Lincoln Sentinel-Republican, Feb. 2, 1956
There are probably few people left here who remember the loghouses and dugouts built by the first settlers in this section of the country. J.C. Ruppenthal of Russell, one of the pioneer residents of Lincoln county, gives a striking history of life in this section at that time and describes some of the loghouses and dugouts built during the period, in an article recently printed in the Wilson World, and which follows:
The settlers of those days who landed from a U.P. train at Wilson had to drive about eight or 10 miles north to see a tree of any kind. He might then see the Twin Groves where Scout Farley made his residence until his death in the Arickaree battle with the Indians in northeastern Colorado. In one of three groves on Dry creek, a log house was built about 1869. It is said that a man named Phelps or Phillips built the latter.
This house was 24 feet long east and west and 16 feet wide north and south. Most of the logs were about 10 inches to one foot thick, but one that was laid first on the earth was about 15 to 18 inches wide. Nearly all the logs were rough hewn for the inside and outside of the house, but not on the upper and lower sides. Varieties included oak, ash, elm and cottonwood.
Each side of the house had one window space about two feet square cut through the logs. A sash of about six small panes of glass was put in each for light. An average sized man involuntarily ducked a little when about to enter the only door which was on the south.
For 11 years that log house was chief home of this writer. Thin flagstones of limestone, later called post rock, laid upon the ground made the floor for 8 to 10 feet. The rest of the floor was made of grooved flooring after some years of bare earth.
Log houses similar to the above mentioned were built down the Saline Valley by Wm. T. Prescott, Wm. Hilmer, and as early as 1874, by Herman Witte, all close to the river. Other such houses along Twin Creek (west fork) were by an Ohio colony: C.M. Heaton, John Pugh, A.T. Biggs and others. Westward of Twin Groves and the Phelps loghouse were M.W. Hurlbut, John Putman, Dennis Lambert and sons. Henry Kies moved his loghouse about a mile from the east end of his claim to the other end. Farther up the Saline river, a loghouse was on Hell creek.
Need of a dwelling place led to digging a dugout when logs were not available for a loghouse. A dugout was made at the east end of the claim owned by Charles Randall on Section 32. Remains may still be seen. This was used as a school house for several months in the summer of 1879 when Miss Belle Coover taught there.
By the next year Joseph Brichacek had built a small stone house on his homestead just west of the Randall claim, and Miss Maud Davis of Lincoln Center taught a school there which closed Aug. 13, 1880, with a farewell picnic in the Twin or Farley Groves. Seven of that school are known to live yet.
A unique variation from that of the area which developed to a post office at Sylvan Grove, was the cabin or dugout of four young Kansas Pacific railroad hands, recently arrived from Germany, who wanted free lands and each filed on 80 acres for a homestead on the east section 22-12-10w. They dug a cellar where the four tracts had a common corner. This cellar was one fourth on each tract. It was roofed over and made a home for the four until conditions improved. In this way, they met the U.S. Land Office requirements that a settler must live on his claim and improve it. Although all four young bachelors owned only the fourth of the dugout, each was able to eat and rest and sleep on his own land, though all four were in one room.
Later each built a good frame house at the other ends of their claims and brought a young bride thither.
These pioneers were William Hilmer, Benjamin Oschwald (then known as Oswald) and two brothers, Fred and Chris Meyer.