The following account is a verbatim transcription of "Devil's Nest Secrets," which appears on pages 59-64 of a book titled "Echoes of the Past and Along Pioneer Trails in Pierce County Nebraska" ( Lincoln, Nebraska: Union College Press, Third Edition, 1967 ), by Esther Kolterman Hansen. This book is actually a combination volume of two separate works, each of which has its own pagination in the combination volume: "Along Pioneer Trails in Pierce County Nebraska" ( vii + 8-114 pages ) was originally published in 1940, and "Echoes of the Past" ( vi + 66 pages + 12 page Photo Section ) first appeared in 1967 as the first section of the "Third Edition, 1967" combination volume. The "Fourth Edition" of the combination volume appeared in 1976. A "Surname Index" ( 1994 ) to the book was compiled and published separately ( i.e., it is not part of the book ) by William B. Chilvers of Pierce County, NE.
Actually, "Devil's Nest Secrets" appears on pages 59-64 of "Echoes of the Past," which first appeared in 1967 as the first section of the "Third Edition, 1967" combination volume. It is not found in "Along Pioneer Trails in Pierce County Nebraska," which is a separate work.
Esther ( Kolterman ) Hansen, who was also known as Mrs. Emil W. Hansen, of Pierce, Pierce County, Nebraska, was born on March 24, 1894, and died in June, 1979. Her husband Emil W. Hansen ( who attained the rank of Corporal in the U. S. Army during W.W.I, and was a member of the American Legion ) was born on Jan. 30, 1890, and died in 1977. Both were buried in Prospect View Cemetery at Pierce, NE. Esther Kolterman was the daughter of John Ferdinand Kolterman ( 1855 - 1924 ) and Anna Elizabeth Smith ( Aug. 11, 1874 - March 24, 1957 ), who were also buried in Prospect View Cemetery.
A limited number of hardcover copies of "Echoes of the Past and Along Pioneer Trails in Pierce County Nebraska" ( Fourth Edition, 1976 ) are still available exclusively from:
Mr. Don Zimmer
Pierce Historical Society
P. O. Box 122
Pierce, NE 68767
Each copy is $20.00 ( $15.00 per copy + $5.00 Shipping Cost ).
"Devil's Nest Secrets"
"Since the building of Gavins Point dam creating Lewis and Clark lake in northeast Nebraska the publicity for plans for the development as a recreation area have been grandiose, to promote tourism such as the midwest has never experienced.
Newspaper headlines announce plans for a resort on Lewis and Clark lake to be known as 'Devil's Nest.'
The 'Devil's Nest,' what does it mean? Two words. Are they to be feared or revered. How does it appeal to a stranger, does it arouse his curiosity? Who named it and why?
Legend credits a young government surveyor who stood in awe on a plateau high above the area of a hilly, rugged terrain on the Nebraska side of the Missouri river in northern Knox county.
It was about the year 1848 before Knox county was organized and was still a part of Nebraska Territory. The area was covered with tall grasses, ravines and gullies, and as the surveyor looked across the jungle he remarked, 'If we have to go in that, it looks as if its going to be the "nest of a devil."'
Through the years in northern Knox county it became known as 'Devil's Nest.'
Previous to 1853 the Niobrara country, between Aoway Creek and the Niobrara river and extending indefinitely westward was claimed by the Omaha Indians. During that year a treaty was concluded between them and the United States by the terms of which they appear to have reserved this county as their future home; either from fear of the Poncas, or through influence of interested parties or from some other cause, they exchanged the 'Niobrara Country' for the 'Blackbird' and moved into the latter a year or two thereafter.
This threw the 'Niobrara Country' open to pre-emption and settlement like other public lands.
About one third of the land outside the reservation was subject to homestead or pre-emption.
The reservation occupied by the Santee Sioux Indians was in the northern part of Knox county, coming to the reservation in 1866. The Santees, when brought to this reservation, were uncivilized.
The Indians were the only inhabitants in what is now the 'Devil's Nest.' Its hills and canyons were covered with lush grass, shrubs of all kind, scrub oak. It was truly a 'Happy Hunting Ground' for the Indians. Wild game found refuge in this unexplored 'Jungle.'
With the settling of a country also came con men, thieves, gamblers, so settlers had a new fear to overcome. Outlaws that were feared were Doc Middleton, Kid Wade, Wild Bill Hickok and the James Brothers.
Much has been said and written about the James Brothers, Frank and Jesse. They were later famed in song and story, because, evil as they were, they were best in their trade. No doubt much of it was fact, but fiction colored it and make good reading and interesting conversation.
Fear of the Indians had been paramount until the James Brothers became notorious. The James Brothers had robbed a bank at Gallatine, Missouri on December 7, 1869.
After this robbery they disappeared and were said to be rusticating in Kentucky, Indians Territory and other places.
On the morning of July 10, 1873 four men met on a business street of a small town in Jackson county, Missouri.
The men were Jesse James, his brother Frank, Cole Younger and his brother Jim.
The evening of the tenth was dark and cloudy. The Youngers and three others with them rode over to see the Jesse James place where Frank and Jesse waited for them.
The James brothers told them a week from that night the Rock Island passenger train, east bound, would carry $75,000 in gold in the express car.
He explained that by pulling the spikes from one rail and tying rope around the end rail it could be pulled out of line and the engine would be derailed.
The planned place would be three and one-half miles west of Adair, Iowa.
This was the first time in the history of the west a passenger train had been deliberately derailed for the purpose of robbing a train.
All the passengers were robbed but the robbers were disappointed when the safe in the express car contained only $2,000. A plaque was erected at Adair, Iowa as the 'Site of the first train robbery in the west' by Frank and Jesse James and his gang of outlaws, July 21, 1873.
According to the people living in the Devil's Nest country the James Brothers were hibernating in this place, a typical hiding place with canyons, hills, creeks, trees, grasses, as it was unknown except to the Indians and a few white people. Its trails seemed to lead to nowhere; each appeared to vanish like a rainbow over the canyons and hills.
It was a perfect hunting ground for the Sioux and Santees who lived there, a place white man had never trod.
In 1938 a Joe Jesse Chase, a half breed Sioux Indian who lived near Niobrara claimed he was the son of Jesse James.
The Indians of Niobrara country had long said that Chase was Jesse James' son but Joe would never talk, claimed he was afraid to.
In 1938 Chase stopped at a store of a Niobrara druggist and told him he had a story to tell, which he then told. Though Chase did not have the coppery skin of an Indian and spoke littlr English, he told his story with his daughter-in-law as interpreter. He claimed the story was told to him by his mother and other Indians.
In 1869, Chase said, Jesse and Frank robbed a bank in South Dakota and were pressed by the law. Fleeing they reached the Devil's Nest on the Nebraska side of the river.
Chase said the James' money belts were full of gold. They came driving a herd of cattle and told the Indians their name was Chase. Said they liked this part of the country and thought they would settle down there.
A Frenchman named Anthony Jaeneque, who did blacksmithing work for the Indians, suddenly had enough money to set up a trading post in the Devil's Nest.
The Indians surmised the Chases had furnished the post. Chase's practiced 'horse and pistol' work, jumping their horses over logs and firing revolvers in midair. Once one of the Chases' made a snowball, threw it into midair, and shot it with his revolver. He told the spectators 'That's the way Jesse James would do it' and chuckled Joe Chase, looking off in the blue haze of Indian summer on the hills, 'He was Jesse James.'
United States marshals came to the Devil's Nest looking for the James' but never found them. You could never find anything in the Devil's Nest unless you knew your way around, and who did?
The James's mother, Mrs. Zerelda Samuels, came to Obert, Nebraska, a small village about twenty miles from the Devil's Nest. Her sons used to ride there frequently to see her.
The James brothers decided to log cedar trees to make some 'honest money.' They hired Indians, cut the logs, floated them down to Yankton, South Dakota. The logs technically belonged to the government, but nobody paid much attention to that.
The brothers met two beautiful Indian sisters, the daughters of Thomas Wabusha. Jesse took a wife, Maggie Wabusha, Frank took the other sister.
Joe Jesse 'Chase' James was born to Jesse 'Chase' James and Maggie Wabusha in 1870. Several months later the other Wabusha sister gave birth to a girl, who was named Emma.
On July 4, 1870, about four months after Joe was born the James brothers peaceful life ended.
On this Fourth of July almost everybody from the Devil's Nest country had gone to Niobrara, then a wild open town, to celebrate.
At the trading post something happened between the 'Chases' and Jaeneque. No one will ever know the truth.
The Chases gave their Indian wives a lot of money and told them they were going away for a long time.
Several hours later Jaeneque's family came home. The door was locked and to gain entrance they were compelled to knock down the door.
On a bed lay Jaeneque's body, a bullet hole through his head. A gun lay on the bed beside him. But the Indians refused to accept the supposition of suicide. Jaeneque, they said, had held out more than his share of the gang's money. He met the fate of those who crossed the bandit brothers.
Joe Chase said the James boys wrote to their Indian wives a number of times, but the sisters' mother, Mrs. Thomas Wabusha, would not allow her daughters to reply. She did not want them to have any more to do with the gun-totting James'.
She also feared the Government would take away their children because they were children of white men and kept them in hiding when a white man came near.
Maggie Wabusha later married William Good Teacher. The other sister went to Minnesota, leaving daughter Emma behind, and Maggie and her husband raised her.
The older Indians in the Devil's Nest verified Joe Chase's story and also Paul James ( no relative of the James brothers ) who spent three years at Haskell Institute at Lawrence, Kansas, said he once met Frank James in Kansas City, where Frank asked him what sort of Indian he was. When he replied a Santee Sioux then Frank told him about his and his brother's stay in the Devil's Nest. He also asked about the boy and girl of the Wabusha sisters, not admitting they belonged to him and his brother.
Frank James also stated that Jaeneque had been shot by a member of the gang because he had stolen their money.
Jesse James lived in St. Joseph, Missouri under the name of Thomas Howard, and as far as anyone knew was a respectable and more than ordinary pious business man.
Two brothers, Robert and Charles Ford, learned his identity, and anxious to collect the $10,000 dead or alive reward attached themselves to him. They waited for months to kill him.
The chance came when Jesse laid aside his gun to get onto a chair to dust a picture. Both brothers drew their guns, but Robert Ford's bullet killed James. This was in 1882.
In October of the same year Frank surrendered his gun to the governor of Missouri. He was tried three times in three different states. Though he and his brother were never known to have hesitated to kill anyone who stood in their way, Frank was acquitted.
Frank went with wild west shows for a time, then settled down and died with his boots on in 1915 on his Missouri Farm.
Thus ended the story of the most famous bandits the United States has ever known.
They were gilded in song and story. While the Devil's Nest is much as it has always been, hidden among the hills of northern Knox county, Nebraska, bounded by the mighty Missouri, the treasure trove of many secrets, hidden stills and booze runners found refuge among its hills, valleys and ravines during prohibition years, it still represents to the Indians a 'Happy Hunting' ground.
Now white man is invading its rugged beauty, as has been said - 'Pretty enough for an Angel's Tread.'
Each hill and canyon full of history, a creation no man could create, only develop beyond the fondest dream of anyone, to one of the greatest adventures of all history."
Following are excerpts from various publications which provide further supporting evidence for the James brothers' involvement with daughters of Thomas Wabasha in the 1869-1870 time period.
From Ted P. Yeatman, "Frank and Jesse James - The Story Behind the Legend" ( Nashville, TN: Cumberland House Publishing, Inc., 2000 ), page 99:
"From time to time the James boys would appear and disappear in the years leading to 1874. For the next four years [ the period 1870-1873 ] their activities are difficult to pin down, but they probably drifted between Missouri, Texas, Arkansas, Nebraska, and Kentucky, and possibly as far as the East Coast. Outside a few exceptional episodes, their lives during this time are undocumentable. According to Jesse, he and Frank went to Texas in August 1870 and left for the Indian Territory early in 1871. It was near Perryville [ Kentucky ], around February 22, that Jesse and Frank ran into their old antagonist Oscar Thomason, who with several men was passing through the area."
From William A. Settle, Jr., "Jesse James was His Name; or, Fact and Fiction concerning the Careers of the Notorious James Brothers of Missouri" ( Columbia, Missouri and London: University of Missouri Press, 1966; Seventh printing, 1992 ), page 167:
"In 1939 it was claimed that there has long been a legend in the Devils Nest country of northern Nebraska that in 1869 Frank and Jesse James came to that area and established a trading post among the Indians. There, under the names of Frank and Jesse Chase, they met and married two beautiful Indian sisters, the daughters of Thomas Wabasha. In 1870 Jesse's Indian wife bore him a son, named Joe Jesse Chase, and Frank became the father of a daughter, Emma. On July 4, 1870, Frank and Jesse had a dispute with a French trader, killed him, and left for parts unknown. They wrote their wives, but the women's mother would not let them reply. Jesse's wife later married William Good Teacher, and Frank's wife went to Minnesota and was never heard of again. Emma and Joe Jesse were reared as brother and sister in the Good Teacher home. In 1939 Joe Jesse Chase told the story as he had heard it from his mother." ( Footnote no. 24: see the following newspapers for accounts of Joe Jesse Chase's story: Excelsior Springs, Missouri "Daily Standard," Jan. 29, 1939; Lincoln, Nebraska "Sunday Journal and Star," Feb. 5, 1939;Omaha "World Herald," Dec. 7, 1939; and Crofton, Nebraska "Journal," Dec. 7, 1939 ).
From Philip W. Steele ( with George Warfel ), "The Many Faces of Jesse James" ( Gretna, Louisiana: Pelican Publishing Company, 1995; Second printing, 1998 ), page 35:
"Other than continuing their travels around to Missouri, Kansas, Iowa, Tennessee, and Kentucky racetracks, little is known of their [ the James brothers' ] activities in 1870 and 1871. Sometime in 1871, the James brothers traveled to Long Branch, New Jersey."
From John Koblas, "The Jesse James Northfield Raid: Confessions of the Ninth Man" ( St. Cloud, Minnesota: North Star Press of St. Cloud, Inc., 1999 ), page 150:
"That same year [ 1870 ], Frank and Jesse killed a French trader after a dispute and left the area. Although they wrote letters to their wives, the girls' mother would not let them answer the letters. Jesse's wife later married William Good Teacher and Frank's wife disappeared into Minnesota. It is quite possible that there was a connection between Frank's wife who went to Minnesota and the Mrs. Frank Cavanaugh of Faribault [ Minnesota ], who directed the boys to the Cavanaughs at the Lake Traverse and Devil's Lake reservations [ both located in Dakota Territory ]."