frontis, S.D. Butcher’s Pioneer History of Custer County and Short Sketches of Early Days in Nebraska (1901)
The preface to Solomon Butcher’s history violates virtually all eighteenth and nineteenth century conventions regarding humility. Its accusatory tone is truly remarkable.
To My Friends and Patrons:
As you turn the pages of this book and see the familiar landmarks of former years, you will begin to appreciate the endeavors of the man who, for fifteen years, has labored against many difficulties, and is at last able to place in your hands a truthful history of pioneer life in Custer county. It will be doubly interesting to many of you, because you have helped supply the material from which it is made, while new arrivals will read with interest these anecdotes and reminiscences and short, thrilling stories of the founders of this county, their many trials and hardships endured while braving the elements in the howling blizzards of winter, the scorching suns of the drought period and devastation by grasshoppers. All tend to make it a most remarkable book, and every one will have the satisfaction of knowing he is reading truth and not following the wild imagination of the novelist.
We make no apology in placing this book before the public. We have tried honestly to get facts from every source possible. If we have failed to do so in some cases, it has been the fault of the informants and not intentional on our part. We submit it just as it is, and it must stand or fall on its merits as a historical production. We have in some cases used fictitious names, where we thought proper to do so, as it would not detract materially from the interest of the history. The old pioneers will have no difficulty in following the career of noted characters as well under one name as another. While we must, as a true historian, chronicle Custer county’s history, we do not care to give a man who may be trying to live honestly and atone for past misdeeds undue notoriety by disclosing his true name.
We thank those gentlemen who have kindly furnished us articles over their own signatures besides the many pioneers who have furnished us manuscript to be boiled down and which is made the foundation on which our history rests. And last, but not least, we wish to thank the man who has come to our aid financially, when the clouds seemed blackest and most gloomy, and our book had once again almost come to a standstill for want of means to push it to success. How glad it made our heart when Uncle Swain Finch said: “Butch, you have worked faithfully and deserve success, and if the people of Custer county want a history, by George, they shall have it.” May the name of E.S. Finch be handed down to generations yet unborn as a great philanthropist—one of God’s noblemen—who just “growed” like Topsy.
If, in looking over the pages of this book, you find a fuller description of some other portion of the county than of your own, pause before criticizing the historian and ask if it is not your own fault that you are not more fully represented. If you have done any great deeds in Custer county which are worthy to go down in history, was it not your duty to have them recorded?
In conclusion, I wish to express my obligations to George B. Mair, editor of the Calloway Courier, for valuable assistance rendered through his paper, and as editor and compiler of the manuscript, rough notes and sketches collected by me for this work.