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Friend, Nebraska: A Railroad Station on the Winslows’ Way to California

Friend, Saline Co., Nebraska, is located on Highway 6 and its Chamber of Commerce advertises it is “the midway point of the nation on Highway 6.” This heartland community had its beginnings in 1870, when Charles Friend arrived in Nebraska to work on a new railroad grading hearing west from Lincoln, Nebraska. He decided to homestead along the route, spending the spring and summer of 1870 “sleeping on his claim.” That winter, Friend returned to Lincoln, clerking in a store. The following spring, he returned to Saline Co., where, with a few boards and a new door, he built a general store on the front of his house. In June a post office was established in the store, and he was appointed postmaster. The settlement of Friendville was approved on August 1, 1871.

The Burlington and Missouri River Railroad reached Friendville, where a second store, blacksmith shop and flour mill were established. The railroad station was completed in 1873, and the stop was named Friend, which later became the official name of the town. That fall, 56 acres of Friend’s homestead was surveyed for a town, and settlement began with the opening of several commercial establishments to serve a growing population.

Ernest Winslow was born December 18, 1876 to Elizabeth Winslow, known as Betsy. According to family stories, Ernest’s father is believed to have been Dell Parker, a cowboy who was killed before the couple could be married. The town’s first newspaper was not established until 1882, the same year as Friend’s official incorporation as a town, and birth records for Nebraska were not consistently kept prior to 1904 at either the state or county level.

By 1890, there were 1,347 residents of Friend, which today has a population of 1,100. By then, many of the Winslows, however, had departed for California. Among them were Betsy and her two illegitmate sons (Ernest and Stephen). Based on a 1925 newspaper obituary in Fresno County, California, the migrating Winslows arrived in the southern San Joaquin Valley (Kingsburg) in 1885. At the time of her death, Betsy Winslow had lived in Kingsburg for 40 years.

It is not known which railroad route to California was used by the Winslow family: the Southern Pacific’s New Orleans-San Francisco Route (completed in January 1883) or the Atchison, Topeka and Sante Fe (which reached Los Angeles in August 1883). Since the Winslows lived in Friend, Nebraska, it is likely that the Southern Pacific Route would have been chosen; traveling on the ATSF route would have required a southeastern trip along the Missouri River to Atchison, Kansas.

On the other hand, if the trip was made in the early spring, the more southerly route might have been used. Travel to the San Joaquin Valley of California along either route was possible, because, by 1885 Kingsburg was reachable via the Southern Pacific’s branch traveling south from Sacramento, or from Los Angeles north on the same route.

Posted in Bunker Family History, Detling Family History, Older Posts.

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