John Rogers Maltby, 1827-1892 [RG2192.AM]


RG2192.AM:  John Rogers Maltby, 1827-1892

Papers:  1853-1892

Sutton, Clay County, Neb.:  Lawyer; businessman

Size:  6.5 cu.ft.; 13 boxes


John Rogers Maltby was born in Sutton, Massachusetts on May 11, 1827. He later moved to Bangor, Maine where he spent most of his childhood until the age of 23. In company with other Bangor youth, John departed in February of 1853 for the gold fields of Australia. His mothers death, the fact he was over 21, and his somewhat domineering father, Rev. John Maltby, apparently all contributed to his leaving. John set sail from Boston on board the Charter Oak and by July of 1853 he was in the city of Melbourne, Australia. Here he entered into a partnership in a store and counting house. He frequently changed jobs both in Melbourne and at the mines.

John Maltby’s stay in Australia was not to be permanent. He had expected to return home within three years, and his correspondence repeated this expectation. However, things did not go as young Maltby had planned and he was unable to make his fortune quickly. Hoping that each year would bring him success, John remained in Australia until 1860. He did not return home but instead went to India where he spent more than a year as a commission merchant and auctioneer in Allehabad. On January 1, 1862, he departed Calcutta for an ocean voyage to London, arriving there in May.

While working as a merchant in England, Maltby met Matilda Mary Cooke. Early in 1863 John and Matilda were married at Clapham. A short time later the newlyweds moved to Paris where John was engaged in a general merchandise business. Here he went into debt. Plans were made for another move which would take Maltby back to the United States after an absence of more than eleven years. Due to his debt and lack of funds he was unable to take his wife with him. During 1864 Maltby went to San Francisco and he spent a brief time in New Orleans. In Boston, late in February of 1865, he made fruitless plans to enlist for three years in the U.S. Navy. Instead he took a position as a clerk and by October of 1865 he became the sole agent for the “Challenge Washing Machine.”

Maltby saved enough money to pay his overseas debts and made plans for his wife to come to the U.S. Not until November 23, 1865, did she arrive in Somerville, Massachusetts. Several difficulties still kept John and his wife apart until finally in early 1866, they were reunited in Louisiana. The following year they were back in Massachusetts, where Maltby was engaged in the hardware business in the Boston area and business conditions were not good. The Maltby’s had been frequently separated and soon after their reunion, personal problems, including religious disputes led to their separation.

Four months later, in April of 1868, John Maltby set out for the State of Nebraska, and arrived in Omaha on May 5. Maltby’s knowledge of horses enabled him to prepare a running track in Omaha where he organized horse races late in the month and early in July. In the meantime he obtained a free railroad pass to Cheyenne and he worked briefly for both the Denver Pacific Railroad and the Union Pacific Railroad. Through the winter of 1868-1869 he was in a partnership operating in Bushnell, in extreme western Nebraska. Maltby returned to Columbus on March 8, 1869, went exploring south of the Platte River, and on the twelfth he filed his declatory statement of intention to pre-empt eight acres in Polk County at the Lincoln Land Office. Much of this summer was spent improving his claim.

A declatory statement gave a claimant six months to make good his claim to the land. Maltby did not take the next step in pre-emption and he retuned to Omaha. From April to July, 1870, he was engaged in paper hanging, sign painting, setting window glass, working in the “California Restaurant” and in similar occupations. At this time Maltby was gaining friendship with political leaders in Lincoln and with them he was planning a new enterprise on new land to the west. By mid-May 1871, when he spent four days in locating land on School Creek, his plans began to bear fruit. On May 19 he initiated a claim contest at the Lincoln Land Office to an eighty acre homestead in northeast Clay County.

The hearing on the case was on June 15, 1871, in Lincoln. Maltby had carried out all the requirements to claiming this land, however the Register and Receiver at the Lincoln Land Office, in spite of learning that Vroman had not lived on his claim in compliance with homestead regulations, backed the Vroman entry. Commissioner Willis Drummond, of the General Land Office, came to Maltby’s rescue. On August 25, 1871, he declared because the “testimony of the claimant himself shows that he did not reside upon or cultivate his claim for more than six months from date of entry.” By this time Maltby had occupied the south half of Vroman’s quarter, while Way was establishing himself on the north half.

In the meantime, Luther French, the first settler in the area, laid out a town site along School Creek. Maltby suggested that the town be named Sutton in memory of his earlier residence in Massachusetts. Success for the town seemed assured when the Burlington & Missouri Railroad reached Sutton on August 12, 1871, and a temporary depot was located there. Acting Governor William H. James issued a proclamation in September calling for the first election in Clay County. Residents of the Sutton vicinity held a caucus before the October 14th election and their state of candidates, including John R. Maltby, as Probate Judge. Trouble soon arose for Sutton when Vroman entered an appeal from the Commissioner’s decision and the railroad sought another area for exploitation. Maltby retaliated in a well-stated petition to Commissioner Drummond. The Commissioner sustained his earlier decision and Maltby won the claim contest. Meanwhile, Way had commuted his homestead and made cash entry for his eight acres. Maltby did the same on August 24, 1872.

In subsequent years Maltby and his separated wife did once again come together for good. John Maltby was partial owner of the building erected for a post office in Sutton and he served one term as police judge. He was a charter member of the Clay County Sunday School and served as treasurer and a teacher of the organization. Later Mr. and Mrs. Maltby moved to Fairfield, some twenty miles south and west of Sutton. There she helped organize the Catholic Church and he served as chairman of the first Board of Trustees when Fairfield was incorporated. Real estate activities and closely related enterprises occupied Maltby until his death on March 24, 1895.


This collection consists of thirteen boxes of manuscript material arranged in seven series: 1) Family and personal correspondence, 1837-1912; 2) Business correspondence, 1869-1894; 3) Letterbooks, 1860-1891; 4) Diaries, 1853-1893; 5) Financial Records, 1851-1907; 6) Legal material, 1863-1896; and 7) Miscellany. This collection relates to John Rogers Maltby’s role in the settlement and early history of Clay County, Nebraska; to land, livestock, and agricultural activities in the county; and to his ocean voyages and subsequent activities in Australia and India in the 1850s. Also included within the collection is material relating to the James Bainter Indian Depredation Claim of 1881. This claim resulted from the Sioux Indian Raids along the little Blue River in Nebraska, 1864.

Correspondents include: Boyd, James, 1871-1873; Furnas, Robert W., 1875; Hitchcock, Phineas W., 1871-1873; Laird, James, 1871-1873; Roggen, E.P., 1871-1874; Saunders, Alvin, 1875-1877; and Thompson, D.E., 1872.

Note:  See the photo component [RG2192.PH] for related images. See the Nebraska History index for articles about John R. Maltby.


Series 1 – Family and Personal Correspondence, 1837-1912

Box 1


    1. 1837-1852

    1. 1853-1854

    1. 1854-1857

    1. 1857-1860

    1. 1861-1864

    1. 1865-1868

    1. 1869-1870

    1. 1871

    1. 1871-1872

Box 2


    1. 1872

    1. 1873

    1. 1874

    1. 1875-1876

    1. 1877

    1. 1878

    1. 1879

    1. 1881

    1. 1882

    1. 1884-1885

    1. 1886-1887

    1. 1888-1889

    1. 1890-1891

    1. 1892

    1. 1893-1894

    1. 1895

    1. 1900-1912

    1. Undated & Fragments

Series 2 – Business Correspondence, 1869-1894

Box 3


    1. 1869-1870

    1. 1871 (Political Material, Clay Co.)

    1. 1871-1872 (Early Clay Co. history)

    1. 1872

    1. 1872

    1. 1872

    1. 1873

    1. 1873

    1. 1873-1874

Box 4


    1. 1874

    1. 1875-1876

    1. 1877

    1. 1877

    1. 1878

    1. 1879

Box 5


    1. 1879-1880

    1. 1881

    1. 1881 (Bainter Indian Depredation Claim)

    1. 1882

    1. 1882-1883

    1. 1884-1885

Box 6


    1. 1886-1887

    1. 1888-1889

    1. 1889-1891

    1. 1892

    1. 1893-1894

    1. Undated

Series 3 – Letterbooks, 1860-1891

Box 7


    1. 1860-1861, pp. 1-100, J.R. Maltby

    1. 1860-1861, pp. 101-200, J.R. Maltby

    1. 1860-1861, pp. 201-300, J.R. Maltby

    1. 1860-1861, pp. 301-400, J.R. Maltby

    1. 1860-1861, pp. 401-, J.R. Maltby

Box 8


    1. 1865, Mrs. Maltby to John R. Maltby

    1. 1864-1865, Mrs. Maltby to John R. Maltby

    1. 1866-1891

    1. 1885

Series 4 – Diaries, 1853-1893

Box 9


    1. 1853 to Australia

    1. 1859-1860, Travels in India

    1. 1862, Jan. 1-Apr., Calcutta to London





      1883 (not complete)









Series 5 – Financial Records, 1851-1907

Box 10


    1. 1851, 1859, 1861, 1862, 1863, 1866

    1. 1867, receipts

    1. 1868, receipts

    1. 1869, receipts

    1. 1870, receipts

    1. 1871, receipts

    1. 1872, receipts

    1. 1873, receipts

    1. 1874, receipts

    1. 1876-1877, receipts

    1. 1878, receipts

    1. 1879, receipts

    1. 1880, receipts

    1. 1881, receipts

    1. 1882, receipts

    1. 1883, receipts

    1. 1884, receipts

    1. 1885, receipts

    1. 1886, receipts

    1. 1887, receipts

    1. 1888, receipts

    1. 1889, receipts

    1. 1894, receipts

    1. 1907, receipts

    1. Undated, receipts

Volume (Account Books)

    1. 1862, Paris

    1. 1862-1863

    1. 1872

    1. 1875

    1. 1877-1879

    1. 1880

    1. 1879-1880

    1. 1879-1880

    1. 1882-1884

    1. 1884-1893

    1. 1887

    1. 1894-1895

    1. 1895-1899

Box 11


    1. 1867-1876, Cash Book

    1. 1863, 1876-1882, Cash Book

    1. 1877-1883, Cash Book

    1. 1891-1894, Cash Book

    1. 1878-1890, Financial records for Altar Society, Catholic Church, Fairfield, Nebraska

    1. 1886, Property Holdings and Sales

Series 6 – Legal Materials, 1863-1896

Box 11 (cont.)

Abstracts, mortgages, deeds, insurance policy, 1863, 1872-1896

Series 7 – Miscellany

Box 12


    1. Documents and Certificate Maltby Marriage License, etc.

    1. Invitations and programs

    1. Sutton Post Office

    1. Constitutions and By-Laws

      Poll Book, Clay Co., 1872-1875

      Plat Book, Clay Co., 1 volume

      Scrapbook, Cleoburg Mortimer, kept by Matilda Cooke

Box 13 – Contains original letterbook 1860-1861 of Maltby too fragile to be examined. Copy included in collection.



Australia — History

Bainter, James

Boyd, James E., 1834-1906

Clay County (Neb.) — History

Furnas, Robert Wilkinson, 1825-1905

Hitchcock, Phineas Warren, 1831-1881

India — Description and travel

Indians of North America — Nebraska

Indians of North America — Wars — 1862-1865

Laird, James B., 1849-1885

Lincoln (Neb.) — History

Maltby, John Rogers, 1827-1892

Roggen, Edward Pardee, 1847-1926

Saunder, Alvin, 1817-1899

Sioux Indians

Spring Ranch Station (Clay County, Neb.)

Sutton (Neb.) — History

Thompson, David Eugene, 1854-1942


JEP/ht   11-02-1972

Encoded TMM   06-16-2010

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