John S. Tucker was the first settler on the White River, coming here in the summer of 1882.  The first winter they lived at the head of White River, now the Coffee Ranch.  In the spring they moved down to Soldier Springs, where they lived while building their log house one-half mile below the springs.  They were our nearest neighbors.  In the summer of 1883 Tucker's three grandsons were wading in the branch when they sank in quicksand.  The second boy was a delicate child, and struggling in the vice-grip of the quicksand, he became very frightened and would say to his brothers, "I'll die, I'll die," and he did.  Mr. Tucker was hauling wood, and saw their dog run and look over the bank and bark.  When he got up on the hilltop he looked down and saw the children, and went down and found the one boy dead.  He got a spade and dug them out, as they were waist deep in the treacherous quicksand.  There were no cemeteries at that time and Mr. Tucker went down to the commanding officer at Fort Robinson and got permission to bury the child in the post cemetery.  The grave is one of those marked "unknown."

   In the early spring of 1887, Mr. Tucker and father organized a school district, No. 2 in Sioux county.  Our teacher was Minnie Thomas, second eldest daughter of B. F. Thomas our county superintendent.  The songs we sang in those early days were: "The Dying Cowboy," "Bury Me Not on the Lone Prairie," Falling Leaves," "The Indian Girl."  She was the daughter of a "Big Sioux Chief."

   In the winter of 1890 was the Indian uprising at Pine Ridge agency.  The Indians were having their ghost dances, the "Messiah" was coming, and all kinds of wild rumors were going around.  There were four names on every tongue, McGillcuddy the Indian agent, Captain John Cook, the Indians' friend, Red Cloud, the chief, and Bat the scout.  The people became greatly alarmed.  The state militia was sent to Harrison, rifles were sent to the settlers to protect themselves with, trains load of soldiers, horses, covered army wagons, rushed by our cabin.  Father had been called to Omaha as a witness in a federal case.  This left mother, Harvey and myself alone with a flock of sheep to herd.  We had not felt much afraid until we saw the scouts pass.  Mother had gone to the neighbor's to make arrangements to go to Crawford for groceries and clothing.  Harvey came running to me, "There is a man coming horseback from the west.  He looks like an Indian."  I was slicing potatoes to fry for supper, so I told him to get on the roof of the cabin and watch.  He came right back and said, "Belle, there is another man, coming from the east, and he looks like an Indian, too."  I looked out the cabin window, and they stopped, exchange a few words and went on their respective ways.  I said to Harvey, "I just can't stand this, we will go where mother is."  When we got over to the river, we met mother coming back to the cabin, as mother did not think there was any danger.  She thought if there was some warning would be sent from the post.

   The next morning the Tucker boys came in and told us that the report was the Indians were on Hat Creek and the people were fleeing to Harrison.  We took the sheep out to grass and they took a notion to run and split into two bands.  Harvey took the north side and I took took the southside of the ridge to get them together again.  Suddenly I heard his squalling on the other side.  Of course it was Indians.  O, say! but I was scared.  I could see an Indian behind every tree and rock.  I dashed over to help him and found he had fallen down in a cactus.  His hands were full of spines.  After this mother went with us.  This made things lots worse, work in the house not done, no one in getting the meals or baking bread.  I had worn my shoes out running over the rocks and had to put on a pair of father's which happened to be in the cabin.  This made running harder.  This provisions gave, our wood was getting low and we had an awfully hard time.  I hear Poe's raven quoting, "never more will I pioneer."

   But the main trouble, the battle of Wounded Knee, if we can rightfully call it a battle, was the 31st of December, 1890.  Our mother was indignant about the affair.  "How cruel those poor abused Indians have been treated," she would say.

   The section foreman at that time was a large burly Swede.  He was out in the yard one night about 10 o'clock and heard wildcats screaming up in the hills to the north.  They have a human sound.  He became badly scared, ran to the wood pile, took the axe, dashed into the house and told his people the Indians were up in the north hills screaming.  He had heard them and we must take the rest of the neighbors and start for Fort Robinson at once.  Mother said she would not go, that he had heard wildcats screaming and finally talked him out of the notion.  Father asked Mr. Tucker why he wasn't running from the Indians.  He said, "All my life I have been running from the Indians, and I am not going to run another damned time."  Mr. Tucker was a forty-niner and went to California.  He told us of their hard experiences.  He and family were forced to flee from the Indians down on the Republican River in this state.  It was night.  They had a pet antelope which one of the girls was leading.  It got scared, got away and was never seen again.

   Our first visitor was Charles Gunn.  He stayed all night at our cabin, went on his way the next morning.  We heard nothing more of him until the next winter.  In the intervening time he had been elected sheriff of Converse county, Wyoming, with his office at Lusk, where he was later shot by a desperado, named McCoy, who got away.

   The first wedding in our neighborhood was quite an event.  The groom and his friends went down to Crawford to celebrate, got into a scrape and the bridegroom came home with a black eye.  The first death was Mrs. James.  She was buried in the little cemetery east of Glen, which had just been started.  The first neighbor women were Mrs. Tucker, Mrs. Emma Ferris on Kile Creek, Mrs. Christena Nelson.  Mr. Nelson was section foreman of old "86" section.  They moved in July 5, 1886.  The first serious thing was the death of little Frank Miller at a charivari party at Glen.  The 4th of July, 1889, was the first Fourth we celebrated in Crawford.  We stayed all night at the old Cook hotel, now the Joe Hand barber shop.  The worst blizzard was January 8 or 12, 1888.  Two teachers lost their lives.  Elizabeth Freeman and Etta Shattack, besides school children and others.  The storm raged, the fiercest in the sandhill region but was bad at our place, as we could not go out of the cabin all day.  We had a bad blizzard May 1, 1887, with snow and zero weather.  Lots of horses and cattle died.  We have had two severe hail storms in the fifty years we have lived in Sioux County.  Father and the boys found the railroad bridge washed out at the end of the flood waters and notified the trackmen in time to stop a wreck.  There have been three bad floods.  Mrs. S. D. Bassett of Andrews lost her life in one July 13, 1921.

   And now we come to the saddest happening of our life time.  Our brother Harvey, rode out one lovely Sunday morning, June 16, 1901, to look after some horses ranging in what we called the Red Hill country, south of our place, and he was shot by a cold-blooded murderer, Jim Force.  At the trial the presiding judge, Harrington, and the defense lawyer were brothers.  The state was ably represented by A. W. Crites of Chadron.  The judge made all of the important rulings in favor of his brother.  The defense claimed the murderer was forced to confess to Sheriff Lowery and County Attorney O'Connell, that he committed the wicked deed at the point of a shot gun in the hands of his father, Francis Force.  The mother of the murderer, Mrs. Jane Force, took the oath and without honor or pride, testified that she was the only witness to this shot gun play.  Judge Crites asked her when she first told Lawyer Harrington about this shot-gun affair in their family.  She replied "About a week ago."  Judge Crites addressed Judge Harrington saying, "It has been five months since the murder and none has heard anything about this shotgun play in the bosom of that family until a week ago."  Judge Harrington, still catering to his brother, became very angry at Judge Crites, and although Jim Force was under suspicion of the murder of Louis Standameir, Judge Harrington instructed the jury to acquit the murderer, which was done.  Jim Force was never lawfully and truthfully cleared of the murder, and his station is that of a fugitive from justice.  When the law allows a bold vicious murderer to go like this, the law is placing a low value on human life.

by Lillie Belle Russell



copyright © Dick Taylor, 1996 - 2007   Oldtime Nebraska -- The Tucker Family, submitted by Thelma Nation - February, 1999