Sunday, March 31, 2013

Sunday Stories: St. John the Evangelist’s Catholic Church, Stapleton, Nebraska

In 1884, the first German Catholics, the John Brosius family, came and settled upon the wind-swept plains of what is now Logan County. A year or so later, more German Catholic families, the Schraders, Beckers, Polzkills, Karns, Walz, Beckius, Kramers, and Santos, came to Logan County and took up homesteads.

The first Mass offered in Logan County was celebrated by Father Conway, then a pastor in North Platte, in the sod home of John Brosius in 1885. Later Mass was offered in other homes of those few pioneer families.

The early pioneers, realizing the necessity of a place of worship, erected a little church in Gandy in 1886.

For many years, owing to the scarcity of priests in Nebraska and the difficulties in traveling through the prairies, those pioneers felt deeply grateful when a priest would come to them a few times in the year to offer the Mass and administer the Sacraments. Every Sunday, when it was not possible for a priest to come and offer Mass, these loyal Catholic families would assemble in the little church in Gandy and recited the Rosary and said other suitable prayers under the leadership of John Brosius, or in his absence, under the guidance of John Schrader and John Polzkill.

It would be difficult to give the names of all the priests who came to Gandy in the early days over long distances with team and buggy. Some of them were Fathers Conway and Barrett from North Platte, Fathers Miller and Beinbach from Dale, Father Johnen, assistant from North Platte. The clergy who came to Gandy in later times to care for the spiritual needs of the flock were Fathers Paul Moser from Dale, Patrick McDaid and his assistants, John Gleeson, and J.J. Kavanaugh from North Platte.
With the extension of the railroad from Callaway to Stapleton, in 1912, and the building of the new town of Stapleton, a distance of 3 miles from Gandy, the Catholic people decided a new church was needed to accommodate the needs of the growing parish and, consequently, in 1913, under the supervision of Father J.J. Kavanaugh, pastor of Gothenburg, they erected a new church, dedicated to St. John the Evangelist.

In the spring of 1914, the first resident pastor was appointed to Stapleton, and for some reason or other, possibly with the intention of building a school, three Spanish priests from South America, Fathers Fernandez, Ballesteros, and Herona, took up their residence in Stapleton. In March, 1915, Father Kampman replaced them as pastor and remained until April, 1917. For a few months afterwards, Father Hynes was in charge of the parish.

In the fall of 1917, Father Alphonse Gasser came from Louisville, KY, and his first appointment in Nebraska was to Stapleton, where he remained until April, 1922.

For a short time after this, Father Henry Keil and then Father Robert Maron took charge. It was during Father Maron’s time that the debt on the church was paid. IN July, 1923, Father Peter Kenny was appointed to Stapleton. During his stay, the present (1969) rectory was built in 1925.

Father C.J. Moynihan came to Stapleton in the summer of 1943 and stayed only a short time. Father Raymond Miles was in charge until Father Louis Nally was appointed in the fall of 19914. Father Vincent Pelster served for a short time in 1947, until Father Neppl came in the fall of 1947. Father James McSweeney was appointed in Aug., 1958, and served until Father Stephen Deaver came in September, 1964. Father John Schlaf, the present (1969) pastor was appointed in August, 1968.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Sunday Stories: Lost Heritage

This is a little different subject for the Sunday Stories. Some great history here, but sadly, much of our heritage is lost, or in danger of being lost.
 A friend recently posted a video of a Nebraska Heritage program dating back from 1962 of the historic Haumont Sod House in Custer County, Nebraska. A Google search doesn`t show any recent information about this amazing house. I fear that since 1962, when it was already in pretty dilapidated shape, it might have deteriorated into nothingness. Here is the video on Nebraska Studies.

Here is also a link to the history of building a sod house.

The rootsweb listing for Louis Haumont.

It looks as if the sod house might have been added to the National Register of Historic Places, but little information is contained in the listing.

There is also a photo of the Haumont house in the Historic Buildings survey of Custer County.

Is it gone now? Probably. Very sad loss of our heritage.

Below is a wonderful old home that can be found on private property north of Sutherland. It looks to be in much the same condition the sod house was in back in 1962. If I had a million dollars, I would go around restoring wonderful old homes like this.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Travel - it's later than you think!

I'm ashamed to say it... me, of all people: I don't travel enough!

And I'm not talking about exotic far away places. I'm talking about travel right in my own back yard. There are so many places on our list to get to, yet, the list of places we've been to never seems to grow any longer. We definitely have to fix that!

What brought this to mind was our recent trip (for business) to Rapid City. I went as a representative of Visit North Platte to remind the bank travel club directors who are part of the Heritage Bank Peer Group that we are ready and willing to host them locally. The Mister came along for the ride, and we had a great time.

It is absolutely criminal that we live only five hours away from Rapid City and the beautiful Black Hills, yet it's been more than a dozen years since either one of us has been or taken any of the kids.

Downtown Rapid City is amazing. If you haven't been for a few years, it's time to go back to see what they've done. Many of the buildings in about a four block area from 5th through 9th along Main Street and St. Joseph Street have been restored, housing everything from shops and galleries to brew pubs, coffee shops, restaurants and bars.

They have created a beautiful Main Street Square, where the fountain is liquid in the summer and used for ice skating in the winter. They close off the streets and have concerts in the summer, and soon there will be huge granite sculptures where the nondescript blocks around the square are now. And of course, it isn't called the City of Presidents for nothing! Presidential statues on every street corner. Want to give your kids a hands-on history lesson? Do the Presidential walking tour.
Main Street Square showing granite blocks, soon to be sculptures.
And then there's the Art Alley! The alley between Main and St. Joseph, connecting 6th and 7th has been completely turned over to urban artists, from top to bottom. Even the trash dumpsters and utility poles are covered with incredible art. During the summer the alley is periodically closed off for concerts. Don't miss this during your walk downtown.

We had the good fortune of being treated to a motorcoach tour of the Crazy Horse Memorial where they actually scheduled a blast for us. That may be overstating it a little bit, but there definitely was a blast, whether it was scheduled for us or not. The Indian Museum is amazing, containing donated artifacts from tribes across the Americas and the world. Don't cheat and just glance at the memorial as you are driving past on the highway. Pull in and spend some quality time on this unbelievable family achievement.
Sculpture of the finished monument with the mountain in the background.
Dynamite blast:

Indian Museum of North America

The lucky few get to see the back side of the Memorial
I have read on Trip Advisor that many are dissatisfied with the high price of admission to the museum. I take this opportunity to remind you that the Crazy Horse Memorial receives no government funding. The project (which is now in its 70th year) relies 100% on fundraising and donations. So you aren't just paying admission to this wonderful attraction, you are partnering in the creating of the incredible memorial.

Then it was on to Mount Rushmore. Many of you will have visited this iconic memorial, but if you haven't been in some time, I encourage you to go back.The exhibits are constantly being improved, and unless you've spent 24 hours on the monument in all kinds of weather, you haven't seen the Presidents in all the moods of the mountain. So return for a long stay!
Mount Rushmore from the viewing deck.
The Black Hills, like much of the Rocky Mountains are being ravaged by the Pine Beetle infestation. Lots of steps are being taken to protect the old-growth trees, including aggressive thinning out of younger trees. As one exhibit I saw states - if the trees aren't thinned by logging or fire, they will still be thinned - by the Pine Beetle. As you can see in these two photos, the Black Hills trees are much denser now than they have been in the past.
Pine Beetle infestation between Crazy Horse Memorial and Mount Rushmore
Exhibit in Mount Rushmore showing much more dense woodlands today than in the past.

This post is barely scratching the surface of everything there is to see and do in the Rapid City area - including all of the wonderful attractions in the Black Hills, and don't forget Deadwood. There is plenty of nightlife, and the bars don't close until 2, so you have plenty of time to visit them all, Murphy's Pub, the Independent Ale House, Firehouse, Wobbly Bobby, Dublin Square, Paddy O'Neill's (in the historic Alex Johnson hotel). This is just a short list!

There is also a genuine, bona fide speakeasy in Rapid City, but that was so special, it deserves its own post, not buried here at the bottom of this one.

Thanks for stopping by. I hope a trip to Rapid City is in your near future.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Sunday Stories: Early Agriculture

Today much is being made of diversifying rural Nebraska's economic base to stem the tide of out-migration and attract young people back to our rural communities. It seems that an examination of the past gives abundant examples of diversification, from fruit farms to broom factories.

This ditch plow, like the one used to excavate in this story,
can be seen at the Lincoln County Historical Museum in North Platte.
In the summer of 1897, an irrigation ditch was installed on the south side of Sutherland. Mr. Keith was acting as president for the Company, with large teams put to work on ditch excavation.

In June 1897, it was reported by the ditch rider, Court Stinger, that water had been turned into the new ditch from the South Platte River. The following week we found that a serious break in the ditch occurred as a result of turning too large a water flow in. A new section of ditch was being built around the old one. Plans were to install the headgate for the ditch company in the fall when the river flow was less. This was completed in November 1897. Three men had been employed as ditch riders during the summer of 1897 to guard against breaks. As much water as the ditch would hold was being pushed through to aid the famers in irrigating their crops.
The talk of the town that fall was the wheat of S. Funhouser that produced 30 bushels per acre of wheat, the onion crop of Frank Carpenter yielded 500 bushels and he had been offered 55 cents a bushel, also an unusually good potato crop was recorded that year.

In June 1898, the W.L. Parks farm yielded 3000 quarts of strawberries and 500 quarts of raspberries.
Historic image of a broom corn wagon taken from the
Atlantic-Southwestern Broom Co. website.
An interesting item in January 1899 stated “The Gunderson boys and George Duffield sold “Broom Corn” which proved most profitable on the farm, bringing $50.00 and $60.00 a ton.” The stalks were used in the manufacturing of brooms. There was a broom factory in Sutherland at that time. It was located west of the old bank building and another one was later located north of Greg’s Auto repair. The last item noticed in connection with “Broom Corn” was in March 1903 stating it had proved to be a paying crop helping the south side farmers.

In January 1902, Dipping Tanks” were being put in at the Neilson ranch and the Titterington ranch in an effort to control Mange and Lice Scab in cattle.
In January 1903, we find that corn shucking had begun again in real earnest having been delayed by the snow. More than half of the corn had been harvested before the snow but the farmers would be very busy in an attempt to finish before another storm arrived. The corn sheller was very busy in the valley with many farmers having their corn shelled in order to use the cobs for fuel. They made very good fuel in the absence of coal.

Cattlemen were turning their stock out on the stalk field despite the danger of loss by stalk poison as the poisoning seemed to be less this year.

In April 1903, the dairy business was a popular side line for many south side farmers as it put many struggling farmers on their feet. A freeze and blizzard that spring ruined the sugar beet and fruit crops. Sugar beets were becoming a popular crop for the farmers.

The beet dump at O’Fallon’s was completed in March 1904. Mr. William each of Sutherland had invented a beet digger that promised to revolutionize beet harvesting. It could pull four rows at a time.

The spring blizzard of 1913, considered the worst in many years, killed hundreds of cattle and hogs. A few of the losses given were: George Ferbrache lost 66 head of cattle; Bert Saxton 40 head; John Palmer 200; Jim Shoup lost 60 head of hogs and Robert Hoatson 100.

In June 1915, precipitation records were broken with 16.5 inches, 9.58 inches above normal for a 5 month average. Cellars and basements being flooded.

In September 1918, Mr. Melvin H. Binegar purchased the Nielson ranch consisting of 480 acres four miles northwest of Sutherland for $22,500.

In August 1922, it was reported that a large reservoir was in the planning stage that was to be built eight miles south of Sutherland. It would hold 50,000 acre feet of water but that our farmer friends should not quit until the project was carried to completion.

In January 1925, a Jackrabbit hunt was held with over 600 jackrabbits being killed in three hunts. This was organized by the men in Sutherland thus helping to save the corn that was still in the field.

In September 1926, Dean Collett, the 15-year old son of W.H. Collett who lived southwest of Sutherland, killed 49 rattlesnakes in a prairie dog town while he was gassing the prairie dogs.

In June 1929, contracts were let for the construction of two new roads to be built. One from the Glenburnie Fruit Farm to the north river bridge, and the other from one mile west of the cemetery to across the slough north of the Charles Burklund farm southwest of Sutherland. These were to be permanent all weather roads.

In November 1933, Mr. Elza Burcham of Sutherland shucked 122 bushels of corn in one day.
In March 1935, a large dust storm swept over six states, Oklahoma, Kansas, Wyoming, Missouri, South Dakota and Nebraska. All the winter wheat was wiped out.

In November, 1938, there was report of deer being sighted in the area. This was a very rare sight. (See my earlier post about market hunting in the area).

Also in the same newspaper was an article telling about $10,000 worth of eggs being bought and sold in Sutherland since the first of the year. Many of the people grew their own so, “When at this time of year gathering the eggs means picking up two pennies for each egg, it means something.”

Electricity was received at the Harry Stewart farm, northwest of Sutherland in January 1942. A number of homes have been wired and are anxious for the line to be extended.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Staying in touch in the 21st century - the cyber baby shower

My daughter will be giving birth on May 25 (or thereabouts) in California - a long way from the Nebraska Outback. Her family here hasn't been able to share in any of the pregnancy fun, but we did host a cyber baby shower for her yesterday!

About six weeks ago I sent out invitations to all of her friends and family scattered all over the US - and the world. They contained information about her gift registries, notepaper to send her advice and wishes for the new baby, plus a stamped envelope to send them all to her. And to make things easier for her, an envelope for guests to address to themselves for her thank-yous.

Gifts began arriving from Target, Amazon, Babies R Us, local craft shows and lots of other places, plus her mail box was filled with the cards.

Yesterday, we gathered from all over the country - Virginia, Colorado, Nevada, Utah, Idaho, California and two locations in Nebraska in a Google Hangout to see her progress, share the notes and watch her open the presents.

Here in my home, the aunts, great grandmas and cousins enjoyed punch and cupcakes, just as if we were at a "real" baby shower, all while watching the mom-to-be on the television in our living room.

It's distressing to know the new baby will grow by leaps and bounds in between my visits with her, but at least we can keep in touch almost like being there. After posting all of those history stories in my Sunday Story series, I can't imagine what it would have been like back in the day to say goodbye to your kids as they emigrated to far away places, never to see them or hear their voice again.

Thank goodness for modern technology!

Thanks for stopping by. The coffee is always on.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Sunday Stories: Harshfield Ranch Wild West Show

During the 1920’s several “Wild West Shows were held at the Harshfield Ranch on the Birdwood Creek in a canyon the family still calls “Round-up Canyon.”
These “Old Range Round-ups” (Known in 1921-22 as Platte River Round-up) that lasted three or four days, and included such events as rodeos (rough riding, roping and bull dogging), dances, an Indian attack on an emigrant wagon train, chuck wagon meals, etc. 

Indians from the Rosebud Reservation were brought down to take part in the show (performing as Ogallala Sioux Indians); they staged dances and performances of their own to entertain the spectators. 

People came and camped near the show grounds at Roundup Canyon. 
This show was held in a “natural arena” on the south side of the creek, east of the ranch headquarters. 
There were no bleachers, parking stalls, chain link fences; the spectators sat on the ground up on the side hills and enjoyed the many different re-enactments of “Life in the Old West.” 
Managers of the events were John Harshfield, Secy/Treas, and Col. W. J. Taylor.

Friday, March 8, 2013

One community's answer to endangered building

This news story seriously brought tears to my eyes when I saw it on KNOP-TV last night.

Middle schoolers in Lexington, Nebraska recognized the need for a theater in their town (remember the complaint... there's nothing to do here?) and are doing something about it. After the nearly 100 year old theater closed four years ago, going out to the movies meant a drive of 30 or more minutes. Rather than complain and wring their hands, as many of us oldsters would do, these young people decided to take action.

They are putting their own time, elbow grease and hard work into renovating the building. The project won't be done until they are seniors, when many of them will leave Lexington for higher education or careers, but they'll leave a legacy for future generations to enjoy.

Kudos to them! Now, if they would just start a Kickstarter campaign for us all to donate to...

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Asking for help - Crowdfunding and Community Development

Have you heard of the TED talks? Wonderful educational opportunities from various people on thoughtful subjects, each about 10-15 minutes long.

Take a moment to listen to this amazing story - stick with it, it's not what you think.

You all know I support independent artists, from hosting them at House Concerts or the NRoute Entertainment music series to contributing to their Kickstarter campaigns. I fully believe that the new paradigm of independent music makes US, the listeners, the "labels" within the industry. We invest in the music as it's being made, and we are the marketing department promoting our favorite artists and the new music they make.

However, watching Amanda Palmer talk about her experiences has led me to think of the wider implications of social media and of the crowd funding phenomenon. My small community of Sutherland Nebraska recently failed spectacularly (about 3-1) to create a local option sales tax to promote community development.

What if, through social media, we could fully engage residents and expats who truly care about our communities - those who don't want our downtowns to deteriorate into rubble, those who want to see entrepreneurs start new businesses employing their friends and neighbors, those who care about local school students succeeding in education and bringing their skills back home. Then, through a Crowd Funding platform, offer them a way to contribute.

It would be the very give and take Amanda describes in her TED talk - they give money, and we (the local community) give them successful projects that they know they were a part of.


Sunday, March 3, 2013

Sunday Stories: The Big Fire

Compiled by Nora Hall Mills

Saturday, December 10, 1927, was a memorable day in Arnold – the day of the big fire. This is the Sentinel’s account:

Fire broke out in the Farmers Union Store at an early hour Saturday morning, destroying the Farmers Store and Thelan’s Pharmacy, and gutting the Houghton-Perkins-Newman Real Estate Office, causing a $50,000 loss, only partly covered by insurance.

Looking north along the east side of Arnold’s 
main street about 1918. 
The first warning of disaster was the crashing of plate glass windows, which aroused Andy Comer, sleeping in the family’s apartment above the barbershop. From his upstairs window Comer saw the flames and rushed to ring the fire bell.

Fanned by icy winds, the fire gained rapid headway, and there was no chance to save a thing from the enormous stock of Christmas goods in both stores. A few chairs, a desk and most of the furnishings of the real estate office were saved, but the building itself was ravaged. Roy Fraker, who occupied a sleeping room in the rear, woke to find the roof and wall beside his bed in flames.

Hundreds of dollars worth of damage was done by the intense heat to plate glass windows across the street in the Arnold State Bank, Wehrley theater, T.L. Jones store, Dale Shaw’s barber shop and the Green Parrot cafĂ©.

The local American Legion’s Wm. A. Layton Post, whose meeting place was on the second floor, suffered an irreparable loss when all the Post records, guns and equipment were burned. The loss of these records cannot be estimated.

Cold weather hampered work for the firemen, who kept on the job for almost nine hours. Water from the hose flooded the gutters and sidewalks, making precarious footing for workers and onlookers, and covering the debris with a mantle of ice.

Not daunted for long, rebuilding soon commenced.

John Jameson bought the lots on the burned out corner from the Maddox estate and began putting up a two-story building with the second floor for a hotel. As soon as it was ready, he moved his Jameson & Co. General Store up from its location in the Vogel building. G.H. Johnson, who had beena minister in the Arnold Methodist church about 1919, and now had a financial interest in the new structure, came back from carrel, Nebraska, to operate the hotel.

The Farmers Store scraped together a small stock of goods and opened a temporary store right after the fire in the old Parsons harness shop, but moved down to the Vogel building as soon as it was vacated by Jameson.

John Jamesons Economy Department Store and Hotel Custer
Both stores had opening celebrations. Willa Phifer (Brummett) won $10 for her entry of “Hotel Custer” as best name for the hotel and Mrs. Lawrence Christensen won a like amount for the winning store name, “Economy Department.”

Down at the Farmers Union opening, Lee Bailey guessed correctly how many times the cash register would ring the first day – 171. The workforce there consisted of John Lehmkuhler, manager; Norma Holt, bookkeeper; Mrs. Lehmkuhler and daughter, Thelma (Votel) and Edward Brummett, clerks.
After the fires, only one frame building remained on the east side of the main business street, the old Black shoe store, occupied by Comer’s Barber and Beauty shop and living quarters.