers are taking it upon themselves to handle nothing now a days but thoroughbred stock. In the long run it is much cheaper to handle the best graded stock than the common and can get better results. This is what Mr. Crossgrove has found out by his own experience.

E. W. Crossgrove came from Chautauqua County, New York, in 1885. He settled on a farm four and one half miles north and one mile west of Farnam. Eight years ago he started in the thoroughbred stock business and handles the Scotch and Scotch Topped grades.

Nearly every year he takes his best stock to the State Fair in Lincoln and are competed against the finest as there is in the state. He has taken prizes on every trip.

Harold Lehman raised Hereford cattle. Later this operation included his sons, Marvin, Lewis and Jerry. Jerry lives on the home place today and sales are held regularly in January. Roland Lehman raised Hereford cattle. Later this operation included his son-in-law, Raymond Tillotson. Both of the Lehman herds began with a modest beginning as the Crossgrove herd.

When Raymond Tillotson got out of the Armed services, he started raising purebred hereford cattle and had purebred cattle sales for twenty years. One of the highlights of the purebred business was going to Oklahoma and buying a bull from a herd of Nelson Rockefeller. John Wayne flew into this sale and bought the top heifer. They got John Wayne’s autograph at this sale.

Nels Peterson raised Duroc Jersey hogs and had purebred hog sales.

H. B. Taylor raised black Poland China hogs and held sales.

Herb Stilley raised Duroc Jersey hogs.

Art Gaudreaults and Clouatres were also Hereford producers.

Others that raised purebreds were Joe Hicks and Byron Kerr.

There were probably others, however, these were the ones that have been brought to our attention.

Fine horses were also raised around Farnam. The Tillotson family had Percherons and Shires. H. B. Taylor raised Percherons. Heb and George Boyle raised Belgians.

Turkeys and chickens were also raised. Mrs. Ray Harper raised turkeys and sold them.

Published: 8/14/2022 -
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