Jacob Longnecker , 8 North 50 West
Thanks to the Longnecker family for this article in the McCook Gazette.
"Two of the early settlers to Red Willow County were John and Katherine Longnecker, who emigrated to Nebraska from Kentucky, in 1872.
John and Katherine had both come from old time, well-to-do Kentucky families. Still, for John, the lure of the new frontier, the stories of the "land of milk and honey" were an attraction that he could not resist. He very much wanted to be a part of the "new empire."
John had come to look over the new land in the fall of 1871 with 10 other young men, who all homesteaded land near the Red Willow Station. Immediately afterwards he returned to his old home in Kentucky, and in February 1872 he married Katherine Owens, three years his senior, and together they embarked on "their perilous journey into a life of hardship and unknown." Katherine "Kate" Longnecker was an intelligent, educated lady, who in later years wrote a very descriptive account of their life in Nebraska.
John and Kate took the railroad to its terminus in Nebraska City, then embarked, via horse-drawn wagon, in the company of one other wagon carrying five men, to their claim in Red Willow County. The first night, nine miles into their journey their horses were spooked by something and ran away. John spent hours searching for the horses, leaving Kate, a new bride, alone in the wagon, in that strange country, with rather rough looking travel companions, whom she had never seen before. But by morning John returned with the lost horses, and the rest of the journey was quite uneventful, and monotonous "the rattling of the harness was the only accompaniment of the tread of the horses feet, over the seemingly pathless prairie ... a precursor of the new life upon which we were entering." Early on in their marriage John and Kate developed a motto, which determined their life in the "new land" -- "We'll take what comes and make the best of it!"
One evening they camped near a spot where a group of immigrants had been slaughtered by Indians. "The sod ruins looked ancient ... the evening was calm and still and we seemed so far from civilization, and the uncanny sense produced by the sun, which seemed to drop suddenly out of sight, and the twilight changed to darkness, with the stars bright but so far off ... I felt the Indians were surely at hand and I could resist my fears no longer."
After two weeks on the trail they reached their destination in Red Willow County and commenced home making. At first "home" was a tent, nine feet square, and they ate on the ground, with newspapers for a table cloth. The cooked their food over the campfire.
Sundays were special occasions and Kate followed an old custom from her old home, by making "powder griddle cakes," a great favorite. One day, just as she finished with the griddle cakes two men rode up and requested that she let them have the griddle cakes. Kate, remembering the manners of her former life, politely obliged. Later she was chided by a neighboring settler for being ignorant of the ways of the west. "Those fellows knew you were a 'tenderfoot' for not charging them for the meal." Only later would she learn that her "griddle cake eaters" had been rich cattlemen who could afford the cakes much better than could she.
After a time the Longnecker tent was enhanced by the addition of a 7-foot square sod kitchen, with a real stove. Kate was able to expand her culinary efforts with "salt-rising bread and ginger cakes." For 14 months Kate and John lived in the tent. Later, the tent was replaced by a sod house, then a log house and finally, a frame wooden house. Through difficult times they lived by their motto, and Kate had a knack for idealizing a situation, which enabled her to "make the best of it without recompense -- tears were all in vain."
When John made one of his long trips for supplies, sometimes being gone for two weeks at a time, Kate kept things going with just the assistance of small children. In the dugout, rattlesnakes were abundant and snakes and worms were the bane of her life. One time, after an Indian scare, the soldiers who came to insure the peace, brought her a bunk bed, made from cottonwood lumber, which allowed her to "rise from the ground to the dignity of a bed above the reach of snakes, bugs and frogs."
Kate never lost her love of fine things, so dear to her in her old home in Kentucky, and thoroughly enjoyed her "nice things," as they gradually became available to her. A table, made from a box, with seats made slabs of a packing crate, the legs made from small limbs of trees was a big improvement in their household. Kate took great pride in keeping her tin-ware bright and shining. In later years there were English Axminster Carpets (the benchmark of English Aristocracy) on Kate's floors. She enjoyed her bric-a-bracs and curios, the oil paintings, Chinese Jade, Wedgewood Lacquer, and Japanese works of art, but nothing ever gave her greater pleasure than that gunny-sack carpet and the few pieces of tin-ware hanging in her first little kitchen.
In the early years, wild game provided a large part of the Longneckers' food supply. The men might be gone for two or three weeks at a time, hunting antelopes and buffalo. One time that the men were gone a prairie fire (frequent in those times) swept the countryside. Kate joined other settlers in fighting the fire. She turned to look back at their sod house, and watched with horror as flames rolled fiercely over the roof of their soddie, where her five little ones were shut inside. The roof of the soddie was timber, covered with thick layers of sod. The grass of the sod was burned off, and the ground around the house was swept bare by the fire, but the children inside the soddie were safe, saved by that native construction material.
Gradually, as more settlers came into the area, a social network came into being, life was more bearable in Red Willow County, especially for the women. Settlers, neighbors all, were quick to help one another in times of supreme need by any one family. Doctors, who had not been available within 100 miles of Red Willow, now came into Indianola, and the railroad alleviated the need for those long trips for supplies. (The coming of the railroad was the source of much interest for the settlers. Mrs. Longnecker told of a time when the railroad first came to Indianola. There had been much talk of the event and the men talked about "the roundhouse," which the women did not understand. When the family visited Indianola to behold the wonderful railroad there was much hilarity when Kate identified a large water tank as "the round house." It made her wary of asking further questions.)
John Longnecker was very active, and a progressive leader in those early days of Red Willow County.
The first Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the County met under the shade of the trees near John Longnecker's sod house. In 1884 John was one of the leaders of the delegation that erected a frame church building -- about a mile from his farm, and as the county developed he served on numerous church and school boards.
Longnecker helped organize the first Farm Grange organization in Red Willow County. As a farmer he became interested in Black Angus cattle, and he introduced the breed to the area with the birth of his first Galloway Black Angus calf in the spring of 1885.
Mr. and Mrs. Longnecker were the parents of six children, four sons and two daughters. Kate died in 1913. John died in 1923. They are buried, side by side, in the Indianola Cemetery. "
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