Further History of the Penn Colony of Nebraska

Feature Story April 2003
Further History of the Penn Colony of Nebraska
Written by Elma Heim Griffiths in 1955.
It might be of interest to know that the home place (the eighty where Arthur Heim lives), was bought from Tom Fenton for $2300. The quarter sections now owned by Wesley Heim and Melvin Heim were bought at the same time as the home eighty from speculators for $12.00 per acre. The Joseph G. Heim quarter now occupied by Lloyd Heim was bought in 1879 for $1,050. Land prices took a slump because of the grasshopper years. Eighty acres of this farm were “broke out” the same year and sowed to fall wheat. From that one crop of wheat they were able to pay for the whole quarter and had money besides, wheat at that time yielding about 20 bushels per acre, and selling for $1.25 per bushel.

To present and oncoming generations this might sound like a snap and easy money, so it might be well to state that the prairie sod was plowed with what was called a “sod buster”, a walking plow. It had to lay the sod just right so the grass would rot over winter. The ground was prepared for sowing by horse drawn machinery, the sowing done by hand. The grain was cut with a side rake harvester, and every sheaf bound by hand. The side rake harvester, while a great improvement over all previous methods, was far down the scale, as we know harvesting machinery today. The horse drawn machine cut the grain was which collected on a platform and was raked off by hand into bundles the proper size for a sheaf.

Corn was put in with hand planters which were a great improvement over the hoe but required much stopping and plenty of muscle and
much walking.

It sounds like a tall tale but it is said to be absolute truth that that Joseph G., Sam and their sister Sarah, planted eight acres each a day. The price of corn these years was ten cents a bushel.

The land bought originally for Joseph G., Sam F. and Jonathan Heim and for Emmanuel Ulmer was raw prairie. No fences, hedges, trees, roads or buildings, but having learned not to shun hard work it was not long until the prairie began to be dotted with substantial homes, orchards and windbreaks. Hedges were put in for fences.

Jacob G. Heim made several visits to his old home in Pennsylvania and in Ohio, where he was not too heartily welcomed by some of the older people who were fearful lest his account of the fertile land and no stones might induce their children to also come west. Their fears were well grounded as in March 1879, Mr. And Mrs. John Sippley with their family of Henry, Mollie, Ella and Andrew, and John Gross, who was Mrs. Sippley’s father, came from Bucyrus, Ohio. They bought a farm about a mile east of Jacob G. Heim. John Gross was Mrs. Heim’s uncle.
In the fall of 1879 came Mr. And Mrs. Frederick Marquardt and two sons, John and David. They bought the Alex Coleman farm, now owned by Mr. and Mrs. Arlo Coons, located several miles north of Dawson. Mrs. Marquardt was a half cousin of Mrs. Jacob G. Heim.

In September 1880, Mr. And Mrs. Christian Wuster came, bringing four children, Anna, Henry, Thomas, and Charles. They bought the farm next south of her parents, the Fred Marquardts.

During this winter of 1880, Mr. And Mrs. David Wagner and family of Will, and his wife Kate, George, Sam and Reuben, came. They bought a farm southwest of Dawson. He was a half uncle to Mrs. John Sippley, Mrs. John J. Heim, Mrs. Jacob Ulmer and Johnnie Heim. His wife, Christina (Eckard) was a sister of the “Four Eckards” father and so she was their aunt.

Mr. and Mrs. John “Johnnie” Heim came in May, 1881, bringing their family of six, Rosa, Regina, Jonas, Christ, Linda and Alma. They bought a farm from Tom Fenton which now belongs to Dr. Harlan S. Heim. Along with them came John. J. Heim and Emanuel Ulmer. John J. Heim soon returned to Pennsylvania.

Emanuel Ulmer of Pennsylvania, a young unmarried man (but had already picked the girl) worked for Jacob G. Heim. He soon married Sarah, eldest daughter of the Heims and bought the farm now occupied by Mrs. Charles Wuster. Jacob G. Heim had bought this farm previously for $1600 from a Mr. Rickart and sold it to the Ulmers for $3300, showing the rapid rise in the price of land.

In March 1882, Mr. And Mrs. John J. Heim and family of Lizzie, Jake, Anna, Mary, Israel, Willie, and Lucy, came to Nebraska. They purchased the Henry Allen farm just across the road north of the Jacob G. Heim place, where Lowell Heim now lives.

Henry W. Heim, another unmarried man, whom I suspect, had romantic ideas too, came in 1883 when his uncle, Jacob G. Heim, returned from a visit in Pennsylvania. He worked for his uncle for a short time and then rented the “O’Donnell farm. He married Regina, second daughter of Johnnie Heim. They bought the farm now owned by Alfred Ramsey, east of Dawson. Later they sold this farm and bought the one owned by Johnnie Heim, his father-in-law to be.

In October 1883, Mr. And Mrs. John A. Kerr and family of Minnie, Charles, Emma and Carrie, came from Bucyrus, Ohio. Mrs. Kerr’s sister, Ella Eckard, came with them and later returned to Ohio. They bought a farm a half mile east of Jacob G. Heim’s. Later they sold this and bought another southwest of Dawson. Mrs. Kerr was a granddaughter of John Gross and a cousin, once removed to Mrs. John J. Heim, Johnnie Heim and Mrs. Jacob Ulmer.

In January ’84, Mr. And Mrs. Jacob Ulmer came with their family of Rebecca, Sarah and Solomon. They bought the eighty-acre farm, which now adjoins Dawson on the northeast and also is the next farm south from Jacob G’s place. This farm was purchased from “Uncle Billy” Fenton, Mrs. Ulmer was a sister of Mrs. John J. Heim and Johnnie Heim and as stated previously, related to several other families of the Pennsylvania-Ohio group.

In November 1884, Mrs. Catherine Ulmer (mother of Emanuel Ulmer) came from Pennsylvania with her family of Israel, Sarah and Martin. They bought the farm where Berton Williamson now lives and in 1885 Israel and Martin bought the farm lying across the road from it. This last farm was purchased for $8000 from a Mr. Kiess. This is where the Elmer Thacker family now lives.

In February 1885, Mr. And Mrs. John Eckard of Bucyrus, Ohio, came. John had visited his aunts, Mrs. John Sippley and Mrs. David Wagner, so knew he liked Nebraska. His new bride was a sister of John A. Kerr and he a brother to Mrs. Kerr. He was a cousin once removed to Mrs. Jacob G. Heim through the Gross kinship, and through the Wagners was a cousin once removed to Mrs. John J. Heim, Mrs. Jacob Ulmer and Johnnie Heim.
In March 1886 came Mr. And Mrs. William Stoltz and family of Charles, Jacob, Isaac, Samuel, William F. Ezra and Clara. They came from Pennsylvania and bought a farm several miles northeast of Dawson. Mrs. Stoltz was a niece of Mrs. Catherine Ulmer. She was also related to Mrs. Jacob G. Heim and Jacob Ulmer.

In February 1887, Ella, Emma and George Eckard came from Bucyrus, Ohio. They were young people and were sisters and brother to John Eckard and Mrs. John Kerr. They were also related in some degree to all the other so the colony here.

After this no more families came to make their home here in Nebraska. Land was going up in price quite rapidly and they could not buy without going rather deeply into debt.

As noted all the families mentioned were related to each other in some way and so make up the foundation of the Pennsylvania Colony in Nebraska. Those who came here from Ohio had originally lived in Pennsylvania and had only “stopped off” in Ohio before coming to Nebraska.