Thursday, July 2, 2009

The First German Catholic Homesteader

Homesteading in Gage County, Nebraska

The Midwest was purchased from France in the Louisiana Purchase. Nebraska began to accept settlement west of the Missouri River in the late 1850’s. One of those settlers, Joseph Graf. Born April 15, 1831, in Mullenbach, Germany, Joseph first came to Rock County, Wisconsin.

In the fall of 1859, after hearing that the state of Nebraska was opening up for settlement, he moved his young family to Nebraska City. That winter he traveled west to locate unoccupied farm ground that he could secure. He located a small hamlet, Beatrice, located on the Blue River.

On April 15, 1860, Theresa, his wife, noted in their small bible that they had arrived. This family, the first German homesteaders' and the first Catholics' in Gage County, with three children, first located in a dugout on the bank of the creek until a small log cabin could be built near the trail about four miles outside of Beatrice.

One could register for a Homestead in Brownville, Nebraska after January 1, 1863. Joseph Graf, in the dead of winter, on January 20th, was the 19th to register at Brownville. His farm is still owned by the Graff family and farmed by the fifth generation Graff's.

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