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RG0795.AM:  Louis John Frederick Iaeger, 1856-1930

Diaries:  1885-1890

Chadron, Dawes County, Nebraska:  Police Judge, Justice of the Peace, and Court Clerk

Size:  Four volumes on one reel of microfilm


L. J. F. Iaeger, affectionately known as “Billy the Bear,” was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on April 10, 1856. His father, Charles F. Iaeger, a coach maker, died around 1860. Iaeger’s mother, paralyzed in a carriage accident, sent him to California to be raised by a wealthy uncle. He was educated first in private schools and then by tutors.

By age thirteen, Iaeger had learned to pilot river boats. Three years later he passed the exam for entrance to the U.S. Naval Academy, but he was rejected because of a hearing defect. He attended the New York National Academy and became a sailing master. In 1871 Iaeger was at Fort Yuma, Arizona helping fight the Apache Indians.

By 1873 Iaeger was sailing on a California ship bound for Liverpool. He signed on as quartermaster with the S. S. City of Peking and made two around the world voyages. Taking a break from his life at sea, Iaeger took a position as a proofreader with the A. L. Bancroft Publishing Company of San Francisco. After a trip to Australia, he began appearing with the Buffalo Bill Combination Company on the California stage. His portrayal of a bear earned him the affectionate nickname “Billy the Bear.”

As Buffalo Bill’s secretary, Iaeger returned to Cody’s hometown of North Platte. Lured by the excitement the west had to offer, Iaeger moved to the Cheyenne area in the early 1880s, gaining employment as a ranch hand. While working for the Yellowstone Cattle Company in 1883, he was trapped in a blizzard. Frostbite ensued and Iaeger had to have both feet and his fingers amputated. With the aid of artificial limbs, he was still able to remain active and write.

Settling in Chadron, Nebraska in 1885, Iaeger first worked at the Gold Bar Saloon. He was appointed Police Judge the following year and postmaster in 1893. He served for over 25 years as district court clerk at Chadron. Louis John Frederick Iaeger died in Chadron on March 6, 1930. After his death his wife and two sons moved to California.


This collection consists of one reel of microfilm containing four diaries dating from 1885-1890. The diaries relate to L.J.F. Iaeger’s dual careers as Police Judge and Justice of the Peace in Chadron, Nebraska. As a public servant, Iaeger was privy to much of the local news and gossip in the Chadron and Dawes County areas. His daily diary entries reflect this knowledge as he makes note of visitors to town, election information, and the local political scene, weather conditions, arrests, his assignments and duties as a public official, and the development or failure of local businesses. Volume 1 contains Snake Creek Ranche account records of May-June, 1881 and notations on warrants, claims, fees, collection notices, and purchases, in addition to Iaeger’s diary entries. Volumes 2-4 contain only diary recordings.


Reel 1


  1. Oct.14, 1885-Sept.28, 1887

    p.1-12, Spring Creek Ranche account records, May-June, 1881

    p.27-295, Diary entries

    p.296, Warrants issues

    p.297, County claims and fees

    p.299, Orders sent for collection

    p.300, Articles bought for the house

  2. Sept. 29, 1887 – Oct. 9, 1888

  3. Oct. 10, 1888 – May 25, 1889

  4. May 26, 1889 – Jan. 21, 1890


Subject headings:

Chadron (Nebraska) — History

Dawes County (Nebraska) — History

Iaeger, Louis John Frederick, 1856-1930

Judges — Nebraska

Justices of the Peace — Nebraska


Revised TMM        04-18-2007