Sunday, June 28, 2015

Sunday Stories: Nellie Snyder Yost

The McPherson County History Book didn't contain any information about one of the most famous of the children of Bert and Grace Snyder, Nellie Snyder Yost, noted Nebraska author. I was able to find more information online and in her obituary. The photos are scanned from The PictorIal Atlas of Lincoln County, Nebraska, compiled and published by Title Atlas Co., Inc. of Minneapolis, Minn. in 1969.

Nellie Irene Snyder Yost (June 20, 1905 – January 16, 1992) was a historian and writer. She was an active member of the Nebraska State Historical Society, serving for many years as its president, and wrote 13 books (primarily biographies) and many articles on Nebraska history, including biographies of her father, her mother, and Buffalo Bill Cody.

Nellie Snyder Yost photo from the Western Fictioneers blog.
Nellie Irene Snyder was born on June 20, 1905 to Albert Benton Snyder and Grace Bell McCance Snyder in a sod house in northwest Lincoln County Nebraska. At the age of two weeks she was carried on horseback to a ranch in McPherson County Nebraska. She suffered a childhood illness that permanently damaged her spine and slowed her growth resulting in her diminutive height of 4 feet,8 inches. She lived with her family in McPherson County until 1919 when the family moved to Maxwell, Nebraska where she graduated as class valedictorian in 1923. She taught one year in a rural McPherson County school, riding horseback to her school six miles a day. After that she moved to Salem, Oregon for two years, where she worked in the office of Miller Department Store.

After moving back to Nebraska, she married David Harrison "Harry" Yost on July 6, 1929 and the couple lived on a ranch in the Box Elder Canyon, south of North Platte, Nebraska, for 30 years. They had one son Thomas Snyder Yost. Harry fell ill and spent his last five years at the Grand Island Veterans Hospital. During those years, as Nellie spent about 10 days out of each month at the hospital, she would sit by his bed side, writing manuscripts in long hand. He died in 1968.

She moved to North Platte, Nebraska, where she was active in the Lincoln County Historical Society. She was very active, but in the Historical Society as they worked to open the Lincoln County Museum in 1976, and in Nebraska Writers Guild. She was active in Riverside Baptist Church where she married Frank A. Lydic on August 30, 1984. He was a long time friend and fellow writer. Frank died on November 9, 1991. Soon after, while finishing a trip to promote her last book, she developed pneumonia and was hospitalized. She was transferred to a hospital in Lincoln where she died on January 16, 1992. She was buried next to her first husband at Fort McPherson National Cemetery. Her information was carved on the back of his gravestone with the epitaph, "She Loved Life."

Her first book, Pinnacle Jake, was a recounting of her fathers stories about the west and ranching. Nellie was 46 when it was published. No Time on My Hands was based on a diary her mother had kept. One of her most noted books, Buffalo Bill: His Family, Friends, Fame, Failures and Fortunes, was published in 1979. It received excellent reviews, garnered awards, and resulted in a trip to New York to appear on Good Morning America on February 22, 1980. Her last book, Evil Obsession, was published in October 1991, just a few months before she died. During her 40 years as a published author, she traveled extensively.

Publications and Accomplishments



  • Yost, Nellie Snyder, Pinnacle Jake, Caxton Printers, Ltd., Caldwell, Idaho, 1951
  • Yost, Nellie Snyder, The West That Was, Southern Methodist University Press, Dallas, Texas, 1958
  • Yost, Nellie Snyder, No Time on My Hands, Caxton Printers, Ltd., Caldwell, Idaho, 1963
  • Yost, Nellie Snyder, The Call of the Range, Ohio University Press, Athens, Ohio, 1966
  • Yost, Nellie Snyder, Medicine Lodge, Ohio University Press, Athens, Ohio, 1966
  • Yost, Nellie Snyder, Boss Cowman, Nebraska University Press, Lincoln, Nebraska, 1969
  • Yost, Nellie Snyder, Before Today, Holt County Historical Society, O'Neill, Nebraska, 1976
  • Yost, Nellie Snyder, Buffalo Bill: His Family, Friends, Fame, Failures and Fortunes, Ohio University Press, Athens, Ohio, 1979
  • Yost, Nellie Snyder, A Man as Big as the West, Pruett Publishing Co., Boulder, Colorado, 1979
  • Yost, Nellie Snyder, Back Trail of an Old Cowboy, University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln, Nebraska, 1983
  • Yost, Nellie Snyder, Keep On Keeping On, Self Published, 1983
  • Yost, Nellie Snyder, Pinnacle Jake & Pinnacle Jake Roundup, J. L. Lee Publishers, Lincoln, Nebraska, 1991
  • Yost, Nellie Snyder, Evil Obsession: The Annie Cook Story, Westport Publishers, Lincoln, Nebraska, 1991
  • Wrote the Fort McPherson Centennial Pageant, produced in North Platte in 1963, and was Grand Marshal of the Old Glory Blowout that same fall, the only woman to date to be chosen for that honor.
  • Appointed a Colonel in the Cody Scouts of North Platte in 1965. Has been a member of the Board of Directors of the Nebraska State Historical Society since 1966 and served as president of the Board from October, 1974, to October, 1976. She is also a trustee of the State Historical Society Foundation.
  • She is a past president and life member of the Nebraska Writers Guild and was Secretary-Treasurer of the western writers of America, Inc., from 1972 to 1979.
  • Is a charter member of the North Platte Buffalo Bill Corral of Westerners (Secretary 1969-1970) and an honorary member of the Omaha Westerners Corral. She is a member of Chapter GO, P.E.O. of North Platte and a State and National Cow Belle.
  • She was appointed to the Fort Robinson Centennial Commission by Governor Exon in 1973, and was a member of the Nebraska Hall of Fame Commission from 1974 to 1981;
  • Was appointed by the Nebraska Legislature to the Poet Laureate Commission in March of that same year (commission now expired),
  • Was first listed in WHO'S WHO IN AMERICA in 1972 and was the recipient of the Nebraska Optometric Society's "Eyes on Nebraska" award in 1970.
  • In 1972 was selected Beta Sigma Phi's first "First Lady of the Year" in North Platte and made an Honorary International Member of that organization that same year.
  • She received the Golden Saddleman in June, 1975, highest award given by the Western Writers of America for bringing Dignity and Honor to the History and Legends of the West.
  • Was made an honorary member of the Buffalo Bill Stamp Club of North Platte in 1976.
  • Appointed to the board of directors of Westerners International of Tucson in 1977 and awarded the WRANGLER trophy by the Cowboy Hall of Fame in Oklahoma City for BUFFALO BILL, the best non-fiction book published in 1979. Re the same book was interviewed by the CHICAGO TRIBUNE and UNITED PRESS INTERNATIONAL and invited to New York to appear on GOOD-MORNING AMERICA with David Hartman.
  • Edited Bartlett Richards' book, NEBRASKA SANDHILLS CATTLEMAN, published by the State Historical Society in 1960. Also edited WOMAN WHO MADE THE WEST, and wrote one chapter for it. The book was published by Doubleday in 1980. Wrote foreword for TRAILS OF YESTERDAY, reprint of 1920 book published in 1980 by Nebraska University Press. Edited BACKTRAILING AN OLD COWBOY, to be published in 1982 by Nebraska University Press.
  • Have read papers at the Madison, South Dakota History Conference in 1980 and 1982.
  • Won the 1979 Society of Midland Authors award for the best biography (BUFFALO BILL) published in 1979. Accept the award at the awards program held in the Drake Hotel, Chicago, in June, 1980.
  • Travel extensively giving lectures and programs in many states, as well as Nebraska.
  • Was appointed an Honorary Colonel in the Nebraska National Guards in 1980 and have been a member of the Little Big Horn Association since 1978.


Sunday, June 21, 2015

Sunday Stories: Grace Snyder's Quilts Part 3

Excerpted from the McPherson County: Facts, Families, Fiction; Established in 1890

Masters Award Sewed Up
North Platte Telegraph, November 30, 1980, by Mary Ann Koch



Nearly a hundred years ago a young Nebraska Sandhills girl dreamed she would “grow up to make the most beautiful quilts in the world.” That dream came true for Grace Snyder and now her handiwork hangs in the Quilter’s Hall of Fame in Arlington, Virginia. Only 11 people have been so honored, six last year and five this year (1980), including a woman from Yorkshire, England.

The presentation of Mrs. Snyder’s quilt was made by Ellen Swanson of Fairfax, Virginia, during the second Continental Quilter’s Congress in October. Mrs. Snyder was awarded a handcrafted pewter box with the Quilter’s logo embossed on top and her name engraved inside, and a book featuring a biographical sketch of each of this year’s master quilters. A slide presentation including all of those named to the Hall of Fame is also being compiled.

The Flower Basket pattern of Mrs. Snyder’s masterpiece is made up of 85,789 bits of calico.

A letter to Mrs. Snyder from Hazel Carter, president of the Continental Quilting Congress and coordinator for the Congress, states, “Quilters today have been so fortunate that you, with your daughter’s assistance, have shared your great needlework with us. Your Petit Point Flower Basket was displayed at our first convention and was truly a show stopper.” Mrs. Snyder’s daughter is North Platte author, Nellie Snyder Yost. Mrs. Yost’s third book, “No Time on my Hands” published in 1951, is about her mother.

The 1980 Quilter’s book praises Mrs. Snyder for creating some of the finest examples of folk art in the quilting medium and states “she has become a legend for her extraordinary accomplishments. Her quilts, which have been displayed throughout the United States and have won many ribbons, are amazing for the fineness of workmanship and intricacy of design and fabric use.

“One of her specialties is making patchwork from thousands of tiny pieces of material. The Flower Basket Petit Point quilt (1943, 91x93 inches) patterned after a design on a china plate, is perhaps her most famous. Made up of 85,789 squares and triangles, the quilt has pieces so small that eight of them sewed together make a block less than an inch square. The effect of the work, which took Mrs. Snyder only 16 months to make, is more like petit point embroidery than patchwork.”

Making quilts was a labor of love for Mrs. Snyder, who learned the craft in a soddy at her mother’s knee. Through the years, while performing the usual duties of a ranch wife including canning, gardening, sewing and raising a family, she made 24 large and intricate show quilts, plus many for everyday use in her home.

Asked how many quilts she had made, Mrs. Snyder replied, “I had such a great time making them, I didn’t think about keeping track of how many I made.”

Please read more about Grace Snyder's incredible life and her quilts at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln International Quilt Study Center and Museum website. You can also see many of her quilts there.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Sunday Stories: Grace Snyder's Quilts Part 2

The story as it originally appears in the history book quotes the date as being 1931, though from the dates that appear throughout the article, it must be later, so I guessed 1951.

Excerpted from the McPherson County: Facts, Families, Fiction; Established in 1890

Mrs. Snyder’s Quilts have won International Fame
Taken from Nebraska Cattleman, March 1951



Mrs. A.B. Snyder of North Platte, Nebraska, (formerly of Flats, Nebraska, where she spent forty years on the home ranch) has made quilt making practically a life time hobby, beginning as a very little girl of five or six years. During the past twenty years she has devoted a large share of her time to the study and creation of rare and beautiful quilts. She now has a most unusual collection of more than twenty ‘show’ quilts, all handmade by herself, and featuring great variety: patchwork, embroidery, applique, and a vast amount of incredibly fine quilting.

The gems of her collections are the several quilts in which she has used so many thousands of small pieces. The first outstanding one of this type was her “Mosaic Hexagon”, made about twenty years ago and using fifty thousand tiny pieces. This quilt won the sweepstakes award of the whole hobby show at North Platte in 1941.

Her appetite for working with tiny pieces whetted by her success with the Mosaic quilt, Mrs. Snyder immediately went to work on an original design of tiny triangular pieces featuring thirteen blocks in a flower basket pattern. Eight of the wee triangles sewed together made a “block” less than one inch square and there were 85,789 in the entire quilt. She used 5,400 yards of thread in its piecing. This quilt won the sweepstakes prize at the 1944 Nebraska State Fair.

Another of Mrs.Snyder’s unusual quilts, attracting much attention wherever shown, is the one known as “Dad’s quilt”’ a historical pattern in applique, each block a picture of a famous, colorful character of the old West, Buffalo Bill, Calamity Jane, Custer, Sitting Bull, etc. On one block, showing a mounted cowboy pursuing a “longhorn”, Mrs. Snyder drew her husband’s face, mustache and all, true to his appearance during his cowboy days and gave the picture his cowboy name “Pinnacle Jake”. She then presented the quilt to Mr. Snyder and, thereafter, the family called it “Dad’s Quilt”.

Mrs. Snyder has taken so many show ribbons, mostly blue ones, on her quilts that she could well piece a new quilt of the ribbons. Perhaps topping the array of ribbons are the ones she won the past November when she and her daughter, Mrs. Glen Elfeldt of Sutherland, Nebraska, flew to New York City for the week of the Women’s International Art Exhibition. Mrs. Snyder showed her four quilts at the exhibition, her 85,000 piece basket quilt, Dad’s quilt, and two new ones, an appliqued grape design with quilted basket work and “The Bird of Paradise”, both originals. Each of the four took the top ribbon in its class, Dad’s quilt winning a “special” ribbon in an international group.
Please read more about Grace Snyder's incredible life and her quilts at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln International Quilt Study Center and Museum website. You can also see many of her quilts there.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Another Then and Now

While doing historical research in the "Pictorial Atlas, Lincoln County, Nebraska, compiled and published by Title Atlas Co., Inc. of Minneapolis, Minn., published in 1969, I came across this aerial photograph of the Star Green Farm, which is situated north of Sutherland on the Birdwood Creek.
 Here is the same location, taken recently. It is one of my favorite surprises I've discovered on my photo treks. If I had a million dollars...

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Sunday Stories: Grace Snyders Quilts Part One

Quilting remains popular today, though most of the intricate needle work is done by machine. Imagine a young woman creating these amazing quilts while watching the milk cows graze in a pasture, or waiting in the truck while her husband fixes a windmill. In the days before we wasted our long evenings sitting placidly in front of a television, this time was used by busy hands to create works of art and provide clothes for families.

Excerpted from the McPherson County: Facts, Families, Fiction; Established in 1890

Mrs. A.B. Snyders Quilts get Firsts in Classes at Women’s International Art Exhibit in New York City
North Platte Telegraph Bulletin, Nov. 20, 1950



From everywhere in America – in fact, all over the world – quilts were entered in the Women’s International Art Exhibit in New York City two weeks ago.

But it was a North Platte quilt that won first place in the international division.

The original pattern, “Covered Wagon States,” was altered by Mrs. A.B. Snyder to represent more accurately not only a personal story, but the history of Midwestern Nebraska.

In the original pattern, the four covered wagon states – Iowa, Nebraska, Wyoming and South Dakota – and the faces of such western notables as Wild Bill Hickock, Buffalo Bill, Calamity Jane, a covered wagon, a dugout and a smoking gun were depicted in outline stitch.

Mrs. Snyder altered the pattern by appliqueing, in color, the same pictures and adding one. He is “Pinnacle Jake,” astride a galloping horse. “Pinnacle Jake” was A.B. Snyder’s nickname during his working cowboy days in Wyoming.

Since Mrs. Snyder started the quilt, it has been known by her family as “Dad’s Quilt.”

"Dad's Quilt"
A.B. Snyder, it might be added, was as proud of the quilt when it was completed as he was when it won the International Division of the New York Show.

Probably the most famous of Mrs. Snyder’s more than 130 quilts is her Petit Point Flower Basket design. It consists of nearly 86,000 tiny pieces less than half an inch square.

Flower Basket Petit Point Quilt
Copied from a design on a dish, the quilt required 16 months to complete. Mrs. Snyder wrote to the Salem China Co., Salem, Ohio to learn the name opf the pattern designer. She learned he is a German and began a correspondence with him. He since has sent her other original designs and she has received several gifts of sets of dishes and china pieces from the firm. The president of the firm requested a picture of the completed quilt.

On her return trip from the New York Show, Mrs. Snyder stopped in Salem and was conducted on a tour of the plant, seeing dishes made from clay to finished product.

The Petit Point Flower Basket quilt won first in a special class of the New York Show and won the Sweepstakes in the 1944 Nebraska State Fair. Also taking first prize in its class at the International Exhibit was Mrs. Snyder’s mosaic hexagon pattern. This quilt is composed of 50,000 pieces and won the sweepstakes at the North Platte Hobby Show in 1944.

“Covered Wagon Honeymoon”

A native of Missouri, Mrs. Snyder came to Nebraska with her homesteading family in 1885. In 1903 she married A.B. Snyder and they made their honeymoon trip by covered wagon to their own homestead 65 miles north of North Platte.

Mrs. Snyder has cut and sewed quilt pieces since she was old enough to handle scissors and needle. The rigors of a pioneer rancher’s wife failed to interfere with her favorite hobby and pastime, she worked on them while herding cattle.

So avid is her enthusiasm for quilting that she takes materials with her on all vacations and trips.

Mrs. Snyder belongs to the LCQ quilting club in North Platte and exchanges work with other members. But her show quilts are entirely her own work and many are original designs.

Mrs. Snyder loves and finds excitement in the challenge to her ingenuity in creating original designs and in the careful planning and masterful technique required to bring the original idea to colorful fulfillment.

Please read more about Grace Snyder's incredible life and her quilts at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln International Quilt Study Center and Museum website. You can also see many of her quilts there.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Old things

My parents moved off of the old homestead in the late 1950's, though the buildings continued to be used as people stayed there off and on to calve out cows. This is the wall of the shop at the old homestead. I imagine my dad hanging these things on the wall.
 A Sandhills security system. The door to the shop.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Sunday Stories: Buffalo on His Range is Nothing New to Bert Snyder

One of the challenges of trying to piece together cohesive family stories from the local history books is that you find them in lots of different places throughout the books! I came across this retelling of a story first appearing in the local Tryon newspaper in 1936. Excerpted from the McPherson County: Facts, Families, Fiction; Established in 1890

The Tryon Graphic, May 14, 1936



Bert Snyder, prominent rancher in the western part of the county, and an old time cowboy who rode the range before the days of the barb wire fence, thought he was being haunted by spirits of the past one day last week when he rode out into his pasture to investigate the cause of uneasiness in his herd. When he drew near and saw a full grown buffalo bull loping through a frightened and scattered young horse and cow herd. It took some quick thinking on Bert’s part to handle the situation for by the same time he had reached the pasture some of the stock had been frightened into a stampede and were headed for a fence corner. A younger man might have attempted to rope the clumsy looking buffalo, but not Bert for he rode the range when these animals were common and he knew something about their speed.By some fast riding Bert was able to turn the frightened animals away from the fence and cut the buffalo through an open gate out of the pasture and as he began collecting his stock, the young buffalo bull loped his way northward.

The next rancher to come into contact with Mr. Buffalo was Bill Haney, living a few miles south of the Dismal River in Hooker County. Bill managed to corral the beast, and then set out to find where the animal had come from. It was soon learned that this particular young bull had strayed from the Lou Cogger ranch north of Sutherland and instinct seemed to direct the animal northward. Cogger has a small herd of buffalo which he uses in rodeo work. No doubt by this time Mr. Buffalo is back on his home range, content for a time until nature calls him to follow the seasons as it did his ancestors ages ago when they roamed over the prairies in herds of countless numbers.

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