I have two original newspapers from Valentine, Nebraska, where my GG Grandfather, Watson Richard Towne, was the County Judge (Cherry County, NE.) I have transcribed his obituaries and they describe a fascinating life lived largely in the west, including his years in the civil war.
Here are the obituaries of Judge Watson Richard Towne:
The Valentine Democrat (Valentine, Nebraska), Thursday, May 9, 1907
Tuesday, May 7, 1907, about 11:00, Judge W. R. Towne passed to the great beyond. He had been in better health the past winter than two years ago and was able to be up and attending to the duties of his office until ten days before his death. His latest illness was apparently fatal from the first and he gradually sank from the 27th of April, when his stomach began to distress him. Judge Towne had long been a sufferer from stomach trouble and his enfeebled health many times brought him very low, but his iron-like constitution held him up and his recovery was always rapid until at last, when his life work seemed to be at an end and he was ready to depart this world, he rapidly sank and all efforts failed to bring about a change.
Judge Towne had been getting his work closed up for some months past and his one purpose during the past year seemed to have been to close up his work. He was a pioneer of Cherry County and better known than any one by the old timers.
He leaves a wife, three daughters and a son: George Towne, the oldest was in Iowa when last heard from. Mrs. Nella Williamson, the oldest daughter, has been staying here with her parents the past year. Her home is in St. Louis. Mrs. Maud Fritz lives in Los Angeles, Cal. Mrs. Mabel Caton lives near Cavite, S. D. Two daughters and a son died in infancy.
Two brothers and a sister survive the Judge: Ephraim at Shell Rock, Ia., Almon at Santa Cruz, Cal., and Mrs. Jane C. Welch at Enosburg Falls, Vt.
The funeral was held at the home, conducted by the Rev. Wells of the Episcopal Church, and the remains laid to rest in Mt. Hope Cemetery. A large number of the friends of the Judge congregated from different parts of the country to pay their last tribute to the departed old soldier and county Judge for nearly eleven years.
On the last page of this paper will be found a partial life history of the Judge.
(Further down on the page)
Card of Thanks
We wish to assure the people of Valentine that their kindness during our trials shall ever be held in loving remembrance.
Mrs. W.R. Towne and Family.
(Last page of same paper)
PARTIAL LIFE HISTORY OF JUDGE W.R. TOWNE
The Following Was Written By Judge Towne Some Time Before His Death
Born in Franklin, Franklin County, Vermont, Oct. 2, 1834; raised on a farm until 1854; left home for the west; landed in Chicago, December, 1854; commenced work for a commission house in 1856; left Chicago for Iowa; remained in Iowa until the fall of 1856 (had the chills and fever, which were quite prevalent in Iowa in those days), and returned to Chicago in Spring of 1858; left Chicago for St. Paul, Minn.; was with government survey during the summer.
In November, 1858, started for the Red River Country with dog train to trade with the Indians; made a successful trip; returned to St. Paul in the spring of 1859; fitted out a trading expedition and loaded boats at Otter Tail Lake, Minn., and floated down the Red River of the North. At the mouth of Red Lake River was taken in by Indians and lost all our goods.
After losing all we traveled on to Pembina, North Dakota and there waited the coming of the steamboat, Ans Northrup, the first steamer floating on the Red River of the North; boarded the little steamer at Pembina and made trip to Winnipeg, British Possessions, and went on a buffalo hunt with the Red River half-breeds in August, 1859; returned to St. Paul, Minn., then to Chicago in winter of same year – dead broke; remained in Chicago until the spring of 1861, and, on April 18, enlisted in the Barkers Dragoons; was sent to Cairo, Ill., and from there to West Va., as bodyguard for Gen. Geo. B. McClellan; remained in his command until August 19, 1861; was returned to Chicago and was mustered out.
In September went to St. Louis, Mo., and joined Fremont’s expedition to Springfield, Mo.; entered Springfield with the advance guard. I was then in the scout service. From there we went to Sedalia, Mo.; was under command of Gen. Pope; remained there until spring of 1862; ordered to Commerce, Mo., where we advanced on New Madrid; was ordered to Hamburg Landing on Tennessee River. From Pope’s command was transferred to Gen. Grant’s command in Scout service. After the evacuation of Corinth left the service for a time and returned to Chicago.
In the fall of 1863 went to St. Louis and enlisted for six months in the Q.M. service, was transferred to Rolla, Mo., to Col. Livingston’s command, Colonel of First Nebraska Volunteers; ordered to Batesville, Ark.; was transferred to Q.M. department and had charge of all stock shipped to that point, and fitted out teams for Steele’s command at Little Rock, Ark.; was compelled to leave the service on account of sickness; returned to Chicago and remained during the winter.
In the spring of 1865 left for Dunlieth, Ill.; in the fall of same year left for Denver, Col., in 1866. I was with a prospect party, but like most prospectors came out of the mountains dead broke; drove stage on the “Overland” until spring; emigrated to North Platte, Neb., then the terminus of the U.P.R.R.
From there moved to Julesburg, Col., one of the hard towns of the west. In the same year, 1867, moved to Cheyenne, Wyo., and started freighting to Denver and the mountains; continued freighting until the spring of 1870; sold out and went to Omaha, Neb. the same year, and located at Schuyler, Neb., built and superintended the stock yards at that place, then the shipping place of Texas cattle on the U.P.R.R.
In the same fall purchased 2500 head of cattle and located them on the South Loup river (with Buffalo Bill Cody), the first herd of cattle ever wintered in that section of the country. It was considered a hazardous undertaking on account of Indians, but I had but little trouble with Indians, except stealing horses. In the fall of 1871 shipped the herd and left the state of Nebraska, and, in November, 1871, located in Creston, Iowa, in the employ of the C.B.&Q. Railroad as live stock agent and superintendent of stock yards at that place.
July 1, 1872, married in Lowell, Mass., to Olive O. Aldrich and came to Creston, Iowa to assume the management of stockyards and live stock for the C.B.&Q.
During my stay in Creston was twice Mayor of the city; also county commissioner of Union County.
In the spring of 1880 removed to Cheyenne, Wyo.; remained there until the spring of 1881; removed to Fremont, Neb., and became livestock agent of the E.E.&M.V.
In July, 1883 moved to Cherry county and located 20 miles northwest of Valentine on a sheep ranch, but my success in the sheep business was like many others that went into the sheep business at that time in Cherry County, went broke.
In November, 1890, moved to Valentine, and in 1894 was appointed marshal and water commissioner.
In January, 1897, was appointed county judge, and in November, 1897 was elected county judge ----
(end of biography)
On same page, there are four legal notices for probates of wills and estates, all ordered by W.R. Towne, County Judge.
Obituary of Judge Watson Richard Towne
Found in the The Republican (Valentine, NE), Friday, May 10, 1907
Judge W. R. Towne Passes Away.
W.R. Towne was born in Franklin, Vermont, October 2, 1834, being raised on a farm, where he resided until 1854, when he went west, landing in Chicago. There he secured employment with a commission house until 1856, removing then to Iowa and returning to Chicago in 1858. From Chicago he went on St. Paul, Minnesota, in the employ of a government surveying party, but in the fall of that year he went to the Red River country with a dog train to trade with Indians returning in 1859 after a successful trip. In St. Paul he fitted out a trading expedition and loaded boats at Otter Tail lake and floated down the river but was taken in by Indians and lost all goods. After losing all he went to the British possessions but returned and enjoyed a buffalo hunt with the Red River half breeds, going then to St. Paul and then to Chicago where he landed “dead broke”. There he enlisted April 18, 1861, in Bonker’s (Barkers) Dragoons and was sent to Illinois and from there to West Virginia as body guard for General George B. McClellan, remaining in his command until August 19, 1861, when he returned to Chicago and was mustered out. The following September he went to St. Louis and joined Fremont’s expedition to Springfield as a member of the secret service entering Springfield with the advance guard. He was transferred to the command of General Pope and later to the command of General Grant in the scout service. After the evacuation of Corinth he left the service and returned to Chicago. In the fall of 1863 he enlisted at St. Louis in the quartermaster service and was transferred to the First Nebraska Volunteers under the command of Colonel Livingston, being sent to Bluffs, Arkansas, where he had charge of all stock shipped to that point, and equipped teams for Steele’s command at Little Rock, Arkansas.
On account of sickness he was compelled to leave the service and again returned to Chicago, then went to Denver with a prospecting party. A year later he located at North Platte, at that time terminus of the Union Pacific Railroad. In 1867 he moved to Cheyenne, Wyoming, engaging at freighting from there to Denver until 1870, when he sold out and went to Omaha, but later relocated to Schuyler where he built and superintended the stock yards, then the shipping point for Texas cattle on the Union Pacific railroad. In the fall of that year he stocked a ranch on the South Loup with 2500 head of cattle, which was considered a hazardous undertaking on account of depredations by Indians, but they made him no trouble. In the fall of 1871 he left Nebraska, and located at Creston, Iowa, in the employ of the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy railroad as livestock agent and superintendent of stock yards at that place. July 1, 1872, he was married at Lowell, Massachusetts, to Olive O. Aldrich. During their residence in Creston he was twice mayor and served as commissioner from Union County. In 1880 returned to Cheyenne and a year later went to Fremont, Nebraska, as livestock agent for the Freemont, Elkhorn & Missouri Valley railroad until July, 1883 when he removed to Cherry County and engaged in the sheep business, twenty miles northwest of Valentine. November 1890 he became a resident of Valentine, when in 1894 he was appointed Marshal and Water Commissioner. In January of 1897 he was appointed County Judge, which position he has held continuously since by election until tile of his death, May 7, 1907.
Judge Towne was confined to his bed only two days more than a week, death resulting from stomach trouble. He is survived by his wife, three daughters, Mrs. Maude Fritz of Los Angeles, California, Mrs. J.M. Williamson of St. Louis, Missouri, Mrs. H.W. Caton of Cavite, South Dakota, a son whose address in unknown, a sister, Mrs, Jane Welch, of South Franklin, Vermont, two brothers, Almon of Santa Cruz, California, and Ephraim, of Shell Rock, Iowa. Funeral service was conducted in the family home by Rev, W. W. Wells, rector of the Episcopal Church, at two o’clock Wednesday afternoon, May 8, 1907, and the remains were laid to rest in Mount Hope Cemetery east of town, where a large number of friends paid their last tribute of respect to one they had so long honored. Services at the grave were under the auspices of the Masonic order of this city.
The bereaved family have the sympathy of all who know them in their hour of grief and affliction.
Card of Thanks
To the many friends who so cheerfully rendered assistance during the illness and burial of a kind husband and indulgent father, we extend our sincere thanks.
Mrs. W.R. Towne and Children
Local News Paragraphs
H.W. Caton and wife arrived here last Sunday, being called on account of the serious illness of Judge Towne, father of Mrs. Caton.
At the home of Mrs. Towne Thursday afternoon, R.H. Watson, Olive and Ruth Caton, and Elmo Olson were christened by Rev. W.W. Wells, rector of the Episcopal Church.