Sunday, April 7, 2013

Sunday Stories: Jens Neils Jensen



From the little far away village of Skads, Denmark near the harbor city of Esbjerg, came a young marine soldier in the early spring of 1878 by the names of Jens Neils Jensen to seek a new home in the Midwest of the United States of America. It took about two weeks to make the journey, coming through Boston, the port of entry, at that time. By the time he reached Grand Island, Nebraska, his pockets were empty. He could not speak a word of English but finally got a job on the U.P. section and boarded with the boss at Willow Island, who were Danes by the name of Andrew Johnson.

The immigrant wanted to farm and own land, and he met an old Civil War vet who had filed ona homestead, located in what was to be south Lincoln County on Fox Creek. The Union soldier actually did not care too much about going ahead with the homestead so he gave his number to the young Dane, who went to see the land, and then to the land office at North Platte to make application.

His first living quarters were “washouts” or “dugouts” with poles, brush, hay and dirt over them for a roof, a homemade door and a tiny window.

He got a leave of absence from the homestead so that he could herd sheep in western Nebraska and eastern Wyoming for a season or two.

View of the canyons in the Fox Creek vicinity
Through his influence, one of his sisters and her family came over the next spring and took a homestead very close by. Later the Andrew Johnson family came over from Willow Island and took land next to him, on down Fox Creek.

His first well was shallow and a wooden pump and wooden square well pipes, made from poplar wood, was used for many years.

Effenbeck Road, in southern Lincoln County
in the vicinity of Fox Creek
The nearest towns, at that time, were Indianola or North Platte. The highline of the B and M railroad came through in 1886, on which was located the town of Curtis, about 10 miles south of his land.

He was the first man, with the assistance of his neighbors, to build a high bridge over Fox Creek. The cedar log pilings were hauled from up in the canyons to the north. Being “any man’s land”, they got them for the cutting. He had a little stallion and promised the men of the neighborhood to breed their mares free, if they would haul the logs and help, and they were happy to do it. The women brought and served dinner at his bachelor quarters while the bridge was being built, in the late 80’s or 90’s. Heretofore, they had low bridges or forded the creek. The year of 1915 was one of the rainy years, and a big flood took out the Cedar log bridge, then larger and higher bridges were put in by the County because a County road had been put through the farm.

In 1896 Jens married Nellie May Swink from Iowa, who lived with an aunt near Moorefield. The family consisted of three children: William, Marie and Ellen.

Sign commemorating early homestead in
southern Lincoln County
In the spring of 1910, he and his wife made a three month trip to his native land of Denmark to see his relatives, but his parents had passed on long before.

He held the office of Gate Keeper in the Grange as long as it was held at the Fox Creek School.
He was a great reader, self-taught in English, especially interested in travel stories and followed several writers around the world, Frank G. Carpenter, and others.

Through the years, many changes were made, but all worked together to make the homestead a better place, even a showplace of the vicinity. Mrs. Jensen was known far and wide for her many flowers and shrubs. You could almost say that there never was a time that she did not have flowers in bloom, either in-doors or out.

The big barn was built in 1911-12. The lower part was of cement blocks made right on the site, from the sand pits that underlay the big hill behind the barn and house. The house was put up in 1915.

Over the years, Jens and his family developed one of the finest farms in this section and contributed much to the development of the prosperous and progressive farm community, in which the ranch was one of the outstanding farm homes.

Mr. Jensen was one of the earliest pioneers in the section and lived continuously on his beloved Fox Creek Pioneer Farm for 54 years.

All of his relatives in America gathered August, 1932, to celebrate his 80th birthday, and a short time later, on November 17, 1932, he quietly passed on. Mrs. Jensen celebrated her 80th year, and a number of years later, passed on August 17, 1966.

The above history was submitted by Mrs. Marie Littlefield.

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