The fact that our sister county, Keya Paha, was a part of Brown from February 19, 1883 to November 4, 1884, gives us an active interest in her early settlement and history.
The name “Keya Paha,” meaning in the Indian language, “Turtle Hill,” was given to that portion of our state north of the Niobrara River and the river which traverses it, many years ago. In a communication, dated October 29, 1858, signed C. Randall (from near Fort Randall and printed in the Missouri Republican, of St. Louis) I have found the following: “We travelled up the Turtle Hill river 101 miles having a good road, good grass and wood in large quantities. The Turtle Hill River is a great game country. We saw thousands of buffalo and almost myriads of antelope. The river can be crossed every fifty yards if necessary without bridging or digging. The quick sand is not bad, and in many places there is rock bottom.”
In the same article the Niobrara is described thus: “It is a better game country than the Turtle Hill river region. The banks are steep and high, however, making crossing difficult. It is full of petrifactions, and fossil remains. Almost every coolie or ravine where there is pine or cedar, counts its bands of elk, the ravines and plains are filled with buffalo, and the river with millions of wild geese, ducks and a specie of snipe.” A country such as this writer portrays could not fail to attract adventurers.
Soon after the Sioux Indians were placed on the Rosebud and Pine Ridge reservations, in 1878-’79, the white men began to establish ranches along these two rivers, using the fine upland meadows for grazing. About the year 1877, a large cattle outfit owned by Charles and Henry Tienken had taken up holdings in the western end of what is now Boyd county, a lonely outpost on the frontier at that early date. Other cattle men followed. Of this early settlement Mr. Ross Amspoker of Springview has written: “F. J. Rhodes, the postmaster at Burton, came to this county in the year 1879 with his father, Sam Rhodes, his mother and brother Fred. The family located in 14-34-17.
“At that time the Livingston ranch was located about 1-33-18. W. N. Hudson was a nephew, a part owner and manger of the ranch and Henry Brockman was the foreman. The ranch carried about 2500 cattle, but the hard winter of 18801881 wiped them out and the ranch was abandoned. Henry Brockman settled just east of the present town of Brocksburg. He was a German and a man of much property. W. N. Hudson lived for many years on his ranch south of Brocksburg. He was a man of much ability, was at one time deputy-county clerk, and postmaster at Springview, also interested in the bank, at Burton.
“Other early settlers were Henry Skinner, John Kuhns, Homer Wilson, John Beal, ____ Means, Henry Richardson, Capt. W. F. Tarbell, H. W. Palmer, Milo Goodrich, and John Beeman, all about 1878. R. S. Wooden, Ed H. Monroe, Jules Ancelot and Fred Berlet in 1879. S. and R. Long, John Sullivan, 1880 (the latter quite prominent in Brown county in later years.) In 1881 Frank Dixon, Chas. Larne, Major Hooker, P. P. Haugen. Among the early comers was Louis Hassed and Charles Jewett just east of Meadville (year not found.)
“Due north of Springview was the Hammond Brothers ranch. It is my understanding that they came in 1878. Their holdings included much of the fine hay land that is now part of the Hamilton and John A. Jackson estate lands.
“In 33-35-21 was the M. L. Taylor ranch; he came to this part of the state about 1878 or ’79, and I believe was west of Meadville for a year or so, and then settled at the point above indicated. He was the Capt. Taylor of the Vigilanters. My people came to this country in 1884, and lived within a mile of the Taylor ranch. At that time Taylor went to neighborhood gatherings with a six-gun strapped on. He was a big man with red whiskers just beginning to show gray. Quite a character in a way.
“At the present site of Carns, Capt. W. F. Tarbell operated a ferry in an early day. William Morris established a bridge over the Niobrara which was known by his name. It was in operation as a toll bridge as late as October 1884.
“There were many people moving into this part of the county in 1880 and 1881 with the big settlement in 1882 and 1883.” Ross Amspoker
Heavy losses of cattle in the winter of 1880-81, rumors of a railroad to be built north of the Niobrara, and changing conditions throughout our nation all helped to bring a different class of settlers during the early ’80’s. The majority of them were genuine home-seekers. Some came from as far east as New York and Pennsylvania. Railroad companies were putting out much advertising, promising rich rewards to those who would take chances on life in the west.