Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Nebraska Gearing up for Lincoln Highway Centennial

2013 has begun, and that means a beginning for the year-long celebration of the centennial of the Lincoln Highway, America's first trans-continental highway. Nebraska's Lincoln Highway Scenic and Historic Byway released the official 2013 Centennial Travel Guide. The 64-page publication is filled with historical information, points of interest, attractions, schedules of events and advertising that will be of interest to travelers along the highway.

Nebraska Lincoln Highway information can be found on the Byway association's Facebook page and Twitter feed. The official byway website can be found here.

In addition, Nebraska Educational Television's "Nebraska Stories" recently filmed a short history of the Lincoln Highway in Nebraska:

The Nebraska Tourism Commission has also published a short film highlighting the points of interest and attractions that can be found across the byway: It's going to be a fun year to travel across Nebraska!

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Sunday Stories: The Fattig Family: On the Move

Part One

By Josie M. Fattig

Early in the 20th century, our family, B.H. and Nina Fattig and we seven children, were living on a farm northwest of Riverton, in Franklin County, Nebraska. Due to adverse circumstances, the struggle to pay off the mortgage had become a losing battle. Then a severe drouth in 1913 resulted in a complete crop failure; and so a change was decided upon.

In the spring of 1914 the farm was sold to a neighbor and a homestead was filed on in northeast Wyoming. The family, and the furniture, farm machinery, and livestock were moved by train to the new location.
An attempt was made that summer to raise some corn. But instead of soil, the ground was found to be hardpan and shale, and only one light rain fell all summer. The rapid diminishing of the limited cash resources realized from the sale of the Franklin County farm, made another move imperative.

Present day Riverton, Nebraska
Relinquishing the homestead back to the government and selling what improvements had been made – principally a twenty-foot square log house built with logs hewn out of the nearby Pine Ridge timber – we began the long trek back to Nebraska. This time the goal was the Sandhills area north of North Platte.
The Pine Ridge country of Nebraska
One freight car of machinery and furniture and part of the livestock was shipped through to Stapleton; and the main move was made with two wagons plus cattle and horses being driven by the menfolk, on foot, along with the wagons. Initial efforts to drive the livestock on horseback were too tedious, and the on-foot method proved more satisfactory.

It took twenty-two days to make the trip. Where the traveling was on gravel and shale the hooves of the cattle wore down til they got so sore that we were unable to make more than eight miles per day.

One day we made our noon stop near a railroad track. The landscape looked like a wasteland. But a little shack was in view not far away; and from it a woman with two or three small children came over to talk with us. We learned that her husband was a railroader, and she and the children were maintaining a residence on a homestead there so they could prove up on the land and obtain a deed. She told us that every time the train went by her husband rolled off a chunk of ice for them. She and the children were so isolated that she was starved for someone to visit with and she stayed and talked the entire time we were preparing and eating our dinner.

The tree boys, Harvey, Dewey and Glenn, were included on this trip. Elmer, the oldest, was on his own at this time.

One of the wagon was loaded with furniture, crated chickens, etc. The other had a hayrack on it, with tall uprights front and back. At night a tent was put over this, thus providing our sleeping quarters.

Father and the three boys, one at a time, took two-hour shifts during each night watching the livestock so that none of them would stray away. The animals were able to graze during the evenings and nights while we camped.

Crossing the corner of South Dakota, we entered Nebraska near Ardmore, South Dakota. Here we encountered our first rattlesnake, which, of course, was dispatched forthwith.

In the Chadron area we stopped at a stream to water the animals. The stream was narrow and deep, with very steep banks. One cow got in a hurry and rushed ahead, and fell in. She went down completely out of sight; but she came up, blowing and snorting, and was unable to scramble out under her own power.
One of the boys straddled the stream – one foot on each bank – and the three of them formed a bucket brigade, passing water up to a wash tub for the waiting animals.

One evening at camping time we arrived at the ranch of a retired physician. He had a fenced pasture on either side of the road – one containing his horses; the other, his cattle. He invited us to put up our livestock for the night – our horses with his cattle and our cattle with his horses. Thus, for this night our menfolk were able to get a full night’s sleep – a favor that was deeply appreciated.

Wherever we stopped for the night we always had to make sure there was water available for the animals. At one place which we reached at camping time there was a fine ranch with huge tanks overflowing with water, and we were delighted at the sight. But when Father asked permission to water the stock the owner refused, saying it would make too much confusion among our animals and his. He assured us that down the road about three miles was a pond where we could water. He said he had been by there just that day, and there was plenty of water.

We drove on and found the pond, but it was bone dry. So on we went, and had to travel till ten o’clock before we found water so that we could camp for the night.

Mother cooked our meals over an open fire, including the noon meal, when we always stopped for a rest.
It was difficult to keep a bread supply on hand with four menfolk to feed plus three growing girls: I was nine and a half; Lottie, eight; and Alma, nearing three.

Traveling down through the ranch country, it wasn’t always easy to find a place where we could buy bread. At one store where we inquired they had no bread, but they sold us a half-size egg crate that was filled with soda crackers, which was an acceptable substitute.

At another time, with no towns accessible, we asked at a ranch if we could buy bread. They had none, but they had flour on hand; so they sold us a sack of flour. With this, Mother made bread dough and then fried it over the campfire.

Present Day Arthur, Nebraska
Near Arthur a wheel on one of the wagons broke down. Our men, not to be defeated by this misfortune, put their inventive genius to work and came up with a satisfactory repair job. The spokes were replaced by telephone wire which they attached, all the way around, from the hub to the rim. This wheel not only got us to the end of our journey, but was kept in use for a considerable time afterward.

Whenever we came to a place where there were cornfields on both sides of the road, it took all four of the men to drive the livestock through and prevent them from getting into the corn. In such cases, Mother drove the lead wagon; and I, perched up on the front of the second one, followed. The men, herding the animals along, brought up the rear.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Sunday Stories: McPherson County Nebraska Courthouse

Growing up in rural McPherson County, we had to go to Tryon for all of the official business - paying taxes, registering vehicles, taking school pictures, etc. I remember the courthouse as being a hugely imposing building.

The following was taken from the December 21, 1983 North Platte Telegraph. The clipping was found in the McPherson County history book. It is written by Maudene Sowders and Sharron Hollen.

Tryon's population was listed as over 2,000 when this photo
was taken about 1912. At one point McPherson County had
20 post offices, five towns and 63 school districts. The
trail road in the foreground is now Highway 97.
Tryon became, by 1895, the site of two buildings: a courthouse and a house for the County Treasurer. Other buildings might have sprung up sooner had it not been for the versatility of the courthouse. The sod building also served as a home for the county clerk, a community social hall, a dance hall when the occasion arose and a house of prayer when an itinerant preacher would pass that way.

One of the first actions taken by the newly appointed McPherson County Commissioners - Heber Newberry, William E. Wisner and Henry Brown - was to make provisions for safekeeping county records. in a corner of the sod building they erected a brick vault and installed a steel door and safe. With the purchase of record books they declared county government to be officially in operation.

By 1910 Tryon had become a bustling frontier town with a population of 2,470. The growing pains prompted progressive citizens to call for a more modern courthouse and in 1916 a $4,000 bond issue for construction of a new building was placed before the voters. They turned it down.

McPherson County Courthouse, circa about 1983.
In 1920, the county board, finding it increasingly difficult to conduct business in the sod building, announced a five mill levy to build a new courthouse. Construction started but there wasn't enough funds to complete the work. Voters were asked to finance a bond issue to install a heating system and furnish the building. That bond issue carried, only to hit another snag. The election procedure was found to be illegal because notice of the election had not been properly advertised. The process was repeated, passing with only 10 dissenting votes.

In 1926, Tryon, county seat of McPherson County, held dedication ceremonies for the new two story brick structure that serves to this day (1983) as the county's courthouse.

The vault door, considered so important by the 1890-era county commissioners is also in use. It is in the McPherson County Superintendent of School's office. The steel safe, originally installed inside the soddy's brick vault, is now in the county sheriff's office on the lower level of the building.

New McPherson County Courthouse
During the evening/morning hours of July 8-9, 2003, a tornado struck the historic courthouse. the roof of the courthouse was blown off and landed in the public school building across the street...

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Weekend Drive

Weekend drives have been few and far between lately, so I've got to share them with you when they come along! We took the back roads through Sarben and on to Keystone, then around Lake McConaughy. We saw these two beautiful swans on a little seep just off the Sarben-Paxton road.

Along the Nevens road, which runs from Paxton to Keystone, we saw this large bunch of nests in a tree claim beside the road. Though we've taken this drive numerous times, it has mostly been in the summer when the trees were fully leafed out, so we didn't notice the nests. Our plan is to make this trip more often so we can see just what kind of nests those are.

Closer to Keystone, we made time to take a picture of this building we passed before. It looks very industrial, yet kind of art-deco. It looks as if it's been converted to grain storage, and of course the windows are boarded up. We're also going to make it a goal of ours to try to find out why it was built and when.

It's good to have goals!
We finally make it to the eagle viewing spot at Lake Ogallala, and there's not much to see. There are generally dozens of bald eagles here and lots of other waterfowl, but today was pretty quiet. We'll have to make another trip back.

But we did notice lots of those nests in the trees next to the lake here.
It was a beautiful, if cold day, with not a breath of wind. The reflections on Lake McConaughy were very pretty.
Now, just in case you are wondering how we survive on these back road trips that are often far from any "facilities", I just wanted to show you that, we have that covered. It may be cold, and you may have to park just right for any semblance of privacy, but at least the seat is comfortable.
And on that note, I'll close this blog post.

Thanks for stopping by. The coffee's always on.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Sunday Stories: From Syria to the Sandhills

Taken from the McPherson County History Book: Facts,Families and Fiction

By Norm and Renee (Ellis) Greunke

Syrian peddler Kalil Michwee of
Birmingham, Ala., 1917
Mike David arrived in Tryon in 1897 with a peddler’s pack on his back. He had arrived in America the year before, at the age of 13, from his native Syria. Mike resided a short time in Fort Wayne, Indiana, but the lure of the West led to his first business venture selling dry goods direct to farmers and ranchers through Iowa, Missouri, Kansas and Nebraska. He carried his wares as he went. While covering this territory he was constantly looking for a place where he might establish a home. It was in McPherson County where Mike found he liked the friendly, prosperous people.

At first he tramped the hills with his bag on his back, but then bought a horse and buggy to carry his goods. That way he could cover a much wider area of the country.

There were only two other buildings in Tryon other than the sod courthouse where Mike set up his first store in 1903. He started his business with a one hundred dollar loan and in no time had it repaid in full. Back then, Mike sold a few groceries and other assorted items including underclothes, something that embarrassed the bashful young man in his twenties. When Mike came to America, he could not speak English, but somehow got across what he was trying to sell.

Business was good and he like the West and its people, but there was a beautiful young girl back in far away Syria who had often expressed a desire to come to America. So from 1907 through 1908 Mike returned to the land of his farmer parents and married Miss Sadie Aboud. The following year he returned to Tryon accompanied by his 23-year-old bride.

Nineteen hundred and nine also saw the birth of the couple’s first child, Mabel. The family moved to Hay Springs for a while where the David’s second daughter Eve was born the next year.

The Davids returned to Tryon where the remainder of their children were born, David in 1914; Eli, 1915; Mary, 1917; Vera, 1919 and Helen, 1924.

Another major project was undertaken in 1920 when Mike decided to build a house for his family. The spacious structure was built by the late John Dahlin, Sr. It included eight rooms and bath, with a large basement, modern heating and water system. It was the pride of the Mike David family.

Mabel Ellis, first born of
Mike and Sadie David, July 26, 1909
It was said that among Mike David’s qualities were his guidance and advice. He was actively interested in the welfare of the community as well as the success and financial security of his friends and neighbors. Mike was also active in the promotion of good roads and played an important part in securing much of the hard surface highway through the sandhills he once crossed with his four-horse teams.

Sadie David was a devoted wife and mother and was said to be instrumental in helping her husband make a success of himself and his family. She, too, was loved and respected by everyone in the community. And, says daughter Mabel, she was quite a cook… that, even though her mother couldn’t read a recipe, ‘she could make a lemon pie stand high.’

A couple years after the present building opened, the David’s oldest son, David, was killed in 1939 in a road accident during a blinding snowstorm near Bridgeport, Nebraska.

David Family May, 1948
Back row L-R: Eva, Mary, Helen and Mabel
Front row: Eli, Sadie and Mike, inset: David
In 1941 Mike and Sadie David retired from active business and moved to Sioux City, Iowa, where there daughters Mary and Helen lived. But Mike still made frequent business trips back to Tryon. On December 8, 1948, the Davids were traveling from Tryon to Omaha when they were involved in a car-truck accident at Wahoo. Sadie was killed instantly. Mike was taken to a Wahoo hospital where he died the next day, never having regained consciousness. The Tryon Graphic said the deaths were a severe shock to the entire community and that “they will be sorely missed by their family and multitude of friends.”

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Snowy Scenery

Somehow over the months, I've forgotten the joy of photographing the sights of my rural home to share with you here. I suppose there's just so many places to post things, Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, Pinterest... that I forget where it all started - this blog!

A beautiful soft snow was falling a few days ago, and I knew exactly where I wanted to go. This barn has long fascinated me and it's situated just right to make early morning pictures interesting. It was beautiful, if very sad, in the falling snow.
Along the way, there were other sights to be seen, such as this herd of buffalo weathering their storm in a pasture, waiting for the farmer to bring them their hay.
And a mama cow and her baby, snug in the trees of the North Platte River enjoying the snow.
These two ponies made a picturesque scene with the backdrop of falling snow.
This steer (bull? I didn't look closely) stopped mid-chew to wonder just what this lady was up to. See the hay hanging out of his mouth?
A single buffalo waiting out the storm.
Back in North Platte, the Hershey Depot at the Cody Park Railroad Display looks as if passengers would be walking down the platform just any minute.
The largest locomotive ever made, the 6900 series (two locomotives in one) is on display at the Cody Park Railroad Museum.
As is the Challenger Steam Locomotive - the only one on static public display. During the summer, when the display is open, you can climb aboard both and sit in the engineers seat.

Thanks for stopping by. The coffee's always on.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Sunday Stories: Seifer family history

It all sounds so cut and dried in the obituaries:

Fred George Seifer was born October 21, 1875 at Wurttemberg, Germany. He came to America and settled at Eustis, Nebraska, then moved to Grant in 1908. He died February 19, 1959.
He was united in marriage to Emma Frieda Wieland on June 11, 1911. In March of 1920 he settled with his family on a ranch north of Sutherland where he resided until moving into Sutherland a few years ago.
Mr. Seifer has been a member of Grace Lutheran Church since October 19, 1930.
He is survived by his wife; five daughers: Mrs. Esther (Albert) Bosch, Farnam, Nebraska; Mrs. Helene (Harry) Hokensen, Seattle, Washington; Mrs. Agnes (Edgar “Bob”) King, Farnam, Nebraska; Mrs. Martha (Clarence) King, Show Low, Arizona; and Mrs. Alice (Charles) Morgan, Sutherland, and two sons, Fred (Ione) Seifer and Paul (Irene) Seifer, both of Sutherland. He is also survived by 13 grandchildren and 3 great grandchildren.

Emma F. Seifer, 89, a long-time Sutherland resident died Sunday (January 1, 1984) at an Ogallala hospital.
She was born July 21, 1894, to Gottfried and Anna (Sitz) Wieland at Elwood.
In 1909, she moved with her family to a farm in the grant area. On June 11, 1911, she was married to George F. Seifer in Grant. After their marriage they farmed near Grant until 1920 when they moved to a ranch north of Sutherland. In 1949, they moved into Sutherland where she remained the rest of her life.
She is survived by her children (see above); 20 grandchildren, 34 great-grandchildren, 6 great-great grandchildren.

Did you read those dates right?

Fred born in 1875, Emma born in 1894, married in 1911? That made Grandpa 36 and Grandma 17 when they married.

There isn’t much left of the narrative of their lives. The family history book that has been prepared by a cousin has many of the birth and death records, but little else. On March 8, 1983, less than a year before her death, she was given the book “A Gift of Memories from Grandma.” Her memories of her childhood and married life hadn’t softened with the years.

What was the best birthday you ever had? “Can’t remember that I ever had a good birthday. Just worked all the time."

Grandma, can you remember your favorite birthday present? "Didn’t ever get a birthday present."

How did your parents punish you? "They spanked me. They both were strict."

What was the naughtiest thing you ever did? "I had to work all the time and didn't have time to be naughty."

What were your favorite games and toys? "Didn’t have any and didn’t play any games."

What did you usually do on Christmas? "It was just another day."

Could it really have been that bleak? Possibly. However, her memories might have been clouded with age. Earlier, she had given an oral history to another cousin where she describes a less harsh childhood. She mentions for entertainment going to picture shows, how she and her brother Johnnie would climb in trees to get away from a horned steer and that the church they attended had programs every Friday night, complete with pie and box supper. They went fishing in the summer and for Christmas they went to a Christmas program.

Back row L-R: Agnes, Emma holding Paul, Esther and Fred
Front row L-R: Martha, Fred and Alice in front
Her most complete answer is recorded as this: “The night they loaded the railroad car to move to Grant it rained. We loaded in Eustis. Horses, machinery, household goods all in one car. The car was divided in half. Parents, John, Fred, Walter, Emma, Martha, Anna, Clara, Carrie and Lizzie all went in the passenger car. Unloaded in Grant. Moved to home south of Grant. Traded off place in Grant then moved to Venango and parents stayed there til they died.”

Here is her answer to the question “What was your first answer to your proposal?” I didn't really care to get married yet then but the way my father were I just wanted to get away from home.

Did you have a honeymoon? Where did you go? "No Honeymoon. We just went over where Grandpa lived and started up and went to work."

Family lore holds that Grandpa paid Great-Grandpa Weiland a team of horses and a wagon for the privilege of marrying his 17-year-old daughter.

I imagine she simply escaped one tyrant for another. Four children were born on the homestead south of Grant. They moved to the homestead north of Sutherland in 1920 where three more children were born. Grandpa may have made it to town periodically for supplies and to sell the commodities produced on the land, but for Grandma it was much more infrequent. When she needed a new dress or something for the house, he brought home for her whatever he decided to buy.

Grandpa had been gone for a couple of years before I was born and to my kid-memory, my grandma was always an old woman. At times during the summer I would stay with her in town for a few days, but as a kid from the “hills”, it was all pretty overwhelming. My greatest memory of her is that she was always baking something and had a huge garden every summer.

Note: We received word the last week of December that my aunt, Helen Hokenson of Washington State passed away.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Christmas Scenery

Christmas Day was actually very quiet. We had celebrated over the weekend as that was the time all the kids could be home, so the only thing left was a Christmas tree with nothing underneath it.
We took a drive in the afternoon and were pleasantly surprised to see dozens of eagles out at the Sutherland Reservoir.
Hundreds of bald eagles overwinter in the area and can be seen over our local rivers and lakes. There are formal viewing sites near Ogallala and Lexington, but if you're content to weather the cold, the Sutherland Reservoir is a good choice.
North of Sutherland, the North Platte River only has small channels left unfrozen. The area around North Platte and further west, west of Lake McConaughy, there are flood warnings due to ice jams. It can be beautiful, though.
Not much wildlife other than the eagles on this trip, but cows and horses make pretty pictures in the snowy landscape.
Eagles can be seen along the North Platte River as well.
And always, Union Pacific Railroad is out there "building America", or in this case, transporting coal to keep us all warm anyway.

Thanks for stopping by. The coffee is always on.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Happy New Year!

Since I'm kind of informally re-committing to my blog for 2013, I would be remiss if I didn't start the first day of 2013 with a blog post, so here it is.

2012 definitely didn't turn out like I had planned. On July 13, after a slight miscalculation of the landing zone for a jump off a bridge into the North Platte River, I broke my left heel. Shattered, in fact. Eight screws and a titanium plate were installed a couple weeks later, when the swelling finally went down enough for surgery. I spent the next three months 100% non-weight bearing, and have been slowly recovering since then.

I finally started walking without a cane near Thanksgiving, and I currently have only a slightly noticeable limp. The pain level is finally where I thought it should have been about two months ago, so there is progress being made.

For some reason, during the first months of my convalescence, I didn't feel like blogging, even though all I was doing was sitting in a recliner with my foot elevated on pillows. I hope to do better in 2013.

I've made a good start to the year so far - got all of the 2012 Christmas decorations down and I have my calendar updated.

What does the rest of the year hold? My bio-daughter is expecting her first child in May, so I'm looking forward to a month in California. My youngest bio-son has put an offer in on a house here in Sutherland, so we might be empty-nesters here again soon.

I've started a new series here on the blog - Sunday Stories, published as you may imagine, each Sunday. The stories are taken from the rural Nebraska community history books that I've collected. I am continually amazed at the perseverance of these amazing people who have lived in our communities in the past. Their stories make me more grateful for what I have, but also more determined to live my life with as much courage as they showed in their lives.

I hope to have lots of adventures to share with you throughout the coming year here in the Nebraska Outback.

So, Happy New Year and thanks for stopping by on this first day of the year. The coffee's always on.