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PIONEERS, Nebraska

In June, 1855, Phillip and Mary Ann DeLay Starr, with their eight children, accompanied by four wagons containing household and farming equipment, a carriage for the wife and little ones, arrived at their new Nebraska home, three miles north of the present town of Brock, where they pitched their tent on a section of land for which they paid the fabulous sum of $1.25 per acre to Uncle Sam. Besides the family, there were two other men, Barney Starr, a nephew, and Peter White, a friend, both from their neighborhood in Vermillion County, Ill. They crossed the Missouri River by ferry at Brownsville, where they were to receive their mail. Later the Pony Express was established and mail Was left at different places, two of which were Green Bradley and Chas. Heywood. Bradley was the name of the first bridge at Brock. Previous to the building of this bridge, there was a ford at Brock and another one near the county line between Brock and Talmage.

The Starr home was the first meeting place of both church and school in this vicinity. The M.E. Church was organized in their home by Rev. Ray Taylor, a circuit rider, in 1856. This organization is the nucleus of the present M.E. Church at Brock, Nebraska.

In 1867, Rev. Isaac Burnes held a protracted meeting in LaFayette school house and there were 75 additions to the church, among whom were Mr. and Mrs. Lare, Dave and Miriam Kinnison, and Mr. and Mrs, Jacob Good. Mr. Good was the class and song leader. All came to prayer meetings on Thursday nights and attended camp meetings. The different Sunday Schools had picnics, in conjunction with Highland, Charter Oak, LaFayette and other schools, every year on July 4, along the Nemaha River. It was an inspiring sight to see them coming from different directions with Old Glory leading waving in the breeze. Each school displayed a beautiful banner with its name on it and each hoped to win the prize for the best attendance or best singing, Each family brought a well filled basket and every one participated in the singing and the same songs were called for year after year.

The Starr's lived in a tent and covered wagon until they had the house and barn built, which were completed by winter. With ox teams, they hauled the rough lumber from Machicis Island and the finishing lumber from Sidney, Iowa.

They carried chairs, tables and the real necessities for camping when they pitched their tent at night. They always had the dear family worship and used the same family Bible which is used at present Starr reunions and which is sacredly preserved and should be, in the old family cupboard at the Coryell Park.

There being no banks here, this Godly trusting Starr family brought $15,000 to the new home, securely packed in a nail keg and anchored on the front of one of the wagons.

Jacob Delay, brother of Mary Ann Delay Starr, came here in 1854, accompanied by his son John Delay. At the time of their arrival, the inhabitants were expecting an Indian raid and the Starrs were moulding bullets in preparation. They retired at a late hour and at that time Jacob complained of not feeling well. He made an unusual noise and when they reached him, he had passed away. One party stayed with the body and the others went to Nebraska City, some 16 miles distant, to secure a coffin. There was only one house between the Starrs and Nebraska City. Jacob Delay was laid to rest on the hill, which is now LaFayette Cemetery, and which was given by Phillip Starr from the corner of his farm for a burying ground.

Phillip Starr was a rough carpenter and built all of his first buildings. He kept walnut lumber on hand and often made coffins, assisted in preparing people for burial and assisted in any way he could be of service. The coffin lumber was nicely planed and the coffins were put together with bright screws, then varnished.

Phillip Starr was county surveyor and helped Mr. Hacker survey. He also served as road supervisor for 18 years.

His sons, William Henry, Phillip Hewitt and Jakie P. Starr, went on freighting trips to Denver. They went with ox teams and the wagons were loaded with corn. The last trip was made in 1867. At that time there was another Indian uprising and on their way home they saw a man coming toward them, riding as fast as he could and signaling them to stop. As soon as he reached them he shouted, "Turn around and go back to the fort, the Indians have just killed the ranch man ahead." They returned to the fort and were kept at Ft. Cottonwood, later Ft. McPherson, for three weeks before they were allowed to proceed on their homeward journey. When they left the fort, a detachment of soldiers accompanied them as far as what is now Kearney, Nebr.

The folks at home had heard the Indians were on a rampage but since there was no means of letting them know the wagon train was safe, they were greatly concerned about the safety of the men who had gone on this journey and hardly expected to see them again. The men returned while they were having services on Sunday. Needless to say, the church service was cut short and ended in prayers of thankfulness for the safe return of the husbands and fathers.

On this trip, they brought back $1000 for Mrs. Gates, who had sent her corn to be sold, This was in one $1000 green back.

Many times the Indians came thru this part of the country while visiting different reservations but they were always friendly. On one occasion 120 came, marching single file, across the prairie from Talmage, thru LaFayette cemetery, and camped on the Nemaha at Brock.

Another young man who came from the East to take up his abode among the pioneers was E.F. Marcellus, who was converted at one of the great revivals and who became a highly respected and successful minister and a great inspiration to his young associates.

Phillip Starr's wife excelled in weaving, She made the material for the dresses and blankets used by the family. The wool was taken to Ottumwa, Iowa, for carding. She colored it and made a carpet of the yarn left in the loom.

She made her own tallow candles and when coal oil was first introduced and she placed the coal oil lamp on the mantle she remarked "it was too bright, it dazzled their eyes."

In 1865, James Howard, a nephew of Mary Ann Starr, and a soldier in the Civil War, and who was captured and an inmate of Libby Prison, scaled the walls, evaded the bloodhounds, swam the Missouri River at Brownsville. He inquired where Uncle Phillip Starr lived. His own people had moved to Nebraska after he joined the army and the next day, friends took him to Crab Orchard on Yankee Creek to his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Robert Howard.

Mrs. Mary Ann Starr, her two daughters, Susan Jane and Catharine, and her daughter-in-law, Mrs. William Starr, made the first flag in the vicinity. It had 13 stars. Her good husband, Phillip, made the staff, Oregon style, and finished it in cherry color. This flag was last known to be in the Starr & Campbell Hall at Brock, Nebr. The hall was last owned by Mr. Dolph Campbell, son of the late J.M. Campbell, who with the help of his four daughters and his one son will long be remembered by the pioneers of Nemaha County, Nebr. where for several years, he conducted a general merchandise and post office known as the Howard Post Office.

Some very sad incidents are recorded in the history of this village, such as the drowning of Alex Thompson, who lost his life in the whirlpool below the dam and was found after a search of many days in some driftwood not so far below the dam.

The power from this dam was used to turn a sawmill owned by Mr. Sanders, who in trying to extricate some hogs which had strayed under the mill, got caught in the saw and was crushed to death. The wife and daughter left the place soon after the death of Mr. Sanders. Mr. Sanders' daughter had the first melodeon in the vicinity and the family had a Negro servant.

The Nemaha River in those days was a very treacherous stream, overflowing its banks every spring and in 1882 it chased the residents from their homes three times. This finally caused some of the citizens to resolve to "move to the hill."

Many more details could be added to this article and I trust this is not tiresome. I may have made some mistakes, please excuse them.

Mrs. Emma Starr Snodgrass,
only surviving child of Phillip and Mary Ann Starr,
Age 80 years, April 9, 1940.


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