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Early pioneer, farmer, early county government lead


Washington Mallory Hinman, was born September 14, 1819, at Wysox, Bradford County, Pennsylvania. He was the son of Abner Curtis Hinman and Augusta York Hinman. Abner Hinman had been the grand master of Pennsylvania for the Independent Order of Good Templars for many years. "The Hinman family were pioneer settlers of that state, all of the male members taking part in the Revolutionary war, Indian wars, etc." The brother of Washington Hinman, Hon. Beach I. Hinman, was the pioneer attorney of North Platte, Nebraska, and represented the district in the Nebraska state legislature. Two brothers served the Union in the Civil War, and lost their lives in battle or in prison.

Washington Hinman first passed through Nebraska on his way to California in 1849. He was one of those who were seeking the gold fields. "A St. Louis firm had employed him to go to Vancouver and Oregon to set up and install steam sawmills, paying him for this work sixteen dollars per day. These mills were shipped around the Horn, and this trip took him all along the coast from British Columbia to Panama in those pioneer days, and he saw a great many interesting sights and had many exciting experiences. He afterwards was sent by the United States government to install a steam sawmill plant at Laramie, Wyoming. He returned from California in 1854, and two years later located at Cottonwood Springs, near Fort McPherson. On his ranch four miles east of Cottonwood Springs, he opened a general supply store for the travelers passing over the California trail, and also installed a steam saw and shingle mill and blacksmith shop on his farm, often employing many men in this business. In the course of a few years, he had a farm of nearly two hundred and fifty acres, fenced with cedar posts and rails. "He was remarkably successful, the yield of crops being very great. Potatoes and vegetables were, however, the principal crops raised, and with the immense travel over this route, the market was always good. His prices were high, and the profits were enormous. "

Besides his dealings with the freighters and ranchmen, he became an Indian interpreter at Fort Cottonwood, attending all conferences between the chiefs and the government. He was hired at a salary of $50 per month and rations. He was present as interpreter at a meeting of the Brule and Ogallala Sioux with the commander of Fort Cottonwood on June 8, 1864. Present at that meeting were Sioux chief's O-A-Sheu-Cha or Bad Wound, Con-qu-num-pa or Two Crows, Zo-lah or Whistler, Cut-tig-a-lisha or Spotted Tail, Two Strikes, Long Face, and Little Thunder.

"From the very first, his trade with the Indians was great. The Indians are particularly fond of vegetables of all kinds, and would pay almost any price, trading their ponies and furs for them. Mr. Hinman tells us that one season some eighty lodges of Indians camped near his farm, and so passionately fond were they of vegetables, that they remained until they had literally traded everything they possessed that was of the least possible value. On this farm also were planted a large number of forest trees and an extensive orchard. These trees all thrived, and their growth and development was wonderful until in the summer of 1864 a flood of the Platte River destroyed them."

During September, 1864, a number of men were working at or near the farm of W. M. Hinman, when they were surprised and killed. About the same time, while a squad of soldiers in charge of Capt. Mitchell, were out in the bluffs near the fort, gathering plums, they were surprised by the Indians, and a number of the soldiers were killed and scalped. The first outbreak of the war was at Plum Creek, on the 8th of August, 1864, when a wagon train was captured, and a general massacre occurred. As a result of these troubles, prices of supplies rapidly went up. A large beef contract was entered into by the officer in command at Fort McPherson, with Mr. Hinman, to furnish a large number of cattle at 18 cents per pound.

What is now known as Lincoln County was first organized as a county under the old Territorial government of Nebraska, in 1860. Cottonwood Springs was made the county seat, and W. Hinman was Treasurer of the Shorter County.

In 1866, steps were taken to re-organize old Shorter County, as the first organization had no effect so far as the government of the county was concerned. The officers elected in 1860 having failed, with two or three exceptions, to qualify, and no other election having been held, the organization of the county was practically of no effect.

On September 3, 1866, a meeting was held and arrangements made to re-organize Shorter county under the name of Lincoln, in accordance with the Territorial laws of Nebraska, as this was before Nebraska became a State. An election was called for the 9th day of the following October. The early records are so incomplete that it is impossible to give the names of all the officers elected at this time, but W. M. Hinman was elected a Commissioner. The county seat was continued at Cottonwood Springs.

About this time W. M. Hinman built a saw-mill near Cottonwood Springs, where he did a large business with the Union Pacific Railroad was then being constructed through the county, and the canyons south of the Platte had abundant cedar timber. He had the contract for supplying for sawing all the shingles used on the buildings at Fort Cottonwood. One voucher in possession of the family was made out for fourteen thousand dollars. He also had a subcontract to supply wood to Fort A. D. Russell in 1867 and 1868. Mr. Hinman also opened a billiard and ten-pin hall, the first west of Columbus.

At a meeting of the County Commissioners, an election was called for the purpose of electing officers and to consider the proposition of removing the county seat from Cottonwood Springs to North Platte. This election was held October 8, 1867 and the county seat was voted to be located at North Platte. A total number of twenty-one votes were cast. The officers elected included W.H. Hinman, judge. In accordance with the result of this election, the county records were removed to North Platte on November 12, 1867. There was no court house at this time, and each officer kept his records at his own home, while the Commissioners held their meetings at the log house, used as a residence, of W. M. Hinman, who had that fall removed to North Platte.

In the fall of 1867 thousands of Indians met at North Platte, where Mr. Hinman had resided since 1866. He had sold out his ranch and taken his mills to South Pass, Wyoming. In 1872, he brought them back to the Republican River valley in Red Willow County. Had homesteaded and preempted four hundred acres two and a half miles west of Indianola.

In 1872, an article in the Nebraska City News, written Royal Buck concerning news in Red Willow County said "...Our saw-mill is slashing out lumber, and several white roofs tell that some of our people are patonizing. The proprietor Mr. W.M. Hinman from North Platte is now sawing out lumber for his own house--a very good one--which will be erected in a few weeks when Mr. H. will move his family here for permanent residnece. There are several families expected from North Platte." Washington Hinman lived in Red Willow County from 1872 to some time in 1876.

In a letter to the Omaha Weekly Herald dated September 18, 1872, Washington Hinman, wrote about "The Battle of Massacre Canyon", while he was a resident in Red Willow County. He said "We had 2,700 Pawnees and Ponca Indians here two or three days, and they killed 200 or 300 buffalo, drove off some cattle and stole two or three horses and tried to sell them, but the owners paid them something to help them hunt them up and bring them back. Poor things. They mean no harm, but it is so natural to steal that they can't help it, and the troops being here, they were afraid to be too barefaced about it.

In 1876 Mr. Hinman and his family moved back to North Platte to live. He had bought land near this town until he owned in all 1100 acres, a portion of it being in town, and the greater portion of it directly adjacent. He held the office of senior county commissioner of Lincoln county, and in 1873 he locked up the Union Pacific Railway roundhouse at North Platte and took possession "on account of the railway having as yet paid no taxes, which amounted to a good round sum and these were shortly paid". In 1879 he moved out to his farm, just west of the town.

Mr. Hinman was married March 11, 1867, to Miss Rebecca Franklin Vaughan, daughter of Elias Vaughan, Jr., and Susan Franklin Dodge, of Connecticut. The Vaughan and Dodge families were both pioneers of Connecticut, the latter being related to Benjamin Franklin, and also William Penn.

Captain William Vaughan, of the United States Navy at Watertown, on Lake Erie, who was an officer in the War of 1812, was an uncle of Mrs. Hinman. "Mrs. Hinman is a very bright and active lady, of great intelligence". They raised a family of three children, namely: Vaughan Elias Hinman, of North Platte. He was born in this town and was the first white child born here, and the second in Lincoln county. He married Miss Minnie Distel, daughter of Frederick Distel, a native of Germany, who came to Omaha in 1873, and later to North Platte, where he built and operated a brewery, and became well known all over western Nebraska. One child was born of this union, Charles Vaughan Hinman. The second son of Washington Hinman was York Abner Hinman, also of North Platte, who was married to Miss Daisy C. Crusen, daughter of W. J. Crusen, of North Platte. They had three children, namely: York A. Hinman, Jr., Elizabeth Franklin Hinman and Dorothy C. The third child of our subject is Suezilla Hinman Eves, wife of George Eves, of Stockton, California. They have a family of five children living, as follows: William Vaughan (dead) and Washington York, twins; Girard Wesley, Margarette Reba, Arthur Glenn and Harold Hinman.

Washington Hinman died at his farm home January 27, 1904, at the advanced age of eighty-four years. The year prior to his death a prairie fire swept the vicinity of his home and burned to the ground a good residence containing valuable records, papers and all personal property. "With the business methods and energy which still characterize Mrs. Hinman, she had a short time previously effected a partial insurance upon the home, so it was not a total loss".

Mr. Hinman was a thirty-second degree Mason, having been admitted into the order when he was twenty- one years of age. He was high priest of the chapter here, and a devoted member of the lodge. He was a member of the Presbyterian church, and an earnest worker in that religion.

History of Nebraska, Third Edition, James C. Olson and Ronald C. Naugle, University Nebraska Press, Lincoln. ISBN 0-8032-8065-8.
Andreas' History of the State of Nebraska, 1882, published by The Western Historical Company, A. T. Andreas, Proprietor, Chicago, Illinois.
Compendium of History, Reminiscence and Biography of Western Nebraska, 1909, Alden Publishing Company, Chicago, Illinois.
Johnson's History of Nebraska, Harrison Johnson, Omaha, Published by Henry Gibson, Herald Printing House, 1880.
Nebraska Pioneer Reminiscences, Nebraska Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution, 1916, The Torch Press, Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
Fort McPherson, Nebraska (Fort Cottonwood, N.T.) - Guardian of the Tracks and Trails, Louis A. Holmes, 1963, Johnsen Publishing Company, Lincoln, Nebraska.
Nebraska History - Published by the Nebraska State Historical Society, Edition 47, page 378, "Red Willow County Letters of Royal Buck, 1872-1873".
Nebraska History - Published by the Nebraska State Historical Society, Edition 54, page 227, "The Battle of Massacre Canyon".

This page last modified: Wednesday, October 20, 1999

Washington Hinman