"To know the sacrifices of the past is to appreciate the
blessings of the present and to inspire great
deeds in the future."

~Robert M. Quinn
June 23, 2024




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The Life History of Martin Emmet Quinn
An Autobiography


I, Martin Emmet Quinn, was born March 22, 1894. My grandfather, Martin James Quinn, came from Ireland. His native home was County Galway near Galway Bay. He was born about 1836. He came to Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, in the early 1860's joining the police force there about 1864 and was soon married to Sarah Steppe. My father, Michael John Quinn, the second child, was born October 24, 1866. He went to sea at the age of 14 years as a cabin boy on an old windjammer sail ship between Halifax and Boston. He did not take to sailing well, so he jumped ship in New York and became a sparring partner for John Sullivan for some time. He then drifted down through Old Mexico then back north joining the old wagon trains going west. He worked at various jobs and fought Indians along the way. He drifted up into Iowa in the fall and went to work for a cattle rancher for the winter. The rancher had a man teacher teaching at the school, and he talked Dad into going to school. By spring he had a pretty good education. That spring he drifted farther north to Harlan, Iowa. He found work in the neighborhood and soon became acquainted with his future wife, Lucinda McAnelly. She was a school teacher in the area. Her great grandfather had come from County Antrim, Ireland, in 1793. They had settled first in Pennsylvania. The next generation moved to Ohio, and the family was now living in Iowa. My mother and father were married in Sioux City, Iowa, on December 7, 1890.

The Move to Nebraska

After their marriage my parents began to lay plans to go West to the territory of Nebraska to file on some of the free land and build a new home along with my mother's sister's family, Effie and Levi Billiter. They began to acquire the needed equipment to start a farm - a covered wagon, a team of horses, and other supplies. On April 29, 1891, they crossed the Missouri River near Sioux City. After joining up with another outfit or two, they were on their way to the wild West. There was plenty of wild game and fruit, such as service berries and wild plums which were very sweet and juicy, as well as chokecherries to eat as they traveled along their way.

There was a larger group a little ahead of Dad's which had a very foolish man aboard. He bragged that he was going to "get himself an Indian." The folks did not pay attention to him and thought it was some more of his windjamming. Sure enough, when they went through an Indian village where all the braves were out hunting, there was an old Indian woman sitting on a log. He up and shot her dead. Along toward evening they could see the Indians gathering around them on every side. They formed the wagons into their usual circle for battle, but they knew it was useless against such a large gathering of Indians. The Indians sent their chief under a flag of truce. He made a demand for the man that had shot the Indian woman. He told them if the man was not delivered, the Indians would kill every man, woman, and child and burn the wagon train. The settlers could see it was "one or all" so the man, screaming for someone to shoot him, was delivered to the Indians. The Indians took him down to the river where he was stripped and tied with rawhide strips until he could not move. They cut the skin on his back in strips, then they took the skin strips at one end and pulled them from his body. The people at the wagon train could hear his screams for some time. They gradually became weaker and then stopped, and they thought he was surely dead. They held the wagon train in a circle until morning in case the Indians changed their minds. In the morning the Indians had left, and some troopers found the nude man's body lying on an ant hill. The wagon train continued on their way.

After several days of hardship, Dad's little group finally reached the little town of Butte, Nebraska, near the Platte River, which was on the wagon road to Denver. The Indians were very bothersome, and the Whites had some fortified houses. They always had some riders out who would notify them when the Indians were coming. The settlers would try to get to a fortified place, but sometimes they did not make it.

They decided to take a little look around and found some ground that suited their taste, so they squatted there. They had to wait for the surveyors to survey it so they could file on it. The surveyors came in due time. They had their little sod house built by then, but it was on the wrong quarter of land. The barn was on the right quarter, so they built a small frame house near the barn and moved into that so they could file on the quarter they really wanted.

At Butte

I, Martin Emmet Quinn, was born on March 22, 1894, in a raging blizzard in a sod shanty with a dirt floor on the plains of Nebraska. There was only Dad, Mother, and the storm. Dad started out the next morning to find a neighbor woman to come and stay for a few days. The nearest neighbor was 20 miles away, but everything turned out all right. I was told several years later that the drifts were three to four feet deep, and he had to go on horseback. The neighbor brought his wife with a team and sleigh.

One night after the folks had gone to bed, Dad heard some stock and a couple of riders go by. One of the riders said, "There is a nice looking animal. We will just cut her in." Dad jumped out of bed and took his horse and took after them. In less than a mile he overtook them. Riding up behind with his shotgun dead on, he said, "All right, boys. Cut her out and take her back." There was no argument. They did just that. Those men were riding, picking up a few head here and there, and taking them to another state to be sold.

I was about five years old at this time. One night there came a knock on the door. Dad went and opened the door and there stood five or six of those cattle thieves. They said they wanted our supper. Dad knew that the odds were against him, so he said, "All right, come in," even though we were pressed for food ourselves. They all wore sheepskin coats that came halfway down to their knees. You could see their gun ends below their coats. I was fascinated by those guns, and I remember yet going around the table peeking under their coats at those guns. They did not take off their hats or their coats while they were eating. After eating about all that Mother had in the house, they tromped out the door, and there was not a "thank you" in the crowd. They paid for all their deeds the night the vigilantes caught up with them. All but two were given a trial and were convicted and condemned to death. The two that got away were not home at the time and were never seen again. The others were executed, some by being put under the ice in the Niobrara River, and the rest were hung from a bridge.

The Runaway

Early one morning when I was very young, I saw smoke on the horizon. I started out to see what it was. When I was not present at the breakfast table, my father went out to the stable to get his saddle horse to go hunting for me. Dad said he found me seven miles from home, but I doubt that because I usually had to have a nap before I could go that far.

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Last Updated: September 30, 2023  
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