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RG4561.AM:  Francis Withee

Correspondence, diaries:  1882-1915, n.d.

Stella, Richardson County, Neb.:  Freighter, homesteader

Size:  1 folder; 3 reels of microfilm


Francis Withee, son of Ephraim and Deborah (Grant) Withee, was born in Washington County, Ohio on November 16, 1844. In 1848, the Withees moved to Keokuk, Iowa and two years later the family settled in Van Buren County, Iowa. On June 27, 1858, they arrived in Nebraska, crossing the Missouri River at Brownville.

Francis spent the next few years helping to work his father’s farm, which was located between Nemaha City and Brownville. He also hired out to break prairie sod, later estimating that he broke some 1000 acres over this time period. In addition, he made freighting trips across the plains three times: in 1862, to Denver; in 1864, to Julesburg; and in 1866, again to Denver.

Much of the original Withee homestead was swallowed by the Missouri River. Around 1864, Francis traded what was left for 200 acres located two and a half miles northwest of Stella. Here he lived for the remaining fifty-three years of his life, observing the growth and development of Richardson County.

Francis Withee married Mary Elizabeth Elmore on April 5, 1871. Three sons and two daughters were born to the Withees. In addition to running his farm, Withee was an organizer of the local school district and a long-time member of the school board. He also served as the assessor for Porter Township.

Francis Withee died at the age of seventy-three on December 5, 1917.


This collection consists of one folder and three microfilm reels of manuscript material arranged in two series: 1) Correspondence, 1899-1900; and 2) Diaries, 1882-1915 and undated. This material relates to the freighting and homesteading careers of Francis Withee, pioneer settler of Stella, Richardson County, Nebraska.

The Correspondence of Series 1 consists of four letters written by Francis Withee to Jay Amos Barrett of the Nebraska State Historical Society, 1899-1900. In these letters, Withee relates his experiences as a “bull whacker” on the plains during freighting trips in 1862, 1864, and 1864. Withee recalls hardships faced, wages received, goods transported, fellow employees, and equipment utilized in the freighting business during the 1860s. Withee’s original letters and a typescript of them are included.

Series 2 is comprised of Diaries kept by Francis Withee, dating from 1882-1915 and undated. Available on microfilm only, Withee’s diary entries provide a brief daily description of the weather, farm work engaged in, prices paid and received for goods, and local news notes. Although Withee kept a diary for over forty years, his entries were not written in great detail.


Series 1 – Correspondence, 1899-1900

Correspondence, 1899-1900

Series 2 – Diaries, 1882-1915, n.d.


  1. 1882, 1883, 1884, 1885, 1886, 1887, 1888, 1889, 1890 (through Sept. 8)

  2. 1890 (Sept. 9-Dec.), 1892 (2 volumes), 1893, 1894, 1895, 1897, 1898, 1903, 1904

  3. 1905, 1906, 1909, 1910, 1911, 1912, 1913, 1915, n.d.



Agricultural laborers — Nebraska


Farmers — Nebraska — Richardson County

Farms — Nebraska — Richardson County

Homestead law — Nebraska

Richardson County (Neb.) — History

Stella (Neb.) — History

Withee, Francis


AIP/ksa   01-1990

11-06-2009   Revised TMM/tmm