Sunday, November 29, 2015

Sunday Stories: History of McPherson County, Part 4


The following was an essay done for school credit by John Kramer.

In 1913 Arthur Precinct took steps to secede from McPherson County. On August 25, 1913, and August 27, 1913, Charles E. Foster and W.V. Hoagland appeared before the McPherson County Board of Commissioners to settle whether or not Arthur precinct would secede. Charles Foster was against the secession of Arthur Precinct while W.V. Hoagland was for the secession of Arthur Precinct. The minutes of the meeting do not state what action was taken by the board, but Arthur Precinct soon became known as Arthur County.
By 1915 most of the “Kinkaiders” had settled up on their claims and the population in the county began to decline. The businesses that remained were more solidly rooted and commercial centers had started up at Flats and Ringgold. By 1915 all parts of the county were connected together by telephone lines and the only serious handicap to development was the lack of good roads and transportation.

In 1917 the McPherson County High School was organized. The first teacher was Mrs. Clara Nichols Woods and the first class, which consisted of five pupils, graduated in 1921. In 1920 the first high school building was built. Prior to this time the pupils attended class in the I.O.O.F. building. The first pupils to graduate from McPherson County High School were Leo Cash, Viola Dahlin, Mathilda Doyle, Aubrey Warren and Nettie Winters.

In the early 1920’s many people owned an automobile and in 1920 the first state road was built. It consisted merely of a layer of mud on top of a bed of graded sand. Roads of similar nature were made to Mullen, Arthur, and North Platte in the later 1920’s. The building of these roads caused many people to buy automobiles and by 1925 most people in the county owned an automobile.
The Tryon Leader was sold to A.L. Fuller on February 15, 1923, by J.C. Heldenbrand. It came known as Fuller’s Cash Store until 1928. It was then sold to Marvin and Dan Platt and called the Platt Mercantile Co.

A band was organized in 1924 and remained active until the late 1920’s.

The Tryon Graphic changed ownership on June 12, 1924, when J. Warren Snyder took over the business from his father, Mullen B. Snyder.

Silent movies were shown in the Tryon Garage by S.W. Warren from 1924 until the late 1930’s. They were a unique form of entertainment and never failed to draw a large crowd.

The McPherson County Fair was organized on May 9, 1924, and the county’s first fair was held in August of that year.

A new courthouse was built in 1925-26 to replace the one-room sod courthouse that had thus far served the county. It had proven inadequate for a number of years for the rapidly growing county business. An attempt had been made in 1918 to build the courthouse, but sufficient funds could not be raised.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Sunday Stories: History of McPherson County, Part 3


The following was an essay done for school credit by John Kramer.

On November 3, 1891, the people of the county voted to annex the territory now known as Arthur County and on January 1, 1892, it became a part of McPherson County. This entire area was made into one precinct and was known as Arthur Precinct.

In the fall of that year the name of the county seat was changed to Tryon and a post office was established in the town. It is not definitely known how the town came to be named Tryon, but it is believed it was named after William Tryon, an early colonial governor.

During the 1890’s, there was a drought throughout Nebraska. Although it was not as severe in this county as elsewhere, it retarded settlement and growth. By 1900 the county’s population had increased by only 116 people to make the total population 517.

In 1895 Tryon had only two buildings, the courthouse and the home of Jay Smith, the county treasurer. Jay Smith’s house contained the only newspaper in McPherson County at this time, The McPherson County News. D.P. Wilcox had established in 1889, making it the first business established in this county, but sold it to Smith soon after. Smith sold it to George Daly in 1895 and it remained in his family until 1922 when it was sold to the Snyder family. The building holding the paper was completely destroyed by fire in 1926. This destroyed most of the old copies that would have given a great amount of facts concerning the first years that the county was in existence.

In 1897 L.C. Reneau established a simple store in Tryon. It carried only a few necessities and the county had several other stores that were similar in nature.
In 1903 Mike David established this county’s first permanent store. This first store was made of sod and stood a few rods north of the present day David Store. In 1911 Mike David bought the Reneau General Store and located his business there until 1916 when he built the store that Taft Haddy, his son-in-law, now operates.

The Kinkaid Act, which was enacted by Congress in 1904, did much to speed the settlement of the entire Sandhill area. The act, which was sponsored by Moses P. Kinkaid, made it possible for any settler to obtain one section of land by living on it for five years.

In other parts of the state the big ranches bitterly opposed the “Kinkaiders”, but here this was not so. Some of the ranchers even helped the “Kinkaiders” by giving them employment and feed for their livestock. Most of those who settled on the ranges of the Whitewater or Triangle ranches later sold out to these ranches for satisfactory prices.

The rapid influx of settlers at this time increased the population of this county to 2,470 people in 1910. The county seat grew to become a bustling frontier city. In 1907 a schoolhouse was built, in 1910 another store, and also in the early 1900’s a lodge and the Tryon Hall were built. The store that was built was known as the Tryon Leader and was owned and operated by I.C. Heldenbrand.
A period of good crop years helped the “Kinkaiders” to get a good start and the county prospered greatly. Times were so prosperous and there were so many people that there was a shortage of teachers and schools. Tryon built a new two-room schoolhouse in 1914 to help remedy its problems and much the same thing happened throughout the county. The schoolhouse that had served Tryon up until this time was sold to Will M. Dunn and was used for the printing office until 1926 when it was destroyed by fire.

Many of the settlers became deeply in debt to the stores for the necessities that they needed. Since they would have no money until they sold the land after five years of residence, they were quick to secure loans on their land from the various lending agencies. The two lending agencies that operated in this county were Bills & Cline and The Cornelius Company, both from Hastings, Nebraska. In 1918 most of the loans were refinanced in the Birdwood National Farm Loan Association.

These loans were a boon to many of the settlers while some merely used them as a means to sell out. Many of the settlers that stayed and paid up the loans became quite prosperous and many of their descendants are still in the county today on these original holdings. Although some of the land did fall into the hands of non-resident owners, in a few years this land was purchased by resident operators who were expanding their holdings.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Sunday Stories: History of McPherson County, Part 2


The following was an essay done for school credit by John Kramer.

These early settlers were confronted with many problems. Building materials were hard to obtain so most buildings were made of sod. In order to obtain water, very often deep wells had to be dug. In the west part of the county this was not as great a problem since water could be found after digging only a few feet. These settlers lived in constant fear of prairie fires and for protection plowed wide furrows around their buildings and stacks of feed. To be guilty of starting a fire was second only to being a horse or cattle thief at that time.
Most of the early settlers found employment on the large ranches or “back east” in Custer County. They left home early in the spring and were gone the entire summer. The wages earned kept the families in necessities until the first crops were grown or the livestock herds were built up. A few of the settlers hauled wood from the Dismal River to North Platte or Custer County, gathered bones and hauled them to the rail heads, or shot prairie chickens for sale in the markets in the eastern states.

McPherson County was, until this time, a part of Logan County. On January 28, 1890, a Special Board of County Commissioners met at the home of D.P. Wilcox at McPherson Post Office. At this meeting the Special County Commissioners, H.J. Anderson and H. Newberry, and Special County Clerk, D.P. Wilcox voted to divide the county into two precincts, West and East McPherson. The place of voting in the west was at the home of Mr. Brown at Cottonwood ranch and in the East at the home of John Booze. It was also decided at this meeting to have an election of County Officers on February 27, 1890. The county’s first officers were B.F. Wilson, County Clerk; Jay Smith, Treasurer; Albert Mayer, Sheriff, C.W. Shaul, County Judge; Lewis E. Dolph, County Superintendent; G.M. Brooks, Coroner; R. E. Haskell, H. Newberry and H.J. Anderson, County Commissioners. Later the office of R.E. Haskell was declared vacant and Henry Brown was appointed Commissioner.
On May 17, 1890, the commissioners moved the county seat from McPherson Post Office to where Tryon stands today. Even though McPherson Post Office was only four miles away the county seat was named McPherson.

The population of the county at this time and of the then unorganized Arthur County was only 401 people. Most of these were in the eastern half of McPherson County.
The courthouse was built in 1890 and was approximately thirty by thirty feet in size, made of sod, and covered by a high frame roof. It contained a brick vault and steel safe. The vault and safe are now located in the present day courthouse. This first courthouse was located where the high school stands today.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Sunday Stories: History of McPherson County, Part 1

These blog posts have been spending quite a lot of time down here in the valley, so I think it's time to head north to the hills and share a little about my childhood home - McPherson County.

A History of McPherson County

The following was an essay done for school credit by John Kramer.

McPherson County has, in its long past, taken on many shapes. Before the Tertiary period, the area was covered several times by ocean waters. These waters deposited sediments that formed thick layers of sandstone, shale and limestone. It was during the Tertiary period that a layer of gravel, sands and silts was washed from the Rocky Mountains onto this area. Today these deposits of gravel, sands and silts are known as the Ogallala formation and are covered by a few to several hundred feet of eolian sand of unknown origin.

In more recent times the continual blowing of the wind has formed the many hills that dominate the landscape of McPherson County. Also through the years the layers of sand and gravel have formed a type of natural “sponge” that gives the residents of the county today an abundant supply of underground water.

The first human beings to come into this area were the Indians. They were hunters and found life good in this area because of the abundance of game.

As the white man came west the Indians used the entire Sandhill area as a place of refuge from the horse soldiers of Fort Robinson, Fort McPherson, and Fort Kearney. The Indians were reluctant to leave this area but by the 1880’s all had been removed to reservations.

The first white men to set foot in this country were the buffalo hunters. Due to the great danger presented by the Indian hunting parties, they traveled only at night when they could locate the Indian camps by the glow of their campfires. By day they camped in deep pockets and posted sentries to warn of the approach of any Indians.

The wild horse hunters came next and caught many of the bands of horses roaming over the county. Two brothers, Cap and Dan Haskell, from Custer County were the most noted horse hunters who operated in this county. They caught hundreds of horses in the late 1870’s and early 1880’s and later established a ranch, the forerunner of the present day Milldale Land and Cattle Company.

The first cattlemen to come to this country arrived in 1874. John Bratt and Company, better known as the Circle Outfit, ranged cattle on the Birdwood Creek north to what is now Hyannis. They established several camps, the Tin Camp on the Birdwood Creek and Mile Camp south of Baldy Hill being the most used.

William F. “Buffalo Bill” Cody, Colonel Frank and Captain Luther North in 1877 established their “Wild Horse” ranch. It was located in Cody Lake valley, but the cattle were ranged east and south to the headwaters of the South Loup River.

These two ranches spread until the whole county was being grazed by their cattle before the coming of the settlers in the 1880’s.

The Burlington Railroad made a survey for the Kearney-Blackhills railway through this area in the 1880’s. It was this that brought the settlers into this area. They settled along the survey route expecting the road to be built. The road was built to Callaway by 1890, but the route through this area was abandoned and the road went north through the Middle Loup valley.

The settlers who came to this area followed these surveys and the trails made by early cattlemen and horse hunters. They settled in the broader valleys on the more fertile soil.
Note the checkerboard pattern that shows the land granted to the Union Pacific Railroad.
Among the first permanent settlers were Mr. and Mrs. John Quinn, who located on the Cody-North ranch in 1884. Cap Haskell, the horse hunter established a ranch which was the forerunner of the present day Whitewater ranch. Nate Trego, John Schick and Jack Rupp, who were cowboys for John Bratt and Company, also settled in the western part of McPherson County. Others who settled in the western part were Malam, Ed, Ell, Nate and John Bassett, Milt Hogue, Frank, Allen and Bill Terrell.
Some of the early settlers in the central part of the county were John Booze, John L. Neal and sons Lew, Elmer and Billy; Hugh Bedell, Mike Connell, Jay Smith, Ernest and Owen Wisner, Phil and Joe Suiter, Manley Calhoun, Bill Foster, Link Sells, the Miller family, Johnny Clouse, Frank and Charley Dolph and Bob Shimmin.
The earliest settler in the eastern part of the county was George Brooks. Other early settlers in this community were Jake Leak, Silas Clothier and Gilson James.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Sunday Stories: Armstrong Implement

Excerpted from the Sutherland Centennial 1891 – 1991, published in 1991.

James (Jimmie) Armstrong owned and operated an Allis-Chalmers Implement Company in Sutherland for more than twenty years.

Mr. Armstrong was the proud owner of an airplane that he used in his implement business to deliver repair parts to his customers who lived in the Sandhills. Jimmie was not a pilot, so he hired several people to pilot the plane on these deliveries. J.M. (Marion) McKinley, Claire Sherman, and Irvin Brownell were the three gentlemen who were hired to be the pilots. Whoever was available at the time was selected.

Marion McKinley related one incident that transpired when he was piloting the plane to Diamond Bar to deliver parts. Jim Flannigan and of course, Jimmie Armstrong, were along. As there was no landing strip on any of the ranches, the pilot was to ascertain the area that looked to be the smoothest on which to land and take off. This particular time an area chosen and they landed with no problem. When it was time to leave, the area chosen was none too long… they were rapidly approaching the lake and all three on board were becoming very nervous and concerned. Marion said he gave the plane all the power it had and just as they were about to enter the water, the plane began to lift just enough and they were slowly becoming airborne. It took quite some ime before they all began to relax a little. Marion further states that he was not again asked to pilot the plane for deliveries.

Bernard Gummere bought the Implement business from Jimmie Armstrong in September of 1957.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Sunday Stories: James M. and Gertrude (Essex) Armstrong

Excerpted from the Sutherland Centennial 1891 – 1991, published in 1991.

James M. Armstrong was born in Davenport, Nebraska, July 2, 1888, the son of Winfield Scott and Ellen (Beck) Armstrong. His father worked for the railroad. James left home at the age of 14, working at various jobs. His main interest always being in sales. He was one of the first employees of the Omaha Electric Company, a barber, managed grain elevators and owned one of the first cars in his county.

Gertrude (Essex) Armstrong was born inGage County (near Beatric), Nebraska, October 1899 to Omer and Elizabeth Dinsmore Ellinger Essex.

Jimmie and Gertrude were married in Smith Center, Kansas, November 28, 1922. After living in small towns in eastern Nebraska, they moved west for Jimmie’s health, settling in Curtis, where they operated cafes and Jimmie sold insurance and umpired baseball games. Their daughter, Illa Mae, was born in Curtis on February 9, 1926.

In 1930, the family moved to Denver where they operated a grocery store. In January 1931, they moved to Flagler, Colorado, where Jim operated a lunchroom and Gertrude made the pies. They again returned to Curtis in 1931, again operating cafes. Illa Mae attended elementary school in Curtis, receiving the National Honor Society Pin in 1939 for the highest grade point average of that year.

Selling their restaurant in 1939, they came to Sutherland in August where they opened a small café by the Co-Op Service Station, continuing there until 1943. Jimmie was then working to establish an Allis-Chalmers Agency. He had been selling through the Ogallala agency. He had worked in Omaha in the parts department during the First World War.
Illa Mae attended four years at Sutherland High, graduating in 1943 as Salutatorian. She was active in Pep Club, mixed choir, girls choir, class plays and other activities. She was a member of the Methodist Church and Theta Rho.

In 1945, Illa Mae went to Boise, Idaho to attend Junior College (now Boise State). Her parents closed the café and Gertrude then managed the White Motel for Connor White, Jimmie had established ‘Armstrong Implement Company’ south of the railroad tracks.

Illa Mae received her diploma from BJC in 1945 and transferred as a junior to the University of Denver where she received her B.S. in 1947. She was a member of the Phi Chi Theta professional sorority.

Jimmie was a long time member of the I.O.O.F. having gone through the chairs in 1929. In Sutherland he owned a plane enabling him to deliver implement parts in the Sandhills. Friends piloted the plane. He also checked attendance at the Star Theatre.

Gertrude was a faithful member of the Methodist Church, receiving her 50-year pin. After the restaurant was closed, she devoted a great deal of her time to the church.

Jimmie and Gertrude retired in 1957, selling the Implement business to Bernard Gummere, Jimmie continuing in auto sales. He passed away October 8, 1971 and is buried in the Sutherland Cemetery. He was a “dyed in the wool” Nebraskan and always enjoyed living in a small town, fishing in the reservoir, etc.

Gertrude enjoyed needlework, singing and cooking. She preceded Jimmie in death on November 9, 1970, and is also buried in the Sutherland Cemetery. Jimmie’s grandmother was a cousin to Stonewall Jackson.

Submitted by Illa Mae Armstrong Imroth

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Sunday Stories: Harvey James Applegate

Excerpted from the Sutherland Centennial 1891 – 1991, published in 1991.

Born January 16, 1907 (Died, Sutherland, Nebraska April 10, 1996 – All of the writing in this article is his, except for notes in parentheses, as of 1991). At the age of 34 years, married Geraldine Russell, who was born March 26, 1912. Geraldine was born and raised in the Tecumseh, Nebraska area, attended Peru State Teachers College. She taught school five years in Filley, Nebraska, and two years at Gisert. She then came to Sutherland and taught in the Elementary schools for District #55. She passed away June 8, 1984.
Harvey and Geraldine Applegate
Three children were born to this union: James Harvey, John Russell (b. Jun. 28, 1944 d. Jun. 20, 2003), and Emily “Susan” Kerley (b. May 25, 1945 d. Sep. 23, 2002) who is now living in Sacramento, California.

I went to the first through the sixth grades at Excelsior School located south of Sutherland. Then came to town school for the seventh grade, went back out to Excelsior for the eighth and ninth grades. Graduated from Sutherland High School in 1926.

Bessie McIntire was my first teacher at Excelsior. Other teachers were Mary Brown, Bessie Miller, Marie McQuire, Mildred Applegate, Hildred Applegate, Margie Mapes, Mrs. McKinely, Mrs. Martin, Naomi Reynolds, and Bertha Johnson. Mrs. Bertha Johnson taught every one of the Applegate children in one school or the other, or somewhere along the line of the education process.

In approximately 1923-1925, my father commenced to buy land up in the Sandhills. At that time had cattle on the leased Henry Olson place where Mel Lake lived. After graduating from High School, I stayed out at the “South Place” for a short time, then on Thanksgiving Day, in 1927, I went to the Sandhills and I have made my home there ever since.

I lived on the “Attebury Place”, Section 2 of T-15-N, R-34-W. Was there until I moved up on the hill on the Section 36, T-16-N, R-34-W, this is catty-corner from where Harshfield’s loading chutes are now located. On March 26, 1931, John Gaiser, a bachelor, died; Mart and Helen Mathers lived and used the Gaiser place. Mathers went back up to Trego’s place; so I moved onto the Gasier Place and finished out Mather’s term.

This is Section 10,T-15N, R-34-W. IN 1933 we purchased the place and is now (1991) the home of James and his wife, Gail.

There is a distance of 12 miles from the North Platte River up to the Birdwood Creek. We purchased land in the middle of these two landmarks. Over the period of years, people lost their land, the banks and finance corporations would sell them out. Some of the people who stayed and toughed it out were the Harshfields, Greens, McLains, Muellers, Cokers, Tregos, McNeels, Orhlands, Lunkwitz, Cases and Brogans.

Twenty sections make up the Applegate holdings today, some of the people whose land became a part of the Applegate Ranch are McLain, the school section, Gaiser, Dancer, Olson, Hunkey, Kilpatrick, Attebury, Halstead, Lunkwitz, and Lake.

Geraldine and I moved to town in 1949 in a little house south of the railroad tracks, and in a few years moved to my current home where I have lived for 25/30 years.

I am a member of the Methodist Church, Nebraska York Rite of Freemasonry of North Platte, Tehama Temple A.A.O.N.M.S. of Hastings, Nebraska. Was a 50-year crop reporter for the Department of Agriculture, received the Beaver Award-Boy Scouting on March 27, 1977, Grand Marshal of the Sutherland 4th of July parade, and received my Admiralship of the Great Navy of the State of Nebraska in November 1984.


Mr. Applegate is the benefactor of the “APPLEGATE SCHOLARSHIP” given each year to one of the Sutherland High School Graduating Seniors. He is a kind, warm-hearted man, and is the first to help out if someone is in trouble. There was no other calling for this intelligent man, who made substantial returns for his time and money invested in his ranching and commercial businesses. He has always been willing to exert himself to keep abreast of the times to realize a profit on his investment of time and money. ~Claudia Eberly