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J. H. Lemmon

J. H. Lemmon, one of Thayer County's earliest settlers, recorded his memories of the enormous numbers of buffalo in southeast Nebraska about 1860. In a reminiscence published by the Nebraska State Historical Society in 1907, Lemmon recalled buffalo as "so plenty on the Little Blue river and between the Little Blue and Platte rivers that it seemed as though the whole face of the earth was covered with them. . .

"In the year 1860 I had a contract for putting up hay for the stage company, about four miles from Thirty-two Mile creek station where there was a large bottom of fine grass for hay. All the rest of the country was eaten up and tramped into the earth. There was a small creek that ran into the Blue river right at the upper end of this bottom, and the buffalo were just above this. I was afraid they would come down and tramp the grass into the earth, so I took five men on horses and we worked for four hours and did not move them half a mile, only just crowded them a little closer together. We worked away and cut all that bottom, and the buffalo were all that time within three or four hundred yards of us.

"A short time after I finished my hay a couple of men came in from a trapping expedition on some of the creeks that ran into the Republican river, and they told me that they had seen eight head of big, fine horses on a small creek, so I took another man with me and led an extra horse with blankets, feed, and grub and started early in the morning, and when we had gotten one mile from my ranch we ran right into a body of buffalo, We rode on a trot all day, and I am certain that we rode fifty miles and never saw an acre of ground but had from twenty to fifty buffalo on it. We would just make a lane through them not more than fifty yards wide, and it would all be closed up one hundred yards behind us. . . .

"In the year 1861 Ed S. Stokes, the man who killed Jim Fisk in New York [in 1872], came from San Francisco on the stage. He laid over one day at my ranch to take a buffalo hunt. I had a splendid buffalo horse, and I put him on that and I hitched up a couple of pretty good horses to my carriage and we started out.

"We had to go but two or three miles before we came to a small herd. He wanted to kill the buffalo himself. He had two big dragoon revolvers and I had two more in the carriage and a heavy rifle. He started out after the buffalo, and I let my team go and kept pretty close to him. When he got within one hundred yards of the buffalo he commenced to shoot, I told him to let the horse go up close, but he kept back until he unloaded both his revolvers and came back to the carriage for another. I then told him to go up within twenty feet of the buffalo, but he was still afraid and went up to within about forty feet, and at the seventeenth shot he got him down, and then taking my rifle finished him. I have taken the same horse and a revolver and had three buffalo down before it was empty."

(February 2007)



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