Sunday Stories: Sutherland Roots

I am reading an excellent guide to Nashville, "Now You Know Nashville", written by my friend singer/songwriter Mason Douglas. One inscription from an historical landmark particularly struck me:
"No city should be indifferent to its founding, no people to its history, especially when so full of heroic action and noble deeds as is the history of Nashville."
Now, the history of Sutherland may not be filled with what some people might call heroic action and noble deeds, but, when you think about it, it truly is.

Starting from scratch; recovering after fire, flood, drought, tornado; taking incredible business risks; being the first to do things; looking to the future. These might not have broad national significance, but to a small town, they are everything.

It brings me back to why I am sharing these stories from the Sutherland Centennial book. The incredible stories of our founding fathers deserve a wider audience than the 100 or so books that were published and are now so hard to find. So, please continue to enjoy these Sunday Stories.

Excerpts from the Sutherland Centennial, 1891 - 1991.

On April 20, 1899, William H. and Ann Alisa Dudley bought Section 29, Township 14mRange 33 (640 acres) from the Union Pacific Railroad for $960. A man from Cook County, Illinois, by the name of John Thorne Clarkson bought the land, in the South Platte River Valley, from the Dudleys on September 10, 1890, for $4,480.00. The town was surveyed by Charles P. Ross, Civil Engineer and Surveyor. He witnessed the complete legal description on the 8th day of October, 1891. On October 14th, 1891, J.T. Clarkson dedicated the streets, alleys, avenues and Public grounds to public use. The plat of Sutherland was officially filed and it was recorded in the State of Nebraska, County of Lincoln on the 15th day of October, 1891.

One account says that J.T. Clarkson named the town “Clarkson” before he named it after George Sutherland, an official of the Union Pacific Railroad. Another record says that Sutherland was on Union Pacific land, called “Cody Siding” which had been established after the Union Pacific Railroad completed their mainline tracks through this area in 1869, and that it was named by John Keith, a UPRR official in honor of George Sutherland, another UPRR official.

On August 6, 1892, Clarkson died, leaving two daughters, Anna S. Clarkson and Maude Clarkson, who were the executors of his estate. The daughters sold a portion of Block (1/2 and 4/5 rods square) to School District No. 55 for $100.00 (another listing shows it was given free of charge). The two women donated 1 block, 1 acre more or less, to the Presbyterian Church Society of Lincoln County, Nebraska in the town of Sutherland. This was all they donated, with the rest being sold. On this section, there was an exception of 18 and 1/3 acres which was the railroad right-of-way. Presumably Clarkson visited the town of Sutherland before his death when he platted the town in October 1891.

The first store at “Cody Siding” was run by Robert Embree. He had a one-room grocery store built largely out of “store boxes and barrels” which measured 16’ x 30’. He continued in business for two years more or less. The first house was built by Charles Richards. One record tells that the first home was that of Reinholt Stelzer in 1893, which was the Brown residence. School was first attended by four pupils at a location on the north edge of “Cody Siding”. The first depot was a short distance west of the west county road, in a box car on a side track. John Conboy handled the freight, passengers, and mail. Conboy was succeeded by Frank Carpenter.

E.C. Brown, and the family of John Coker who settled five miles northwest of town, were among the first people to establish roots in this area in 1885.

The village was laid out on the section. Downtown was a six block area next to the UP mainline tracks, three blocks east to west and two blocks north and south with the school plat and the Presbyterian Church along the north edge. The rest of the town was laid out in five, ten, and fifteen acre tracts with enough room on each for a house, barns, gardens, and livestock enough to raise a family with and have some left to sell or trade.


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