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History comes to life in Oak

The Capture of an Iron Horse

'He's gone racing'

Candidates seeking soybean board seat


History comes to life in Oak

Oak is a village of 50 persons located near the Little Blue River in north eastern Nuckolls County. Rich in pioneer history, it had its beginning as a station on the Oregon Trail and Pony Express routes.
The original town of Oak consisted of four houses, a church and general store which also served as the community post office, The town was located on the south side of the river, south Oak Grove Ranch near where the Oak Mill stood for many years. The ranch was located on the north side of the river.
In September of 1888, a railroad line connecting Superior and Fremont was built through Nuckolls County and the village was moved to the present location which was located along what was to become the Chicago & Northwestern Railroad.
The traditional route of the Pony Express passes through the center of the community.
The Oak area and its position on the Oregon Trail was the setting for a number of historical events important to the western settlement of this country dating to 1813. The area first saw the fur trappers and traders, Oregon migration, California Gold Rush, Pony Express, stage and freight lines, the government moving men and supplies to the west and in addition hordes of settlers simply going west to make a new life.
On Saturday, July 26, the 150th anniversary of the Native American Indian Raids will be re-enacted.
The raids are depicted as close to the actual circumstances as possible. The Native Americans had become alarmed at the number of settlers moving west and were fighting to save their land which was being overtaken by the pioneers.
Near the actual sites of four the Indian raids narrators will talk about the details of the events which occurred there. Tours will depart from near the Oak Community Church at one hour intervals. The first tour will leave at 1 p.m. Additonal tours will leave at 2 and 3 p.m.
The approximately 20 mile long tour route will be guided as participants follow in their vehicles. Along the route are various sites of interest which will be noted and talked about in the brochure each vehicle will receive before departing from Oak.
The first site will be "The Narrows." This site was so named because there was just room for a wagon to pass between the bluffs and the river below. To the east of this point is a monument the State of Nebraska erected in 1912 to pinpoint and record for historical reasons the exact location of the Narrows.
Ruts are still visible showing where the wagons passed along the trail. It was at "The Narrows" where five pioneers where attacked by Native Americans. The women in the group were taken captive only to be returned
months later.
The "Little Blue Station" is the second stop. At this location wagons were destroyed by the Native Americans but the Little Blue Station survived. One of only two stage stations left standing along the 200 mile stretch from Kiowa, Neb., to Julesburg, Colo., after the coordinated Indian attack of 1864.
The "Robert Emery Station" tour participants will be told about a stage driver, named Robert Emery, who saw the Indians waiting in ambush, wheeled his stage coach around and headed back toward a wagon train. His quick thinking saved the lives on board the stage and also gave this station it's name.
The Comstock family, the county's first permanent settlers, made the Oak Grove Ranch not only their home but a stop for the stage line, and Pony Express. The Comstocks could also be relied on to provide food, shelter, and supplies for the steady flow of migrators traveling the what then was the equivalent of today's interstate highway.
During the raid family members were killed and the station burned.
The four stations featured on the tour with narrators are given only a sampling of the historical events which make Oak such an important part of Nebraska history.
Both a Nebraska Historical Marker and a National Pony Express marker are located in Oak's Oregon Trail Park.


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The Capture of an Iron Horse
By "The Cowboy" Jim Gray
Ed. note: Following is the second of four guest articles by Mr. Gray intended to help spread the word about the annual Oregon Trail reenactments scheduled for July 26 in Oak. This marks the 150th anniversary of the raids that occurred in Oak and across the region.
General Hancock's campaign to force peace upon the plains tribes backfired when the Cheyenne chose to fight for their way of life. The fires of war ignited across Kansas. Raids brought the stage and freighting business to a halt along the Santa Fe and Smoky Hill Trails. Construction of the Union Pacific Eastern Division Railroad in west central Kansas was briefly discontinued to be resumed only with military protection.
The Cheyenne and Sioux knew no state boundaries. The only borders they recognized were the natural course of rivers. With that in mind the war of 1867 was not confined to the state of Kansas but extended across the Great Plains all the way to the Powder River in Montana.
The Cheyenne turned north from the Hancock debacle to raid along the Smoky Hill Trail. From there they moved north to the Platte River and turned east along a freighting trail known as the Nebraska City Road.
Neighbors were gathered together for harvest on July 24 when a horseman charged into the field with dire news. Indians were attacking settlers in the area. Peter Campbell and his oldest son, John, were amongst the harvesters. Campbell and his family had come from Scotland in 1865. Mrs. Campbell died not long after the move in January of 1866. The widowed Campbell carried on, raising their six children by himself. While he and John were harvesting, the other five children remained at home, tending to daily chores. The harvesters immediately started for their homes. Time moves so slowly when trouble is near and even more slowly when death is at the door.
Peter and John Campbell finally reached the Warren cabin one quarter of a mile from their own home. Mrs. Warren and her infant son lay dead at the threshold of the cabin. A 14 year old son was found wounded but alive.
Rushing on to the Campbell cabin, Mr. Campbell and his son found the place destroyed and abandoned. While searching through the ruins a neighbor arrived with news that nine-year-old Agnes Campbell had hidden in a field of grain. Agnes had witnessed the capture of her two brothers and two sisters and got away safely by crawling for a quarter of a mile unseen before running another four miles for help.
West of the Campbell cabin Hepzibah and Anna Martin were paying a neighborly visit to a new neighbor, Charles Jerome, only a short distance from the Martin Ranch. The girls had just left Jerome's cabin to return home when a band of Indians attempted to capture them. The commotion alerted Mr. Jerome, who being only a short distance away shot at one of the Indians, knocking him from his pony. The warrior's companions carried him away and the Martin girls were saved.
A week later a Cheyenne raiding party led by a Dog Soldier leader known as Turkey Leg barricaded the tracks, derailing a Union Pacific train west of Plum Creek (Lexington), Neb. The engineer and fireman were killed on impact. A linesman, William Thompson, and a crew of five section hands were sent out to repair the track but they also were derailed. The section men were all killed and scalped. Thompson was scalped and left for dead. As he lay helplessly by, another train traveling eastbound crashed into the barricade. The entire crew was killed.
The booty taken from the trains must have seemed like a treasure trove to the Dog Soldier warriors. There were bolts of fabric, top hats, wool pants, and Spencer carbine rifles. And there was liquor. As the warriors celebrated in high style they overlooked the light of life that was still burning in the broken body of William Thompson. He survived the ordeal and eventually went back to work for the railroad.
Major Frank North and 35 Pawnee Scouts were dispatched to the scene of the attack to find and punish the marauding band. The Pawnees tracked Turkey Leg's band and in a running battle killed 17 warriors and scattered the rest over the plains. A Cheyenne woman and a nephew of Turkey Leg were taken captive.
The captured Campbell children were recovered in an exchange for the two Cheyenne captives taken from Turkey Leg's band. They had suffered greatly from hunger and ill treatment during their two month ordeal. Counting his blessings, Peter Campbell moved eastward into the safer surroundings of Saunders County, Neb., where he and his children could grow old and recount their harrowing tale of captivity on The Way West.
"The Cowboy," Jim Gray is author of Desperate Seed: Ellsworth Kansas on the Violent Frontier and also publishes Kansas Cowboy, Old West history from a Kansas perspective. Contact Kansas Cowboy, Box 62, Ellsworth, Kan., 67439, or by email to

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'He's gone racing'
By Juli Jones
Saturday didn't turn out as planned for Superior area racing fans as they hoped their favorite driver would add another big win on the Belleville High Banks but it was a day for dirt track racing fans to take notice of the Jon Thompson Racing Team.
Thompson, a longtime resident of the Superior area is in his 30th year racing and is well known at Midwestern tracks, especially the '81 Speedway at Wichita, Junction Motor Speedway at McCool Junction, and the Belleville High Banks.
The Belleville track is known as the world's fastest half-mile dirt track. It is a challenging track and puts fear in the hearts of many drivers but not Jon. He appears to be a fearless, aggressive driver who enjoys driving a car to its limits.
Saturday night Jon and his team went to Belleville with high hopes. Even though his 700 horsepower engine failed during the heat races, he managed to place third using a smaller engine. His fans went wild when it was his turn to speak at the podium. He promised them that his team would be defend their 2013 championship title at the Labor Day Show this September.
Jon said 1999 was game and career changing year for him. Jon is also a farmer and while driving his tractor he developed an idea for a new suspension set-up for his race car chassis. He and his crew applied the idea and "It changed everything." He went from being the head of a "no-name team" to head a team that dominated everywhere they went.
In 2002 Jon Thompson Racing claimed the coveted IMCA National Championship at Boone, Iowa. Goal setting and working together is important and something Jon has done both in racing and in the operation of Jon Thompson Farms.
At the beginning of 2002 the Thompson crew set their goal to win the national championship. It was a season of continual hard work that paid off with the title.
Since then the team has entered as many as 70 races a year and brought home many trophies. Crew members include Jon Combs, crew chief, Blake Drohman, Travis Cantrell and Bob Hines.
Racing is a costly sport for the contestants and the crew has the assistance of several sponsors including Jon Thompson Farms, Drohman Farms, Doniphan, Rural Gas, Belleville, B&B Farms, Burr Oak, Combs & Combs, Superior, Thompson Racing Engines, Superior, Shoes Etc., and Stonz Jewelry, Downs, BRB Accounting Services, Belleville, Diamond Lime, Edgar, and Kevin and Brenda Sherwin, Geneva.
The love of racing generally begins early in a racer's life.
Like NASCAR's Jeff Gordon, Thompson got his start in go-karts. At age 9, he went to a local go-kart track and watched the races. As he watched the desire to be a driver grew. Friends let him drive their karts and soon he was asking his dad for a kart of his own. The answer was yes on the condition Jon proved he had a serious interest in the sport by earning the money to pay for the chassis and body. If so, his dad agreed to provide the engine.
So Jon started mowing lawns, helping at the Superior sale barn, herding cattle and raising piglets. He saved his money in anticipation of purchasing his first fast go-kart chassis. Eldon Thompson, Jon's dad was a machinist by trade. He kept his word and built a motor. They put the kart together and Jon went racing.
In order to drive a race car, Jon had to first obtain a driver's license. On his 16th birthday in 1984, he passed the test and received a Nebraska motor vehicle driver's license and went racing at the Speed Bowl track at Red Cloud, that night. The Speed Bowl closed in 2010 but Jon retains fond memories of the track. He recalls he could drive his car to its limit and the "exciting race atmosphere" offered by the Speed Bowl.
His interest in racing never faltered though sometimes it meant missing out on social activities. Combs, a crew member since 1993, said anytime someone asked why Jon was missing from a group function, the answer was always, "He's gone racing."
Jon has raced several different types of dirt track cars including street stock, hobby stock, NASCAR sportsman, late models and since 1996 modifieds.
Fans line up at every race and wait for an opportunity to talk with Jon and get his autograph. Jon is a favorite driver not only because he is a winner but because he is committed to taking care of his fans. He makes interacting with them before and after the races a priority. He remembers when he was just a fan and want to make the experience worthwhile for his fans.
The support of fans, family and friends is essential for every race car driver. Jon's grandmother, Athelda is 92 and still enjoys watching her grandson race. His father, Eldon, continuous to builds engines.
For more information about the season, fans may follow Jon on his Facebook page at

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Candidates seeking soybean board seat
Election ballots for the Nebraska Soybean Board District 7 will be mailed on Friday to soybean producers in Nuckolls, Webster, Clay, Adams, Buffalo, Franklin, Hall, and Kearney counties. Producers eligible to vote in the election must produce soybeans, be a resident of the district and pay the soybean checkoff. Qualified producers who do not receive a ballot by July 18 may call 402-466-1969 to request a ballot. The voting producer must sign and print their full name and home town on the return ballot envelope for their vote to be valid. Ballots must be post marked by July 31.
The elected directors will serve a three-year term beginning Oct. 1 and ending Sept. 30, 2017. NSB Directors are reimbursed for expenses incurred while carrying out board business.
Candidates include Keith Keller, Harvard, Bill Miller, Upland, and Ron Pavelka, Glenvil,
Election results will be announced in August.
The nine-member Nebraska Soybean Board collects and disburses the Nebraska share of funds generated by the one half of one percent times the net sales price per bushel of soybeans sold. Nebraska soybean checkoff funds are invested in research, education, domestic and foreign markets, including new uses for soybeans and soybean products.

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