Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Know Nebraska: Lincoln Highway, Lodgepole, Nebraska

The village of Lodgepole has a long association with transcontinental transportation history. Early on, the area hosted the “Pole Creek No.2 Pony Express Station”. The Union Pacific Railroad came through in 1867 and the community was formally founded.
Pony Express historian Joe Nardone donated this vehicle to the Lodgepole Depot Museum. It traveled 761,327 miles to document Pony Express history.
Lodgepole’s main street moved three different times in the early years, and the route of the Lincoln Highway through town crosses the railroad tracks,
Replica concrete marker in the Lodgepole City Park.
Continuing on the south side of the tracks through town and on county roads. Still standing on the south side are an early grocery store with its accompanying ice house,
Lodgepole Ice House
One of the most enduring icons of the historic Lincoln Highway in western Nebraska is the Lodgepole Opera House.
Lodgepole Opera House Today

Lodgepole Opera House today

Ghost Sign on Lodgepole Opera House

Historical Photo Lodgepole Opera House

Historical photo - Lodgepole Opera House - Note sign on building
Tourist cabins were once an integral part of nearly every small town along the Lincoln Highway.
Lodgepole Tourist Cabins Today

Lodgepole Tourist Cabins Today

Lodgepole Tourist Cabins Today
Lodgepole Tourist Cabins during the Blizzard of 1949
Lodgepole's long association with Union Pacific Railroad history is commemorated in their depot museum.
Lodgepole Depot Museum
Lodgepole Depot in History
Kitchen in the living quarters of the Lodgepole Depot Museum
The Air Force uniform of local resident Lillian Sullivan in the Depot Museum. Lillian joined the United States Air Force and was stationed at several Bases in the United States, including Gunter Air Force Base in Alabama where she received training at the Air University School of Aviation Medicine in 1954. She was then transferred to Rhein Main Air Base in Germany from 1955-1957, and was selected to be the first Aero Med Evac Flight Nurse.
Lodgepole Light and Water Plant and Village Offices today

Lodgepole Light and Water Plant in history
Kripal Garage today

Kripal Garage in History
Interior of the Kripal Garage

Showroom of the Kripal Garage
Historic Lincoln Highway Sign in the window of the Kripal Garage
Lodgepole Lincoln Highway frontage today
Repurposed historic bank building used as Adams Bank and Trust today.
If you're ever in western Nebraska, roadtripping along the Lincoln Highway, be sure to give yourself plenty of time to explore the little towns you'll drive through. It will be well worth the visit.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Sunday Stories: Allen's Sod Store

{As you read this story, allow yourselves to be transported back to 1881, you have the ingenuity and entrepreneurial spirit of R. E. Allen to cut posts on the Dismal River and haul them to Cozad to lay in a stock of supplies to sell to homesteaders - or you have the determination of Lovira Allen to care for the homestead in his absence - remember the desolate photos of this area when they first settled here!}

As more families came, Allen decided it would be profitable to lay in a small supply of necessities to sell to them, saving them the long, hard journey to Kearney or Cozad, the nearest market places. December of ’81 was unusually mild, so Allen went to the Dismal River, cut a load of posts and hauled them to Kearney to trade for one hundred dollars worth of goods he hoped would sell – kerosene, sugar, nails, etc. He reached home just before Christmas and put the items on display in the sod house.

The little stock was gone before the winter was out and as soon as weather permitted in the spring he made more trips to the Dismal and on to Kearney or Cozad. He would often be gone two weeks at a time, during which Mrs. Allen would mind the store, milk the cow and tend the babies. A second daughter, Blanche, was born in ’82.

The winter of 1882-83 was severe and spring slow in coming. Swain Finch lost one hundred head of sheep in a late storm. It was reported the wild horses had been thinned out and those that survived were weak. A party was sent out to bring them in where food was more plentiful.

As soon as the weather warmed, Landis “Elder” Correll put out the word he would hold a preaching service in the old Henry Brothers cabin, occupied by Morgan and Lydia Parks and a family named Frazier. About twenty-five people came and twelve signed up to become members of a Christian church.

Richard Allen made a trip to the land office in North Platte to preempt the quarter joining his homestead on the north and hauled lumber from Cozad to build a frame room on the south border. When connected to the log cabin, it made a fairly large dwelling and fulfilled the requirements for a residence on each quarter. The house served as store and post office and there was room in one corner for photographer Dan Austin to have a tiny studio.

Early in 1883, Stephen Leland and his father, Samuel, another experienced miller, moved up the river from Milldale to start a grist mill beside Allen’s store.

With the help of Alvin Harris, they dammed the river south of the sod store and using lumber hauled from Cozad, built a two-story structure to house the mill machinery, located on the east side of the river. Just across the road east of the mill, Stephen Leland put up a small frame house. As Harris had done at Milldale, the Lelands planted a field of buckwheat nearby.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Know Nebraska: Lincoln Highway, North Platte to Lodgepole

As President of the Nebraska Lincoln Highway Historic Byway, I love to drive the road and promote it whenever I have the opportunity. Recently the Board of Directors traveled to Lodgepole for their bi-monthly meeting. It turned out to be an unseasonably beautiful December day, perfect for taking pictures along the way. Enjoy this road trip from North Platte to Lodgepole!

Reproduction Lincoln Highway concrete marker in Hershey.
Buffalo along the Lincoln Highway just east of Sutherland.
Service station and public art in Sutherland.
Meats and More country store in Paxton, right on the Lincoln Highway.
Newly renovated depot in Paxton, now Anne Marie's coffee and gift shop.
Of course, Paxton is also the home of Ole's Big Game Lounge and the Windy Gap Saloon, but those places get a lot of press, so I passed them by on this trip.
Roscoe Lincoln Highway frontage.
Ogallala's Front Street (yes, it's for sale).
Ogallala's Spruce Street Station.
Brule City Park on the old Lincoln Highway.

California Hill historic marker just east of Big Springs.
Big Springs Phelps Hotel.
Waterman Sod House and Sam Bass Train Robbery historical markers in the Big Springs Park.
Downtown Chappell Street Corner.
You've now traveled nearly 90 miles on the historic Lincoln Highway through western Nebraska. I didn't get to spend nearly enough time in each community to truly explore, but that will have to wait for another day. Stay tuned for more travels.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Sunday Stories: George Arnold and the Post Office

Since 1876, mail destined for this part of the Loup valley was brought by horseback every two weeks from Plum Creek and addressed “Arnold & Ritchie Ranch, c/o Postmaster.” The partners had taken turns handling the mail – now a change would have to be made. Allen offered to have the post office in his sod house and on March 21, 1881, he, with Landis Correll and George Arnold, met to choose a name for the new office. “Correll” was considered, so was “Allen,” finally “Arnold” was chosen and a letter sent off to Washington for a new rubber stamp.

George Arnold, partially paralyzed from a stroke suffered the year before, probably never knew the little office given his name ever developed into a town. He went back to the family home in Ohio, where he died in 1900, leaving no relatives in Arnold. Later residents by the same name had no connection.

Before entering the cattle business, Arnold had served in the Civil War and married Ella Taylor, daughter of Edward Taylor, editor of the Omaha Bee and one-term governor of the state by appointment. The Arnolds had four children, one a baby when they came to the ranch - the only baby in the country.

Charles W. Hughey, cowboy, cook and general handyman, came up the Loup with cattlemen San Ritchie and George Arnold, in 1877, and worked for them and other ranchers. He was a familiar sight around the country, riding his horse, Redbird, followed by two black dogs. It was “Grandpa” or “Uncle” Hughey, as he was called, who discovered the body of the trapper frozen in Powell Canyon. When Arnold and Ritchie left the country in the spring of ’81, they sold the 320 acre ranch headquarters to Hughey. Soon after he moved into the log cabin, it caught fire and was hastily pulled down to save the red cedar logs. It was from this land Hughey, in 1884, donated a small plot to be used as a cemetery, when Dora, the small daughter of miller John Koch, died.

Hughey himself was soon buried there, killed in 1893 when a hay knife pierced his chest in a fall from a hayrack. His grave can be seen along the cemetery’s west fence, with its headstone engraved as being a gift from the town of Arnold. His wife had died before he came to Arnold, but G. J. Hughey, in Arnold in 1883, may have been his son.

By early summer, would-be settlers were coming in a steady stream. The Custer County Republican reported: “A gentlemen from over on the South Loup informs us that from Sunday afternoon until afternoon of the following day he counted fifty-two teams – land hunters – heading for the head of the Loup.”

Homeseekers coming up the dusty river valley would camp near the Allens for a few days or weeks, while their men scouted out the surrounding country and stepped off 160 acres in places that would be called Powell Canyon, Yucca Valley, Mills Valley, Kilmer Valley, Milldale, Cedar Grove, Loyal and Pleasant Hill.

Not all who came, of course, filed on land, and of those who did, many could not take the hardships, or starved out before proving up, leaving the claim open for the next comer. A survey done years later showed an average of two and a half filings on each quarter in Custer County.

There were three ways of acquiring public land. The Homestead Act of 1862 gave 160 acres to the head of a household who would live on it for five years and make certain improvements; the Preemption Act of 1841 gave 160 acres to any man who would live on it, erect a dwelling and after proving up, pay the government $1.25 an acre. It was possible for him to preempt an adjoining quarter at the same time he was homesteading another.

The third way was by the Tree Claim Act (Timber Culture Act) passed in the early 1870s, giving 160 acres to a settler who would plant 40 acres of trees and cultivate them for eight years. These requirements were later reduced, but even still, were impossible to fulfill due to natural conditions. The act failed in its intentions to forest a barren land and was repealed in 1894, but for a time, it was possible for an ambitious settler to gain title to 480 acres of public land.

Allen added a tree claim to his holdings later and wrote in 1936: “Most men on tree claims allowed the weeds to grow as high as the trees and they never had a chance. I think that is why we see so many dwarfed patches of underbrush around Arnold today.” He had attacked the problem of lack of trees the first summer by setting out the fine grove that would furnish shade and shelter for almost eighty years. The last of these trees were taken out a few years ago to make room for the swimming pool.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Sandhills Road Trip Part 3

Leaving the beauty of the Nebraska National Forest, we come to the town synonymous with the forest, Halsey. We were still looking for a local tavern, but again, were unlucky.
We did, however, find the quaint Halsey Frontier Inn, which looks like it would be a fun getaway for a visit to the area.
Nebraska Highway 2 continues to follow the beautiful Middle Loup River valley, which makes the drive extraordinary. Finally at Thedford, we were able to find a place to grab lunch. While it wasn't the picturesque local diner or tavern that we were hoping for, the Sandhills Oil Company did serve a good sub sandwich.
Another gem in the Nebraska Sandhills is the tiny, newly unincorporated community of Seneca. There are still some remnants of the bitter unincorporation political fight visible in town, but it is my hope that over time it will heal.
Seneca has to be one of the most scenic settings for a small town in Nebraska. Early on the railroad recognized the importance of the location, and the community was once thriving. Today, however, it's pretty quiet and many locations are for sale.
 Including the building housing the Cattleman's restaurant.
 There is still a post office.
 And a community center.
 The school is long since closed. My heart tells me that if the right people realized what a beautiful area this is, these buildings could be repurposed.
 Heading out north of town, you can look back toward the town and the valley and experience the beauty.
You'll even see some unexpected sights, as there is an exotic animal farm on the banks of the Middle Loup River.
Farther to the north, the Seneca Road beckons into the distance, but that is a road trip for another day.
You can find out more about Seneca by following their Facebook page.
A little farther to the west, we come to Mullen where we fueled up and headed south toward home.
Here's a quick windshield tour of Highway 97 between Tryon and Mullen.
We took the time to take the Tin Camp road between Highway 92 and Sutherland. Though only a two-track, the road is always worth the extra time that it takes.

Thank you for sharing this Sandhills road trip with us. Plan your own adventure one day soon!