May 6, 1871. Omaha Weekly Herald 1(40): 4.
On the North and South Branches of the Loup Fork.
Sir:-A trip up the Platte Valley has been so often and so well described that I will not waste your time in speaking of it. But the adjuncts of it are so pleasant that they are always worth enjoying, and still more worth remembering. The ease, speed and comfort of the Union Pacific railroad, the excellence of accommodation of the cars, the courtesy and attention of the conductors, of whom our friend Sam Holman is the prince, make the hours fly pleasantly as one bowls along over the almost endless plains. Pine & Jamison's hospitable board at Grand Island Station Hotel, satisfied even the requirements of one hundred and fifty hungry travelers. Pawnees, and Chinamen, Utah and California Diggers, stock herdsmen and soldiers, Quakers, Boston merchants, town dandies and country farmers filled the well spread tables groaning with venison, prairie hens and dainties, down to the best stock ale we ever tasted. No wonder all slept the sleep of the righteous after an evening smoke by the stove.
At 7 the coach with four horses drove up to the door, and we ran over the prairie as smooth as a billiard table, to Prairie creek, about six miles. This creek is a deep and rather foul ditch, crawling in serpentine folds over the level plain; on the north bank the ground gradually rises to the sand hills. through which the road winds for eight miles. All this land is well fitted for grazing, being covered with short, sweet grass. It abounds with prairie hens, who rose in dozens at a time as the coach passed. We saw antelope in pairs and threes, several times within shot, and at length emerged, at about one hundred feet descent, into the plains of the South Fork, which runs about three miles off, well fringed with good timber, over which we could see the bluffs of the prairie, in the blue distance. Here, on the verge of the stream, where the Oak Creek and the Turkey Creek fall into the Loup a few rods apart, Lawrence Fleming, the first householder in Howard county, has pitched his boarding house. We supped grandly off game and steaming Irish potatoes; and slept sixteen of us pretty closely packed, as the rain drove outsiders to his friendly shelter. Our first sport was a fight with a badger, who died hard after an hour's plucky defense. We pitched our tent at the fork just above the island, where Mr. Paul is now building the bridge over the Loup, the piling being less difficult there than in most places on this quick-sandy river. A punt is kept here for the convenience of the settlers. A path through some acres of scrubs, leads to the beaver dam which crosses the Turkey creek. Until the last three weeks these solitudes were rarely disturbed. Even now the innumerable flocks of geese, ducks and wild pigeons resent loudly and discordantly the intrusion. They are hardly yet used to the sound of the shot gun of the sing of a rifle ball. From the first bench of ground rises gradually in a plain slope, the second plateau, broken only by the Oak and the Turkey creeks and stretching from the North Fork away down to the South beyond the horizon. There is not much timber on the latter until it pieces the third bench or timber land of the prairie proper, about eight miles from its mouth in a wide, rich valley, well timbered and green with fresh grass. The Oak creek winds first to the South and then south-east to its junction with the Loup. All along its banks are fat meadows, lying about thirty feet below the second bench, and abounding with oak, ash, elm, and hickory, as well as cottonwood, all of considerable size, especially on the islands and promontories, or rather isthmuses, where the creek sweeps round. All this is with the limit of the Railroad land grant, and contains excellent land, both for farming and grazing. It is being rapidly taken up, and by first-class settlers, at $2.50 per acre. Wood and water, both of the best quality, are easily attainable over the whole stretch of this part. Crossing the Turkey northward, the land skirts the bluffs, gently rising to the North Fork. About half-way lies the new settlement being marked out in section three, range ten north, township fifteen west. The soil is excellent, and is being tilled effectually by the new-comers, even up the slopes of the third plateau, the prairies extending one hundred miles westward. Two and one half miles from the county seat is the conference of the two forks. The north bank of the higher branch rises in rich pass to a range of lofty bluffs, and is well fringed with timber. There are several very beautiful islands in it, and we could see a considerable quantity of cedar in the valleys. This North Branch runs much more rapid, and runs between loftier banks than the South Loup; so there are fewer sand bars, which spoils both the look and the usefulness of that river. Here the herds of antelope, deer, etc., come down almost fearlessly to gaze at the strangers. From the tent we shot at all the game we could wish. It is the very paradise of sportsmen for gaming, and in an hour we caught six splendid pickerel. For twenty miles the land lies favorably up the river for farms, numerous creeks running into it on both sides, well supplied with timber for firing as well as building. About sixty men are on the ground, and more than two hundred claims are already registered. Every one seemed satisfied, each man seeming completely persuaded his own was the best location.
As the settlement is only fifty miles from the stock yards, there is no lack of opportunities for cattle and sheep raising, for which this land is extraordinarily well fitted, while for roots, and especially sweet potatoes and melons, it can not be surpassed. We found very good stone, three parts chalk, none of lime, on the north bank, soft at first, but rapidly hardening upon exposure to the atmosphere. Excellent water is found five to eight feet below the surface, so that no requisite for a colony is wanting. Of course use is the first attribute to look for, but beauty is certainly the second; and where, as in this case, a charming view is superadded to good quality of soil and climate, the most exacting settler can be fully satisfied. All sensible men must understand that only an active, industrious man, with means enough to subsist through the first winter, can fairly expect to get on, as there are no sources of supply at hand. A pauper must surely starve, as there is no regular work for laborers yet. But any man who steadily sets to work to prepare his land for next summer, and lives economically, if not hardly and roughly, for the intervening months, can, by the outlay of a couple of hundred dollars, realize a handsome income for his own life, and leave ample provision for his family. While for the additions of scenery, game, and splendid climate, there are few spots in the States equal to the thirty miles lying between the north and south branches of the Loup river.