Henry Rief, BiographyPorter County biographical sketches . . . .

Transcribed biography of Henry Rief

HENRY RIEF. - In well deserved enjoyment of material comforts which advancing years make particularly acceptable, Henry Rief, one of Hall County's early settlers, lives on his old homestead in Washington township, which he secured over a half century ago. Mr. Rief is one of Hall County's best known and most respected citizens.

He was born in Schleswig-Holstein, October 8, 1846, away back when that province was a part of Denmark. His parents were Hans and Margaretta (Brammer) Rief, natives of Germany. The father was a weaver by trade and was able to take care of his family thereby until political disturbances with Prussia, practically ruined the weaving business. Like many others of that time and condition, he turned his eyes toward that land of freedom, the United States, and in 1869 reached this country with wife and children, the son, Henry, having come to America five years previously. The Rief family settled permanently in Hall County, Nebraska, where the father homesteaded and also bought land that has never been out of the family. He was a farmer and raised stock and lived quietly and industriously on his homestead until his death in 1892. Both he and the mother were members of the Lutheran church. She died in 1909. They had eight children, four of whom are living: Henry, who resides in Washington township; Mary, who lives at Boelus, Nebraska, is the widow of Peter Clausen; Juergen, who married Anna Bucholtz, lives in Washington township, and Emma, who lives at Council Bluffs, Iowa, is the widow of Sivert Rief. The four children now deceased, were: Margaretta, the wife of Fred Langman, was accidentally drowned in the Platte River during a flood, leaving three children, the youngest but three months old; Anna, the wife of Henry Bockman, died leaving eight children; Charles, who married Anna Sick, died in California in 1915, and William, who died in 1909, married Catherine Bilfeld and was a farmer in Washington township. The late Charles Rief was a man of prominence in Hall County and elsewhere. He had been an extensive traveler as a sea captain prior to coming to the United States in 1871, having been a student of navigation in Flensburg, Denmark, and London, England. He served a number of years as county clerk in Hall County, was a member of the school board and the examining board for teachers, then was elected to the state legislature and during his service in the general assembly worked for and secured the location of the Soldiers' Home in Hall County. He was also an author and one of his books entitled "Land and Light" has had wide circulation.

A well educated youth of observing mind, Henry Rief left Denmark at the age of eighteen years, reaching the United States in 1864, when this country was yet in the throes of civil war. He first made a home at Valparaiso, Indiana, and within three months had taken but his first papers looking to American citizenship. He enlisted for any service needed by the Federal government and cheerfully performed every duty required of him until he was honorably discharged and mustered out April 5, 1865, having been mainly stationed at Chattanooga, Tennessee. He then started westward and on reaching Chicago, found employement as a clerk and made good use of his time by studying the English language in a night school. In the fall of 1865 he went to St. Louis, then to Hannibal and to St. Joseph on the Platte on his way to Omaha. On his trip up the Mississippi he was a passenger on the same steamer that carried the fourth engine for the Union Pacific Railroad.

On the present site of the great commercial and railroad center, Kansas City, nothing was to be seen but swamp and prairie. Mr. Rief found work with the railroad construction gangs, helping to build the first two bridges for the Union Pacific Railroad over Papillon and Elk Horn rivers. He was one of a party of twenty-four that made plans to celebrate the completion of the first telegraph line between Omaha and Fremont, on December 26, 1865. They started for Omaha on hand cars, in the face of a blizzard, spending the night on the way, and when they reached the city found great trouble in getting accommodations in a boarding house. Mr. Rief remembers the discomforts of that trip very vividly. During the rest of the winter he worked for the Union Pacific cutting wood and getting out railroad ties. The islands in the Platte River were heavily timbered and from these wood for burning and ties was secured. In those days there was little supervision of such work and large logs were left in the forests. There was a man by the name of Riddell, who took advantage of this condition and no doubt profited greatly. He owned a portable sawmill and sawed the logs into lumber, on shares with whoever cared to bring the logs to him.

In the spring of 1866 Mr. Rief engaged in another enterprise with Peter Stuem to bring goods from Omaha. This was a considerable undertaking as the merchandise had to be transported over the military road and as there were no bridges, every river and creek had to be forded. It required about eight days to make the trip from Omaha to Hall County. In the same year he worked for a Mr. Monroe who, when he left, owed him the sum of $180, which he obtained only through the good offices of friends, and upon receiving it loaned it to a Mr. Wiebe, who also seems to have miscalculated his ability to pay it back, but later turned over a team of oxen to Mr. Rief, who humorously says that he had to take up a homestead in order to use the oxen. He filed on a claim in 1867 and has since lived on this place, for many years carrying on general farming and stockraising. During the early days he oftentimes furnished hay and cord wood to Fort Kearney. His land lies near what was the famous California trail, a path about forty rods wide. The Pawnee Indians were numerous here when he homesteaded but he always maintained friendly relations with them and when they started for their government reservation they came by the hundred to bid him goodbye.

In November, 1869, Mr. Rief married Miss Lizzie Prahm, the ceremony taking place in Grand Island, her parents being early settlers in Hall County. Mr. and Mrs. Rief had five children: Henry, who lives at Seattle, Washington; Edwin, who lives in Adams County, Nebraska, married Amelia Siegert: Matilda, the wife of William Sievers of Grand Island; Centennial, the wife of Joseph Wehr, of Doniphan, and Lillie, the wife of Washington Sampson, of Seattle. The mother of these children died March 17, 1877. The second marriage of Mr. Rief took place June 15, 1879, to Miss Emma Fischer, a daughter of August and Louise (Hahn) Fischer, who spent their lives in Germany. Of the four children born to this marriage the following survive: Arthur, who lives on the home farm, married Gertrude Westerburg; Nellie, the wife of Charles Ericksen, of Grand Island; and Herbert, who was in the military training camp at Camp Dodge when this biography was written.

In early days in Hall County, school district No. 4 comprised territory in which there are now five schools. Mr. Rief has always been greatly interested in this district, for he taught school there and in District No. 28 for nine years, and for ten years was a director in the former district. In his political views he is a Republican and has taken part in many a committee meeting. For eight years he served on the county board of supervisors from Washington township and for one year was chairman of the board.

Source: Buechler, A. F., Robert J. Barr, Dale P. Stough, and Bayard H. Paine. 1920. History of Hall County, Nebraska. Lincoln, Nebraska: Prairie Pioneer Genealogical Society. 965 p.
Page(s) in Source: 757-759

This biography has been transcribed exactly as it was originally published in the source. Please note that we do not provide photocopies or digital scans of biographies appearing on this website.

Biography transcribed by Steven R. Shook


CSS Template by Rambling Soul