Trester’s Travels, 1869

Milton L. Trester (1843-1903), a pioneer resident of Lancaster County, was a native of Indiana. He first sought work in Nebraska in 1869 when travel and accommodations for travelers were far different than they are today. Trester’s brief autobiography, written in 1898, is now at the Nebraska State Historical Society.

Trester recalled in 1898 that he “passed through Chicago to Omaha reaching the latter place April 1, or 2, 1869. I worked at house carpentering in Omaha about two months at $3.50 per day. . . . On a Saturday I went to Fremont, Nebraska, and stayed over Sunday, taking the train on Monday morning back to Elkhorn station to get the stage to Lincoln.

“When the train pulled out and left me standing with my trunk on the side of a high embankment and I looked for the town, all of it to be found was a desolate looking one-room cottonwood shanty. When I presented myself at the door and inquired for the stage office, the only occupant, a very much in earnest Irish lady, informed me that the stage office is ‘right here, Sorr.’ When I asked where the stage was she said it had gone, but it would go again to Lincoln the next day. I went back up on the railroad fill, sat down on the rail and thought of the desolation of man even if there was a woman around. But after a while I concluded, as there was no sociability in the lady at the foot of the fill, I would start on a walk for Lincoln and save the $5.00 stage fare. The population of Elkhorn unanimously agreed to send my trunk the next day, and I struck out.

“I got dinner at a farm house near Forest City [in Sarpy County]. I pressed on and about three o’clock overtook the stage stuck fast in a quicksand bar, over which they had to drive to get onto the ferry boat to cross the Platte River. After the horses floundered a while in the quicksand, the men finally got them onto the boat and hitched them to the wagon rope. Then the horses and the six or eight men with an ‘altogether pull, boys,’ brought the wagon on the boat. The ferryman asked for no fare from me and as I thought I had paid my way pulling the rope, I said nothing about it either. . . .

“I reached Lincoln the next day, June 2, at about three o’clock, having stopped for dinner at a Mr. Moran’s near the mouth of Stevens Creek. I offered him a five dollar bill, and as he had no change he gave me a look which said, ‘You are a rascal and could give me a quarter if you wanted to.’ Whereupon I gave him my name and told him he would find one man honest enough to send him his pay by mail for this dinner. This I did very soon. As I said before, I reached Lincoln about three P.M. June 2, 1869, and my trunk came about a week later. It took a five dollar bill to get the trunk out of the stage office.”

Trester’s problems didn’t end with his arrival in Lincoln. He noted, “I found board and lodging at the old Pioneer House on the corner of 9th and Q Streets, . . . [where] I found it almost necessary to lock my door and lash myself to the bedstead to keep the bugs from carrying me away.”

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