Home / Projects / Back to Early History of Brownlee, Nebraska




This inland village, in Loup Precinct, situated on the north bank of the north Loup River, was established by John R. Lee and his brother, William B. Lee, in 1886. Mr. Lee named it in honor of his grandmother, Jane Brownlee. He opened the first general merchandise store in a large frame building. Soon a blacksmith shop was added. Later a livery barn, drug store, hotel, bank, and community hall were established, and during the horse and buggy days, Brownlee became a community center and drew trade for many miles. At one time there were three general merchandise stores in Brownlee. The Post Office was established soon after the first store was built, and mail was brought in from Thedford.

Their school district, No. 52, was organized in the late eighties. It is now an accredited High School for ten grades. Another school district No. 37, was organized in 1887, and Miss Mamie Lee, daughter of William B. Lee was the first teacher. The first school house in district No. 37 was made of sod and was known as Mud Institute. E. R. Vandegrift, Director; Dr. James E. Edgar, Moderator, and John Harnan, Treasurer, made up the school board of this pioneer district.

Sunday School was organized in Brownlee in 1887.

The majority of the early settlers farmed to some extent. Mrs. Edward Lee said "We built a corn crib and filled it every year" and this continued during the years of normal rainfall. Farming on any large scale has now passed out of the picture and the territory has become a very successful ranch community. Many of the early settlers sold their holdings to neighboring ranchers, with the result that the ranches became larger and the population smaller. Registered sires have been used for so many years that the herds are practically of pure blood.

Early settlers of this community were: John R. Lee, his son Robert, who is a Master Farmer and has at this time, a substantial ranch northeast of Brownlee. Four of Robert Lee's sons, Marion, Everett, Forrest, and Merril are engaged in ranching also. His daughter, Ava, who is now Mrs. Ray Roseberry, and her husband, the son of Pioneer John Roseberry, are prominent ranch people of the county. Another daughter of Robert Lee, Mrs. Ed Eby, and her husband, are also engaged in ranching; thus making a family of ranch folks.

William B. Lee, whose son Edward is the owner of the ranch started by his father was one of the early settlers, as was George Higgins who founded the Box T Ranch, southwest of Brownlee, which he later sold to William Ferdon. Mr. George Higgins, and his son, are now ranching on Goose Creek.

There was also Pete Rousche, whose ranch was on the Loup River, which ranch now belongs to Senator Don Hanna.

J. M. Hanna was a cowboy from 1883 until he went into business for himself a few years later, and his ranch was fourteen miles southwest of Brownlee. Mr. J. M. Hanna's four sons, Senator Don Hanna, who also served as County Commissioner of Cherry County, and who is now serving his third term as State Senator, George, a veteran of World War I, Seth, and James, are all engaged in the ranch business in Cherry County.

R. M. Faddis founded the Cross L Ranch, now owned by William LaGrange, and located northwest of Brownlee.

Charles Faulhaber established the first registered herd of Hereford cattle in Cherry County; also built the first modern ranch home in the Brownlee Community, in 1912. He invented a machine called a bog cutter, which was successful (92) in smoothing rough places known as bogs. His sons, Roy and Carl are both Cherry County ranchmen at this time.

Frank Fuilfoil fed the first cotton seed cake to cattle on the range in Cherry County in 1909.

Adam Martin and his son, Leon; Leon is carrying on near the old home place.

In addition to the foregoing, the following were also early settlers: Mat, Mike, and James Shanley, M. H. Higgins, Thomas Higgins, E. L. Reiser, M. B. McGuire, A. H. Pound, J. H. Salzman, Leonard Hiner, J. E. Kissel, Reuben Kissel, Thomas McLean, J. H. O'Kane, James Steadman, William Steadman, W. K. Grant, H. B. Everett, W. B. Banks, John and Mary Harnan, F. W. Ganzer, C. H. Eatinger, L. S. Grant, W. P. Slayton, Gustave Wendler, J. R. Chaloud, Ira B. Spencer, Z. Ames, G. E. O'Brien, B. W. Pearson, Albert and Nellie Smith, Max Wendler, B. J. McGuire, William Ferdon, Henry Walsh, E. R. Vandegrift, Dr. James T. Edgar, Frank T. Lee, and Christian Pederson.

Henry Walsh purchased the Pete Rousche ranch, where he lived until he passed away.

George Pearson, son of B. W. Pearson is now living on the home ranch. Kurt and Arthur Wendler, sons of Max Wendler are both engaged in ranching. Christian Pederson is the only one of the pioneer settlers now living in the community.

In 1887 the community decided to celebrate the nation's birthday with a grand celebration. An impromptu band was organized from the residents of the locality, and lumber for a dancing floor was hauled from Wood Lake. They had a ball game, horse racing, dancing, and singing. Miss Mamie Lee, teacher in District No. 37, was selected to read the Declaration of Independence and the Preamble to the Constitution.

In one of the races, Miss Rose McCutcheon, wearing a new fashioned divided skirt, and her blonde curls flying in the wind, attracted much attention. The fashion of divided skirts became general and by the turn of the century, the side saddle passed out of the picture. Miss Mamie Lee mounted on her brother Frank's race mare, "Pet" and riding a side saddle also entered the race. Interest in this race was intense. Miss Lee passed under the wire first and was declared the winner. She was presented with a silver mounted riding whip. There were five hundred people in attendance at this first celebration, according to estimates made by those present.


On April 7, 1891, while Mrs. Amos Everett was on her way to the home of a neighbor, she was overtaken by a prairie fire and was burned to death. She had left a small daughter at the home of a friend or the child would, no doubt, have perished with her mother.

During the flu epidemic in 1918 the Brownlee Community lost eleven of its residents from that dread disease.

Dudley McDonald, a young man working on the Gilmore McLeod ranch, while riding about three miles from any road or building, was thrown from his horse in such a manner that one of his legs was broken. It was in mid-summer and the weather was very hot. For two nights and two days he crawled toward the road. On the second day he reached a meadow where Frank Kime was putting up hay, and Mr. Kime's son, Allan, heard his cries. He was taken to a hospital and made a successful recovery.

From Brownlee we shall visit the Colored Settlement, in which 183 persons were living in November, 1913. This settlement began about ten miles up the Loup River, from Brownlee.

Home / Projects / Back to Early History of Brownlee, Nebraska