Thursday, August 28, 2014

Know Nebraska: Victoria Springs State Recreation Area

If it's been too long since you've watch fireflies and listened to the coyotes howl, then you need to plan a trip to Victoria Springs.

Located on Highway 21A just six miles east of Anselmo, The Victoria Springs SRA is a wonderful oasis in the Nebraska Sandhills.

Victoria Springs has a very unique history. In 1875, the community of "New Helena" was established on the area that is now Victoria Springs SRA. The original post office still stands on the site.
Original post office

Historic photo by iconic photographer Solomon Butcher. Pictured from left to right: Oscar Smith, James Forsythe, and Charles R. Mathews. Note the bottles of Victoria Springs Mineral Water.
Established in 1923, Victoria Springs State Recreation Area is the third oldest area in Nebraska’s state park
system.
There is a modern restroom and shower facility.

A bridge and walking path connects the campground with the lake and day-use areas.

Victoria Springs also has two cabins that can be rented.

The lake offers fishing and paddle boats.

There is also a nice playground for the little ones.
Victoria Springs makes the perfect get away. It's extremely affordable, with an electrical campsite going for only $19.00. You could easily make Victoria Springs your headquarters for exploring the surrounding Sandhills.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Know Nebraska: Anselmo and St. Anselm's Catholic Church

We headed north out of town and took the Broken Bow cut off. When we got to Highway 2/92, we turned north, so didn't actually go into Broken Bow. We followed the BNSF tracks past the tiny community of Merna with its Anselmo-Merna consolidated school on to the community of Anselmo.
The aptly named "Cathedral of the Sandhills" - St. Anselm's Catholic Church.

Fortunately, the doors were open and we got to enjoy the stunning interior.
The first sight that caught our eye is the "Cathedral of the Sandhills", St. Anselms Catholic Church. It makes sense that a community named Anselmo could be named after St. Anselm, but it doesn't sound as if this is the case. Anselmo is the name of the founder of the town, and the Cathedral - built in 1928 - followed. 
The rectory.
None of that takes away from the magnificence of the church, though. Fortunately, the doors were open and we could venture in for photos. There is a book inside with the history of the church. Sadly, there weren't any brochures or pamphlets to take away. I would gladly have dropped some coin in the collection plate to be able to have the info with me.
The parish hall - the original church.
Next door is the parsonage, and further west from that is what I took to be the original church, though there is no signage whatsoever to confirm this theory. Wikipedia confirmed this, and we also learned that the entire complex, consisting of four buildings was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2008.
Anselmo centennial mural
Downtown Anselmo has seen better days. Though a mural celebrates its centennial, its glory days are definitely behind it. The Masonic Temple/post office does sport new Anderson Windows, but since the stickers are still on them, it doesn't look as if it is in regular use.
Post office and Masonic Temple
According to the University of Nebraska history of Anselmo, rather than being founded by early settlers, Anselmo was actually founded by the railroad, which needed another point for water and coal. Might this explain the lack of civic pride in Anselmo? Or is the state of the community simply a result of the depopulation of this area of the Sandhills?
Anselmo street view.

I believe this is the grocery store, but it wasn't open.

A necessity in a rural Nebraska community - the Volunteer Fire Department

The former bank, and a former restaurant.

An historical display in the downtown park, This is possibly the opera house, also included is a sod house and the original jail - all in a very bad state of disrepair.

The Burlington (BNSF) still passes through town regularly.

The Anselmo community hall. It might still be in use, but is pretty dilapidated.

One of the saddest sights of all. A large collection of classic cars, in a building whose roof is caved in.
The Catholic church is definitely worth a visit, and exploring some of the other unique buildings on the main street is worthwhile, but it won't take you very long.


Sunday, August 24, 2014

Sunday Stories - Oscar Shuler

Sometimes it's easy to get bogged down by names and dates in some of these histories, but please, try to muddle through and imagine the lives of the people in these stories. What happened to them still has an impact on our local communities today.


Oscar Shuler (1892-1942) Early Southside Farmer

James Cather Shuler (1847-1923) a former Fredricks County, West Virginia Civil War veteran (Union), and Emma Louise Gilbert (1859-1912) OF Indiana and pre-Revolution ancestry, were united in marriage June 15, 1876, in Dawson County, Nebraska. Emma L. Gilbert was a direct descendant of John Howland, a passenger on the “Mayflower” which landed at Plymouth, Massachusetts, December 1620. Eleven children were born to James Cather and Emma Louise (Gilbert) Shuler on a farm in Cozad, Nebraska. One was Oscar Franklin Shuler, on June 11 (1892-1942).

Arnold Brunner (1864-1941) arrived in New York City at about 12 years of age from Switzerland. He first worked as a dishwasher, later acquired carpentry and other skills and journeyed to an Illinois farm. While there he married Martha Mary Large (1865-1953) on January 2, 1888. At Forrest, Illinois, two of their four children were born: Walter and Nora Bell Brunner, August 30 (1890-1980). With the small children they moved to a farm in Lexington, Nebraska.

In 1913, Oscar Shuler became a homesteader in Broadwater, Nebraska. To this homestead he brought his bride, Nora (Brunner) Shuler, having married March 7, 1917, in her parents’ Lexington farmhouse. They farmed the homestead jointly with a brother, John Shuler, and family. Here, Mervan Herman Shuler was born on November 27, 1917.
Late summer 1918, Oscar and Nora Shuler left the homestead to the brother and wife. They loaded themselves and possessions in a railroad cattle car for the journey to Sutherland, with a partition separating them from their livestock.

Upon arrival, they unloaded their wagon and horses, and with young Mervan traveled the dirt roads to the 320 acre “Shuler” farm southwest of Sutherland owned by Nora’s father, Arnold Brunner. The little family moved into the wash-house until Mr. Brunner finished the two-story clapboard farmhouse just in time for Cleo Mae Shuler to be born there October 6, 1919. It was in this farmhouse that Merna Joy Shuler, December 5, 1922 and Claretta Shuler, December 21, 1926 were also born. Three of the Shuler men passed away on this farm, Oscar, his father James and a younger brother, Lester.
This is the farm (and farm house) that my family purchased when we moved from the Sandhills to Sutherland in 1974, and that my mom still lives in today. It is the home of "Seifer Farms Pasture Poultry.
Harvested from this dry land farm were corn, alfalfa, and prairie hay. Cattle and horses grazed the pastureland along the channel which flowed the mile length of the farm. Many pigs were raised and butchered.

West of the house were remains of an early sod wall fence outlining a sheep pen and just north of these ridges were several buffalo wallows filled with a soft tight curly grass.

The farmhouse contained no central heating, electricity or indoor plumbing except for one rare convenience, the pitcher pump and sink in the washroom. The sink drained into an outdoor underground cistern. The basement under the house was used for storage of staples.

The four Shuler children attended District 18 West Fairview’s one-room schoolhouse, traveling the mile and a quarter by foot or horseback, welcoming the heat from the large coal burning heating stove on cold winter days. The water pail stood on a bench in the cloakroom with each pupil’s tin cup hanging on a nail behind it on the wall.

Literary night held in the Pleasant Hill schoolhouse, straight west of District 18 school a few miles, was well attended with the local talent performing. One was Nora Shuler, an accomplished pianist. The program always ended with the beloved blacksmith, Grandpa Sharp, and his violin.

Mervan Shuler remained on the farm until he attended an Omaha welding school, then journeyed to California in his Model A Ford Coupe. While there, Pearl Harbor rocked the world and he enlisted in the Marines, serving in the South Pacific.
Returning to Nebraska, he married Ruby Johnson, a Sutherland teacher, on September 27, 1946. They farmed the Brunner home place in Lexington for a year. It was here that Theodore Herman was born on March 25, 1947. They moved to Sutherland operating the Sutherland Apiaries with E.H. Adee before becoming the sole owner. This apiary served the area and surrounding stores with its honey for 35 years. Two more sons were born here, James Oscar Shuler on April 14, 1948 and Ronald Vernon Shuler on September 30, 1950.

Cleo Shuler married Lloyd William Peuppka of Sutherland, a former ranch hand on August 24, 1940. They farmed the Shuler farm and Dennis Arnold Peuppka was born on April 29, 1943, followed by the birth of Karen Ann (Peuppka) Wood on October 20, 1944, in the Sutherland Hospital.

After ranching in the Sandhills they moved to the North Platte area where Lloyd farmed and did carpentry. Lloyd later operated a cleaning service and Cleo was employed as a motel clerk. They were residing in North Platte at the time of Lloyd’s death in 1976. In 1983, Cleo, her daughter, Karen, and two grandchildren moved to Ramona, California.

Merna Shuler married Raymond Edward Branting, April 3, 1940. They lived first in North Platte, then Cheyenne and Denver where they both worked in World War II defense plants. They returned to North Platte to remain where Ray was employed by Union Pacific Railroad until his retirement.

Claretta Shuler left Sutherland in 1945 after graduation for a short stay in Denver, returning to North Platte where her mother, Nora Shuler, then resided. She clerked in O’Conner’s Dime Store a few months before leaving for employment with United and TWA airlines in New York. On October 30, 1948, she married Peter P. Laboranti, later moving to Garden City, Long Island, New York, where Darla Marie was born January 19, 1959. In 1983, Claretta and Pete moved to Poway, California, where Pete retired after forty years of service with United Airlines.


~Submitted by Claretta Laboranti

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Know Nebraska: Callaway


Continuing on our road trip, we took the Lincoln Highway (Highway 30) to Cozad, then a county road north to Callaway.
Obviously a relic of the Lincoln Highway on East 8th Street in Cozad.
There are many ways to get to Callaway, and all of them scenic. Choices include county roads north out of Gothenburg and Cozad, Highway 21 to Highway 40 out of Lexington, and going from Highway 83 on Highway 92 through Arnold, then south along county roads to Callaway.

For being a small town in the middle of the Nebraska Sandhills, and overshadowed by its larger neighbor to the northeast, Broken Bow, Callaway is a happening little town.
Callaway's Morgan Park
Historic Custer County Courthouse
We parked next to the Morgan park, where the original Custer County courthouse is on display. One of the darkest periods of Nebraska history - the Cattlemen/Homesteader wars played out in Custer County, and the trial of the perpetrators took place right here in this building. 

Nearby is a swimming pool, playground and tennis courts. Across the street is the Callaway District Hospital, with an emergency room - definitely not something you see in every small Nebraska town.
Callaway's Seven Valleys Museum (There's even an annex across the street!).
You can check out Callaway's illustrious history on the University of Nebraska website.
Sadly... it's not open very often - however the view through the door seems like it's interesting.

A very helpful sign on the outside shows the local places of interest.
A short walk took us downtown. We were disappointed that the "Seven Valleys Museum" (and its annex!) are only open by appointment during much of the year. Though we peeked in the door and it looked extremely interesting, we didn't take the time to call anyone to open up for us. It looks like it would be worth calling ahead for an appointment.
Callaway's Triple T Steakhouse

A downtown worthy of an area trading center.

Another view of the historic buildings in downtown Callaway.

A relic in front of their light plant. Mark insists that this wheel indeed weighs 7020 lbs, though I don't believe him.

We made a quick stop at the Callaway Market to pick up a few supplies, and enjoyed the "mini park". There is also a mercantile (looks like a former drug store turned second-hand shop) and a True Value on their main street. There is a pharmacy attached to their little hospital. Further on down the street - a phone booth!

A mini park in downtown Callaway
A blast from the past - a working telephone booth (we checked!).
Callaway is a beautiful example of a vibrant small Nebraska small town, nestled in the scenic Nebraska Sandhills. It is well worth the visit. There is a small motel and nearby is Chesley's Lodge. It looked as if there might be some hookups in the park, but we didn't investigate and I'm not finding anything listed online.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Know Nebraska: Buffalo Bill Ranch State Recreation Area

The Buffalo Bill Ranch State Recreation Area is truly one of the hidden gems in North Platte. When we mentioned to people who live in the community that we spent the first night of our vacation there, a look of confusion crosses their face. Many have no idea it is there. Unless they are river rats, putting in their tanks, kayaks, canoes and tubes at the Ranch and taking out at either Cody Park or the Airport, many have never driven through the State Recreation Area.
The State Recreation Area is a popular spot for fishing.
The SRA has 23 trailer/RV sites with 30 and 50 amp hookups, and 6  tent sites. RV sites with electricity are $14 per night, the primitive tent sites are $7. The northern end of the campground is adjacent the North Platte River.

There is a completely unmarked (and overgrown) nature trail that heads east along the river for about half a mile, ending in a very well made blind that would be suitable for watching nature and birds. If the trail were better marked, I can envision heading out well before dawn and watching the river creatures awake in the morning.
Nature trail along the North Platte River.
A birding blind is waiting at the end of the Nature Trail - perfect for viewing the creatures making their home along the river.
For the first little bit, the trail coincides with that used by the horseback riding concessionaire at the Ranch. When the two branch, the nature trail continues to the left, following the river bank. There are benches placed periodically along the trail, though they are so overgrown, I doubt anyone uses them. Otherwise, there are no trail markers or other signage whatsoever.
The "amenities" along the trail could use with a little TLC.
Though the campground is less than two miles from Bailey Yard, we didn't notice any train noise. It is also conveniently located near the State Historical Park, the Lincoln County Historical Museum and the Golden Spike Tower. Also on the north side of town is Cody Park, with its Railroad Display.

New this year at the Buffalo Bill SRA is Dusty Trails offering horseback riding through the area and also river outfitting! He'll supply you with tubes, tanks, canoes or kayaks - whatever you fancy - and then meet you a couple of hours later at Cody Park, take you out and return you to you campsite! It's a great way to add adventure to your stay.

All in all, the Buffalo Bill Ranch State Recreation Area is a delightful, conveniently located and affordable campground near North Platte.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Sunday Stories - Gerald Thompson, or the beginning of the Sutherland Sailors

If people today don't think we owe a debt to souls in the past who gave of themselves to create a better life for their communities, this is a lesson on how such dedication can have a lasting impact into the future.


Gerald N. (Jack) and Jessica (Smith) Thompson Family

Gerald Norvin “Jack” Thompson was born at Atkinson, Nebraska, May 28, 1910 to Dwight Lyman (1877 – 1946) and Rose Ellen (Sturdevant) Thompson. Though they resided in Gothenburg at the time of his birth, Jack’s mother went to stay with her sister in Atkinson during the time of his birth. Jack spent his entire youth in Gothenburg. In 1933, he met Jessica Smith at a dance in Gothenburg. They were married August 12, 1933.

Jessica was born February 27, 1913, at Ingham, Nebraska to Jessie Edmund Smith (1863-1924) and Maude (Teel) Smith (1877-1972). Jessica lived on a farm near Ingham until age 16. Maude and her children moved to Brady, after the death of Jesse made it impossible for them to stay in Ingham. Maude and her children ran the Brady Hotel for some time, and this is where Jessica lived when she met Jack Thompson.
They began their married life by moving to Sutherland in August, 1933, where Jack was appointed the position of Coach-Teacher. With one previous year of teaching in Stockham, Nebraska, the year before, and jobs being scarce, he remembers feeling fortunate that he was selected from several applicants who applied.

As Sutherland School had no “sports” program when he arrived, Jack enjoyed coaching and introduced football, basketball, and track to establish a sports program for Sutherland School. First, “well used” football uniforms were purchased from Maywood. Jessica remembers her task of mending them after each game in preparation for the next game. They could not be cleaned in any way or they would fall apart. There was no football, so Jack donated his Wesleyan U football (autographs and all) to the cause. A school team “name” was next.
The Sutherland Sailors are still proud of the Thompson Legacy - as one of the only schools in the country with Sailors as their mascot.
The Sutherland Reservoir was under construction at that time, so Jack suggested “Sutherland Sailors for the team name and when that was adopted, he wrote the word to the “school song”. Jack coached from 1933 thru 1938. During this time, he and Jessica became the parents of Bob (Robert Eugene), Bill (William Donald), Carol Colleen, and Dwight Allen. Rosalie was born in 1940. Jack and Jessica began dairying while they rented the Boyle place located on the north edge of Sutherland. Then in 194-0, they moved to, and a year later bought the Farrell farm located one and a half miles west of Sutherland where they still live today (circa 1991).
Many additions and improvements have been made to the Sutherland school over the years.
Jerry (Gerald Vernon) was born at home on the “Thompson farm”. Then came Donna Mareen, Franklin Lee, Madeline and Dennis Byron. All six boys and four girls attended and were graduated from good ole’ Sutherland High.

Making a living for a large family on that little dairy farm proved to be quite a struggle for the Thompsons. Prior to selling bulk milk, Jack and Jessica bottled raw milk and delivered it around town to residents, stores and cafes. All the kids helped with milking, feeding, farmwork, housework in whatever way they could.
4-H clubs were the main summer activities, along with the farm work. Various school activities and studies, some part-time jobs filled the fall and winter hours. Jack was civic minded and enjoyed serving on the School Board and the K & L Ditch Board. He also enjoyed singing in the Methodist Church Choir; and for a time, he and Jessica belonged to the Square Dance Club in Sutherland.
Sports remains an important part of the life of Sutherland students.
After fulfilling their service obligations, all the boys settled into various occupations, among them engineer, farmer, game warden, railroad worker, rancher, veterinarian; the girls all married and work also, selling real estate, secretarial-computer works, etc. Most of the ten children are still very close to the Sutherland area. Dwight is farming west of Sutherland; Bob lives in town; Frank lives east of the NPPD plant where he works, Jerry and Carol live in North Platte. Bill is ranching west of Tryon. Rosalie returned from Oregon and is presently staying with her folks. Donna resides in Arizona and Madeline in California. Jack and Jessica can still be found at the “Thompson” Farm” in the big old stucco house where they raised their family, and where they have lived for over 50 years.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Sunday Stories - Sutherland Cemeteries

Excerpts from the Sutherland Centennial, 1891 - 1991.

In December of 1894 a meeting was held to form an association to meet the city's need for a cemetery. The Association incorporated as the Sutherland Cemetery Association with the incorporators being Alex Nelson, WC Blackmore, JJ Hostetter, CB McKinstry and Wm M. Holtry. They purchase the site in East Sutherland by assessing themselves $5 apiece. The land was plowed, harrowed and fenced. The plots were divided into lots in the price of a lot was set at $5 a piece.

The original Sutherland Cemetery
The Sutherland Cemetery Association was active and responsible for the cemetery for 50 years. Additional person who have served on the Association H.E. Worrell, Chas Cockle, Frank Coates, Edward Coker, George C. White, E.C. Brown A.B. Cady, Eli Etchison, E.A. Crosby, F.A. Cox, L.C. Peyton, J.F. Humphrey, D.C. Wilson, O.P. Guffey, T. Harvey and Sam Thomas.

An early grave, dating from 1895.
The Sutherland Cemetery in the northeast part of town had been in use for 17 years when discussions began on creating a new site for a cemetery. In October of 1912 there were discussions in the paper about locating a new cemetery across the river south of town. In December of 1912 Colonel John Keith donated 6 acres of land along the main road south of town in the southeast corner of his tract adjoining Cal Fye’s on the north.

On May 29 1913 it was a meeting of a dozen people discussing possibilities of a new cemetery. The Secretary, Jim F. Humphrey, stated that only eight lots remained in the old cemetery and that funds on hand amounted to approximately 25 dollars. In addition the old cemetery had severe drainage problems because the nearby ditch would seep into it causing some caskets to float up. It was for this reason that the cemetery was referred to as a “disgrace to the town” in the newspaper articles.

A committee was formed to investigate the proposed location and some objections were raised in the meeting to the Keith Offer as the land being donated was too far from town and difficult to irrigate. In June of 1913 the committee decided that the best site for the new cemetery was the Gustav Dringman property just south of the channel and east of the section line road south of town. Mr. Dringman had indicated a willingness to sell a few acres for a cemetery and that a deal could be made with him. The committee felt this tract could easily be watered and beautified.

A tombstone with an engraving of gates, echoing the new cemetery gates.
A couple of months of discussion on trying to solve the cemetery problem followed and in August 1913 a motion was made and carried to purchase seven acres of ground from Gus Dringman for the location of the new cemetery to be called Riverview Cemetery. Once the decision was made progress was rapid and on August 16 1913 the deed to the property was signed over by Gus Dringman to the Sutherland Cemetery Association. It would appear that the deed was signed on a promise to pay because the Sutherland Freelance of Sept 11, 1913, notes that “…funds are being subscribed to pay for it.” The purchase price of the land was $420. The work on the cemetery begin shortly after the purchase and while it cannot be determined with absolute certainty, the first burial would appear to have been the infant child of Mrs. Fred Lewis who was buried in the new Cemetery on November 27 1913. The fences were still being installed at this time and other construction was still in progress.

The Sutherland Cemetery Association continued to operate and maintain the cemetery’s for the next 33 years. They funded the operation with the sale of lots, donations of time and money, and by holding barn dances and other fund-raisers. In May of 1942, L.C. Applegate donated 100 cedar trees to the Riverview Cemetery, which J.D. Goedert and three helpers planted.

A sad burial. Ransum Clifford Allen, Otis Allen, Alice Mae Allen, who died within two weeks of each other.
In early 1946 action was started to deed the Cemetery to the Village of Sutherland so a tax could be levied for regular care and maintenance. The drive for funds raised $4,062.36 to be used on a new well and to do leveling and improve the driveways. On March 14, 1946, this money along with a deed to the Cemetery, was turned over to the village, and the Sutherland Cemetery Association was officially disbanded and permanently adjourned.
A walkway was recently added on the west end of the Cemetery to provide a safe route to school for kids living in the Cherry Hills addition.

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