Sunday, December 27, 2015

Sunday Stories

Last week marked the 119th installment in the "Sunday Stories" series that I began back in November of 2012, excerpting stories from the three history books that make up the bulk of my own family's history - Sutherland, McPherson County, and Arnold.

Beginning in January of 2015, I committed to posting a new story from one of these history books each Sunday, and now, on the final Sunday of 2015, I am pleased to report that I succeeded in this very modest goal.

Over the course of 2015, we heard the story of the Coker and Harshfield families, the McCance and Snyder families, and their offshoots, the Elfeldt's and the Yosts. We were also treated to the history of McPherson County, as well as a number of other stories of interest from the area.

I have been the appreciative recipient of many comments and compliments for posting these stories, though I do nothing than transcribe the words already put down in these history books. They are stories too good to be relegated to a local history book read by only a few. By posting in these "snackable bites", readers can enjoy them at their leisure without lugging around a thick and imposing history book.

I always try to include the full names of the heroes and heroines of these stories, making them searchable for genealogists, and I have been very gratified by a number of comments by those who were able to find out more about their families through the availability of these stories.

So, here's to 2016. I will continue to work hard to send the stories of our intrepid ancestors out to be enjoyed by a new generation.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Sunday Stories: The McPherson County Courthouse

I have previously posted a story about the McPherson County Courthouse, based on newspaper clippings. The third McPherson County Courthouse was destroyed by a tornado in 2003. The story posted in January of 2013 tells of the construction of the new courthouse. You can find that story HERE.

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

Courthouses of McPherson County

By Virgil Graham

The construction of the first McPherson County Courthouse is an interesting story.

In 1890, shortly after the county was organized, two tenderfoot boys, Russ and Manley Calhoun, bareheaded and barefooted, walked up from North Platte. They arrive at the Whitewater Ranch, twenty-three miles northwest of Tryon.

At the Whitewater Ranch they purchased four four-year-old wild steers, horns included. These steers had not had a rope on them since they were branded, and they never did like a rope, anyway.
The boys, pitchforks in one hand, ropes in the other, proceeded to break the steers to lead. In a couple of days they could be led. They were named, appropriately, Thunder, Lightening, Fighter and Kicker.
Instead of the usual yokes for oxen, the boys turned horse collars upside down and harness hames the same way. The pull of the trace-chains came from the top of the shoulder, similar to the usual yokes.
After plowing sod all summer, in the fall they plowed sod and hauled it to the courthouse site. John Godfrey, who was quite an expert in laying sod walls, was hired for the job. The roof was hip style, with rafters and sheeting covered with tar-paper, overlaid with tough prairie sod.

Adequate provision was made for the safe keeping of the records. A brick vault with a strong door was built in one corner. A steel safe was purchased and record books obtained and the officers were ready for business.

The courthouse grounds were enclosed with a barb wire fence to prevent roving livestock from entering the yard. If livestock rubbed the sod walls there was unnecessary wear. There was a well on the grounds where man and animals could obtain a refreshing drink. There was a turn stile gate and a hitching rail south of the fence, where farmers and ranchers would tie their teams and saddle horses.
The County Clerk lived in a part of this sod courthouse. There was only one other building in Tryon at first. The courthouse was the social center of this little community and all meetings were held there.

The courthouse was also used for religious services whenever a traveling minister or missionary was in the neighborhood. On many occasions homesteaders and cowboys gathered for old time dancing to the music of fiddles, harmonicas or whatever, playing the popular music of the “gay nineties”. These dances were usually held on a Friday night and lasted until daybreak. On Saturday they transacted their business. Sometimes weary travelers were permitted to spend the night in the comfortable old sod courthouse. The writer was one of these fortunate people.

In later years the sod walls deteriorated until, as one person described it, “the roof was held up by the wallpaper”. At that time walls of frame construction were made outside the sod walls which were removed later, and the roof shingled.

The furniture was rather crude, as there were but little funds for this purpose. In 1917 Mr. L.E. Pyzer was County Treasurer, and at his own expense, he had his son, Lisle, construct a nice new desk for his office, which was much more convenient than the desk which it replaced.

Prior to this, in July 1912, a set of tool-proof jail cells were purchased from the Pauly Jail Co. of St. Louis, Missouri, at a cost of $1,300.00. These were placed in a small frame building costing $180.00. These purchases were bitterly opposed by the citizens of Arthur Precinct, at the western end of the county, who accused the official of graft.

By 1916 McPherson County had outgrown the old courthouse, and a proposition to vote $4,000.00 in bonds for the purpose of building a new courthouse was submitted to the voters. Although better facilities were badly needed, the bond issue was defeated by the voters.

In 1920 a five mill special building levy for the purpose of a new courthouse was voted by the county board. Construction was started in 1925 and the building was occupied by county officials during the summer of 1926. The special levy proved insufficient and on January 21, 1926 a special election was held to approve a $6,000.00 bond issue, to complete the building, install a heating system and purchase furniture. These bonds carried. However, due to a technicality, this was found to be illegal. Another election was held and everything completed. Now, McPherson County has a modern up-to-date courthouse.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Sunday Stories: The History of McPherson County, Part 6


The following was an essay done for school credit by John Kramer.

During the last of the twenties some of the ranchers who had obtained land from the Kinkaid Act sold their holdings. This tended to reduce the number of people in the county, and by 1930 there were 1358 people in the county. This was a reduction of 334 people from 1920.

The years, 1920-1930, as a whole were good years for the county. Businesses and people lived well and prospered. This was in sharp contrast to what the thirties would bring.

The events of the 1930’s began in 1931 when Paul Bender bought the Platt Mercantile Company from the Platte Brothers, Sheriff D.V. Platte resigned and was replaced by R.C. Ready, the Tryon Garage was sold to O.J. “Punk” Warren, and a fairly good graded road was completed between Tryon and North Platte.

Also in 1931 the Mathers Chevrolet Garage was reconverted to be a gymnasium for the high school. Previous to this time the I.O.O.F. Hall and other buildings had been used by the high school.

The well-known depression of the thirties also began in 1931. It began approximately in September of 1931 and didn’t start to let up until about 1939. The first blow of the depression proved too much for the Tryon Bank and it closed in January of 1932. It was closed for only five months, though, and reopened on June 2, 1932.

The year 1933 was probably the most tragic that this county has ever witnessed. On May 22, 1933, a tornado swept across the county. It began at a place a short distance from the county’s south border, traveled north, passed east of Tryon, and ended at the Dismal River. It destroyed several buildings and the following people were killed by this tornado: Dora and Iola Pyzer, Mary Pyzer, Edna Nelson, Willis and Donnie Bender, Mary and Lizzie McIntyre. The high winds which accompanied the storm were responsible for the deaths of Marvin Cullinan and Ollie Waits in other parts of the county.

Billy Neal became Sheriff and the Tryon Garage was purchased by J.C. Heldenbrand also in 1933.
The depression was hard on the people of this county, but to add to their troubles a drought began in 1934. It was not until 1936 that the drought became bad enough for the people to allow the county to be listed as a drought area. This county was the last to do this in the state of Nebraska. Although the drought was not as severe here as in other parts of the state, it caused great hardships to the ranchers of the county. The ranchers obtained government feed loans and also obtained loans from the Birdwood National Farm Loan Association and the North Platte Production Credit Association. The government bought approximately 3,855 head of cattle in this county in 1934 at an average price of fifteen dollars per head. If it had not done this it is doubtful if the ranchers could have obtained anything for their livestock.

1934 was also the year that our county received its first oil-paved road. It was between Tryon and North Platte and was finished in November of that year.

The thirties were tough for those who were seeking employment in this county. For that reason, beginning in 1934, some of the county’s young men went to Civilian Conservation Corps camps. There they could work and receive a small wage.

At the middle of the thirties, in 1935, the ranchers received a small amount of encouragement when cattle prices rose slightly. This raise gave hope to some, but for others it was too late. During the thirties the ranches became larger as more and more ranches were unable to make a go of it because of the depression and the drought. The Whitewater and Triangle ranches were the largest, but large amounts of land were also owned by the Bassett brothers, I.E. and B.C. Huffman, Will Dikeman, H.G. Lamb, N.E. Trego, T.J. Neal, Ida Musser and Sons, Fed Pierson, Joe McCleneghan, H.E. Ellery, J.L. Snyder, Wayne Kramer, A.B. Snyder, Jay Leaderbrand and George Van Meter.

The combination of the drought and depression was undoubtedly the major cause for the changing of hands of so many businesses in 1935. Taft Haddy took over the Flats Store, Alvin Wade took over the White Rose Filling Station, Paul Bender took over the Ringgold Store, and Mrs. Burnham opened the Dew Drop Inn, all in 1935.

An unusual event of the thirties occurred in 1936 when Bert Snyder discovered a buffalo in his pasture. He managed to get the animal out of his pasture and it then headed north. The animal wasn’t heard of until it was discovered that Bill Haney had found it on his place south of the Dismal River and had managed to capture it in his corral. The buffalo was then taken back to its owner, a rancher north of Sutherland.

McPherson County had its first 4-H Club Fair in 1936. The first 4-H clubs had been started in the early thirties and had grown large enough to merit having a fair by 1936.

A lack of money during the depression caused people to dream of wealth and riches. It was for this reason that, during the entire thirties, people began to believe that oil would be found in this county. In 1937 a prediction was even made that there would be oil derricks from Hyannis to North Platte.

In August of 1937 Mike David modernized his store by putting in such conveniences as new counters, lighting and displays. He held an open house on August 15 which brought people from all over much of the Sandhill area.

1938 saw the close of the Tryon Bank. It had not been receiving enough support for quite some time and closed because of this. It had been operating continually since 1910 except for a five month period in 1932.
As the thirties ended in 1939, a well-known and much respected citizen of this county received national recognition. Dr. Harriet McGraw had set up her practice in this county in 1919. She helped all who needed aid and traveled many miles to do this. Elma Holloway wrote a book, Unsung Heroes, in 1938 in which she told of the deeds of Dr. McGraw. It was because of this publicity that Dr. McGraw was asked to go to Washington, D.C. where she had tea with Mrs. Franklin D. Roosevelt and received various awards.

The county received its first road grading equipment in 1939. It was immediately put to use improving roads and by the fall of that year a road had been completed between Tryon and the north county line.

H.C. Lamb built some cabins in Tryon in August of 1939.

The Thirties were probably the most eventful years in this county since the years when it was organized. They were probably the worst years ever seen by the county due to the terrible combination of the depression and the drought.
It was mainly due to this combination that 183 people left the county in the years 1930-1940. Although this was less than the number to leave in the twenties it must be realized that the people in the thirties were more deeply rooted in the county as a whole than those of the twenties.

The Farm Bureau was formed in the late thirties and began gaining momentum in the forties.

Tryon and McPherson County Today

In 2014, the population of McPherson County is estimated to have sunk below the population of 1900.
 Tryon itself is now an unincorporated village with a population of 157.
The red building in the center is recognizable as the David Store.

David Store (now Sowders) can be seen on the left.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Sunday Stories: History of McPherson County, Part 5


The following was an essay done for school credit by John Kramer.

In 1926, Sheriff R.E. Newman resigned and was replaced by H.A. Shriver. Also in 1926 Tryon received its first electricity when S.W. Warren installed a 110-volt Coler light plant in the Warren Garage. F.S. Snyder took over the editing of the Tryon Graphic from his brother, J. Warren Snyder, in June of 1926. These brothers took turns editing the paper until 1928 when F.S. Snyder took the job permanently.
The Herriman brothers operated the Busy Bee Café from November of 1926 until the early thirties. A fire caused the Tryon Graphic to be moved to the I.O.O.F. building in 1926 and in April of 1927 the damaged equipment was replaced by a new linotype which is still in use today.

Charley Moore, a Civil War veteran, died in January of 1928. This left the county with only one Civil War veteran, Mr. McFarland, who died November 18, 1931.
McPherson County’s first rural track meet was held on May 5, 1928. Coach W.L. Nichols organized it and it met with great success. District No. 4 won and received a silver trophy. District No. 16 received second place, Bill Hall won in the individual scoring, and Freda Wayman was the highest girl scorer.

Chautauqua’s were held during the twenties each year in Tryon. They consisted of several days in which people from a large area came to Tryon and observed singers, lecturers, and exhibits.
The late twenties brought revival meetings to the county. They were held in a large tent and lasted for a week at a time. They had a large following for about four years, but by the early thirties had been discontinued.

R.J. Barta opened Barta’s Cream Station in 1926 and in 1928 added a filling station to this business.
The Prohibition Act which was in effect from 1919 to 1933 caused the making of many stills in this county. All through this period Sheriff Newman and later Sheriff Shriver were kept busy in confiscating alcoholic beverages and destroying stills.

1929 and 1930 saw much activity in the county’s businesses. The Tryon Garage, owned by S.W. Warren, was sold to Ray Ready and Paul Bender and called the Bender-Ready Motor Company. The garage was bought by S.W. Warren in 1930 after Bender and Ready had run the company for about a year. The Herriman brothers opened a filling station in the spring of 1929 and sold their Busy Bee Café in the fall of that year to A.L. Fuller, one-time owner of Fuller’s Cash Store in Tryon. The Flats Supply Company was bought by Mike David early in 1929. The Flats Supply Company had been organized in 1918 when Paul Reichenberg sold the Flats Store which he had established at approximately 1914. The Ringgold Store, owned by F.A. Bender, was bought by Bill Otten. Mr. Beach had owned the store before Mr. Bender acquired it. The local telephone company, which had been run by F. Allen, was sold to the Western Telephone Corporation in 1930 and F. Allen became the local manager.
Sheriff H.A. Shriver resigned as sheriff in August of 1929 and was replaced by D.V. Platt.

A fair and rodeo combination was held in the fall of 1929 and 1930 at Tryon.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Sunday Stories: History of McPherson County, Part 4


The following was an essay done for school credit by John Kramer.

In 1913 Arthur Precinct took steps to secede from McPherson County. On August 25, 1913, and August 27, 1913, Charles E. Foster and W.V. Hoagland appeared before the McPherson County Board of Commissioners to settle whether or not Arthur precinct would secede. Charles Foster was against the secession of Arthur Precinct while W.V. Hoagland was for the secession of Arthur Precinct. The minutes of the meeting do not state what action was taken by the board, but Arthur Precinct soon became known as Arthur County.
By 1915 most of the “Kinkaiders” had settled up on their claims and the population in the county began to decline. The businesses that remained were more solidly rooted and commercial centers had started up at Flats and Ringgold. By 1915 all parts of the county were connected together by telephone lines and the only serious handicap to development was the lack of good roads and transportation.

In 1917 the McPherson County High School was organized. The first teacher was Mrs. Clara Nichols Woods and the first class, which consisted of five pupils, graduated in 1921. In 1920 the first high school building was built. Prior to this time the pupils attended class in the I.O.O.F. building. The first pupils to graduate from McPherson County High School were Leo Cash, Viola Dahlin, Mathilda Doyle, Aubrey Warren and Nettie Winters.

In the early 1920’s many people owned an automobile and in 1920 the first state road was built. It consisted merely of a layer of mud on top of a bed of graded sand. Roads of similar nature were made to Mullen, Arthur, and North Platte in the later 1920’s. The building of these roads caused many people to buy automobiles and by 1925 most people in the county owned an automobile.
The Tryon Leader was sold to A.L. Fuller on February 15, 1923, by J.C. Heldenbrand. It came known as Fuller’s Cash Store until 1928. It was then sold to Marvin and Dan Platt and called the Platt Mercantile Co.

A band was organized in 1924 and remained active until the late 1920’s.

The Tryon Graphic changed ownership on June 12, 1924, when J. Warren Snyder took over the business from his father, Mullen B. Snyder.

Silent movies were shown in the Tryon Garage by S.W. Warren from 1924 until the late 1930’s. They were a unique form of entertainment and never failed to draw a large crowd.

The McPherson County Fair was organized on May 9, 1924, and the county’s first fair was held in August of that year.

A new courthouse was built in 1925-26 to replace the one-room sod courthouse that had thus far served the county. It had proven inadequate for a number of years for the rapidly growing county business. An attempt had been made in 1918 to build the courthouse, but sufficient funds could not be raised.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Sunday Stories: History of McPherson County, Part 3


The following was an essay done for school credit by John Kramer.

On November 3, 1891, the people of the county voted to annex the territory now known as Arthur County and on January 1, 1892, it became a part of McPherson County. This entire area was made into one precinct and was known as Arthur Precinct.

In the fall of that year the name of the county seat was changed to Tryon and a post office was established in the town. It is not definitely known how the town came to be named Tryon, but it is believed it was named after William Tryon, an early colonial governor.

During the 1890’s, there was a drought throughout Nebraska. Although it was not as severe in this county as elsewhere, it retarded settlement and growth. By 1900 the county’s population had increased by only 116 people to make the total population 517.

In 1895 Tryon had only two buildings, the courthouse and the home of Jay Smith, the county treasurer. Jay Smith’s house contained the only newspaper in McPherson County at this time, The McPherson County News. D.P. Wilcox had established in 1889, making it the first business established in this county, but sold it to Smith soon after. Smith sold it to George Daly in 1895 and it remained in his family until 1922 when it was sold to the Snyder family. The building holding the paper was completely destroyed by fire in 1926. This destroyed most of the old copies that would have given a great amount of facts concerning the first years that the county was in existence.

In 1897 L.C. Reneau established a simple store in Tryon. It carried only a few necessities and the county had several other stores that were similar in nature.
In 1903 Mike David established this county’s first permanent store. This first store was made of sod and stood a few rods north of the present day David Store. In 1911 Mike David bought the Reneau General Store and located his business there until 1916 when he built the store that Taft Haddy, his son-in-law, now operates.

The Kinkaid Act, which was enacted by Congress in 1904, did much to speed the settlement of the entire Sandhill area. The act, which was sponsored by Moses P. Kinkaid, made it possible for any settler to obtain one section of land by living on it for five years.

In other parts of the state the big ranches bitterly opposed the “Kinkaiders”, but here this was not so. Some of the ranchers even helped the “Kinkaiders” by giving them employment and feed for their livestock. Most of those who settled on the ranges of the Whitewater or Triangle ranches later sold out to these ranches for satisfactory prices.

The rapid influx of settlers at this time increased the population of this county to 2,470 people in 1910. The county seat grew to become a bustling frontier city. In 1907 a schoolhouse was built, in 1910 another store, and also in the early 1900’s a lodge and the Tryon Hall were built. The store that was built was known as the Tryon Leader and was owned and operated by I.C. Heldenbrand.
A period of good crop years helped the “Kinkaiders” to get a good start and the county prospered greatly. Times were so prosperous and there were so many people that there was a shortage of teachers and schools. Tryon built a new two-room schoolhouse in 1914 to help remedy its problems and much the same thing happened throughout the county. The schoolhouse that had served Tryon up until this time was sold to Will M. Dunn and was used for the printing office until 1926 when it was destroyed by fire.

Many of the settlers became deeply in debt to the stores for the necessities that they needed. Since they would have no money until they sold the land after five years of residence, they were quick to secure loans on their land from the various lending agencies. The two lending agencies that operated in this county were Bills & Cline and The Cornelius Company, both from Hastings, Nebraska. In 1918 most of the loans were refinanced in the Birdwood National Farm Loan Association.

These loans were a boon to many of the settlers while some merely used them as a means to sell out. Many of the settlers that stayed and paid up the loans became quite prosperous and many of their descendants are still in the county today on these original holdings. Although some of the land did fall into the hands of non-resident owners, in a few years this land was purchased by resident operators who were expanding their holdings.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Sunday Stories: History of McPherson County, Part 2


The following was an essay done for school credit by John Kramer.

These early settlers were confronted with many problems. Building materials were hard to obtain so most buildings were made of sod. In order to obtain water, very often deep wells had to be dug. In the west part of the county this was not as great a problem since water could be found after digging only a few feet. These settlers lived in constant fear of prairie fires and for protection plowed wide furrows around their buildings and stacks of feed. To be guilty of starting a fire was second only to being a horse or cattle thief at that time.
Most of the early settlers found employment on the large ranches or “back east” in Custer County. They left home early in the spring and were gone the entire summer. The wages earned kept the families in necessities until the first crops were grown or the livestock herds were built up. A few of the settlers hauled wood from the Dismal River to North Platte or Custer County, gathered bones and hauled them to the rail heads, or shot prairie chickens for sale in the markets in the eastern states.

McPherson County was, until this time, a part of Logan County. On January 28, 1890, a Special Board of County Commissioners met at the home of D.P. Wilcox at McPherson Post Office. At this meeting the Special County Commissioners, H.J. Anderson and H. Newberry, and Special County Clerk, D.P. Wilcox voted to divide the county into two precincts, West and East McPherson. The place of voting in the west was at the home of Mr. Brown at Cottonwood ranch and in the East at the home of John Booze. It was also decided at this meeting to have an election of County Officers on February 27, 1890. The county’s first officers were B.F. Wilson, County Clerk; Jay Smith, Treasurer; Albert Mayer, Sheriff, C.W. Shaul, County Judge; Lewis E. Dolph, County Superintendent; G.M. Brooks, Coroner; R. E. Haskell, H. Newberry and H.J. Anderson, County Commissioners. Later the office of R.E. Haskell was declared vacant and Henry Brown was appointed Commissioner.
On May 17, 1890, the commissioners moved the county seat from McPherson Post Office to where Tryon stands today. Even though McPherson Post Office was only four miles away the county seat was named McPherson.

The population of the county at this time and of the then unorganized Arthur County was only 401 people. Most of these were in the eastern half of McPherson County.
The courthouse was built in 1890 and was approximately thirty by thirty feet in size, made of sod, and covered by a high frame roof. It contained a brick vault and steel safe. The vault and safe are now located in the present day courthouse. This first courthouse was located where the high school stands today.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Sunday Stories: History of McPherson County, Part 1

These blog posts have been spending quite a lot of time down here in the valley, so I think it's time to head north to the hills and share a little about my childhood home - McPherson County.

A History of McPherson County

The following was an essay done for school credit by John Kramer.

McPherson County has, in its long past, taken on many shapes. Before the Tertiary period, the area was covered several times by ocean waters. These waters deposited sediments that formed thick layers of sandstone, shale and limestone. It was during the Tertiary period that a layer of gravel, sands and silts was washed from the Rocky Mountains onto this area. Today these deposits of gravel, sands and silts are known as the Ogallala formation and are covered by a few to several hundred feet of eolian sand of unknown origin.

In more recent times the continual blowing of the wind has formed the many hills that dominate the landscape of McPherson County. Also through the years the layers of sand and gravel have formed a type of natural “sponge” that gives the residents of the county today an abundant supply of underground water.

The first human beings to come into this area were the Indians. They were hunters and found life good in this area because of the abundance of game.

As the white man came west the Indians used the entire Sandhill area as a place of refuge from the horse soldiers of Fort Robinson, Fort McPherson, and Fort Kearney. The Indians were reluctant to leave this area but by the 1880’s all had been removed to reservations.

The first white men to set foot in this country were the buffalo hunters. Due to the great danger presented by the Indian hunting parties, they traveled only at night when they could locate the Indian camps by the glow of their campfires. By day they camped in deep pockets and posted sentries to warn of the approach of any Indians.

The wild horse hunters came next and caught many of the bands of horses roaming over the county. Two brothers, Cap and Dan Haskell, from Custer County were the most noted horse hunters who operated in this county. They caught hundreds of horses in the late 1870’s and early 1880’s and later established a ranch, the forerunner of the present day Milldale Land and Cattle Company.

The first cattlemen to come to this country arrived in 1874. John Bratt and Company, better known as the Circle Outfit, ranged cattle on the Birdwood Creek north to what is now Hyannis. They established several camps, the Tin Camp on the Birdwood Creek and Mile Camp south of Baldy Hill being the most used.

William F. “Buffalo Bill” Cody, Colonel Frank and Captain Luther North in 1877 established their “Wild Horse” ranch. It was located in Cody Lake valley, but the cattle were ranged east and south to the headwaters of the South Loup River.

These two ranches spread until the whole county was being grazed by their cattle before the coming of the settlers in the 1880’s.

The Burlington Railroad made a survey for the Kearney-Blackhills railway through this area in the 1880’s. It was this that brought the settlers into this area. They settled along the survey route expecting the road to be built. The road was built to Callaway by 1890, but the route through this area was abandoned and the road went north through the Middle Loup valley.

The settlers who came to this area followed these surveys and the trails made by early cattlemen and horse hunters. They settled in the broader valleys on the more fertile soil.
Note the checkerboard pattern that shows the land granted to the Union Pacific Railroad.
Among the first permanent settlers were Mr. and Mrs. John Quinn, who located on the Cody-North ranch in 1884. Cap Haskell, the horse hunter established a ranch which was the forerunner of the present day Whitewater ranch. Nate Trego, John Schick and Jack Rupp, who were cowboys for John Bratt and Company, also settled in the western part of McPherson County. Others who settled in the western part were Malam, Ed, Ell, Nate and John Bassett, Milt Hogue, Frank, Allen and Bill Terrell.
Some of the early settlers in the central part of the county were John Booze, John L. Neal and sons Lew, Elmer and Billy; Hugh Bedell, Mike Connell, Jay Smith, Ernest and Owen Wisner, Phil and Joe Suiter, Manley Calhoun, Bill Foster, Link Sells, the Miller family, Johnny Clouse, Frank and Charley Dolph and Bob Shimmin.
The earliest settler in the eastern part of the county was George Brooks. Other early settlers in this community were Jake Leak, Silas Clothier and Gilson James.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Sunday Stories: Armstrong Implement

Excerpted from the Sutherland Centennial 1891 – 1991, published in 1991.

James (Jimmie) Armstrong owned and operated an Allis-Chalmers Implement Company in Sutherland for more than twenty years.

Mr. Armstrong was the proud owner of an airplane that he used in his implement business to deliver repair parts to his customers who lived in the Sandhills. Jimmie was not a pilot, so he hired several people to pilot the plane on these deliveries. J.M. (Marion) McKinley, Claire Sherman, and Irvin Brownell were the three gentlemen who were hired to be the pilots. Whoever was available at the time was selected.

Marion McKinley related one incident that transpired when he was piloting the plane to Diamond Bar to deliver parts. Jim Flannigan and of course, Jimmie Armstrong, were along. As there was no landing strip on any of the ranches, the pilot was to ascertain the area that looked to be the smoothest on which to land and take off. This particular time an area chosen and they landed with no problem. When it was time to leave, the area chosen was none too long… they were rapidly approaching the lake and all three on board were becoming very nervous and concerned. Marion said he gave the plane all the power it had and just as they were about to enter the water, the plane began to lift just enough and they were slowly becoming airborne. It took quite some ime before they all began to relax a little. Marion further states that he was not again asked to pilot the plane for deliveries.

Bernard Gummere bought the Implement business from Jimmie Armstrong in September of 1957.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Sunday Stories: James M. and Gertrude (Essex) Armstrong

Excerpted from the Sutherland Centennial 1891 – 1991, published in 1991.

James M. Armstrong was born in Davenport, Nebraska, July 2, 1888, the son of Winfield Scott and Ellen (Beck) Armstrong. His father worked for the railroad. James left home at the age of 14, working at various jobs. His main interest always being in sales. He was one of the first employees of the Omaha Electric Company, a barber, managed grain elevators and owned one of the first cars in his county.

Gertrude (Essex) Armstrong was born inGage County (near Beatric), Nebraska, October 1899 to Omer and Elizabeth Dinsmore Ellinger Essex.

Jimmie and Gertrude were married in Smith Center, Kansas, November 28, 1922. After living in small towns in eastern Nebraska, they moved west for Jimmie’s health, settling in Curtis, where they operated cafes and Jimmie sold insurance and umpired baseball games. Their daughter, Illa Mae, was born in Curtis on February 9, 1926.

In 1930, the family moved to Denver where they operated a grocery store. In January 1931, they moved to Flagler, Colorado, where Jim operated a lunchroom and Gertrude made the pies. They again returned to Curtis in 1931, again operating cafes. Illa Mae attended elementary school in Curtis, receiving the National Honor Society Pin in 1939 for the highest grade point average of that year.

Selling their restaurant in 1939, they came to Sutherland in August where they opened a small café by the Co-Op Service Station, continuing there until 1943. Jimmie was then working to establish an Allis-Chalmers Agency. He had been selling through the Ogallala agency. He had worked in Omaha in the parts department during the First World War.
Illa Mae attended four years at Sutherland High, graduating in 1943 as Salutatorian. She was active in Pep Club, mixed choir, girls choir, class plays and other activities. She was a member of the Methodist Church and Theta Rho.

In 1945, Illa Mae went to Boise, Idaho to attend Junior College (now Boise State). Her parents closed the café and Gertrude then managed the White Motel for Connor White, Jimmie had established ‘Armstrong Implement Company’ south of the railroad tracks.

Illa Mae received her diploma from BJC in 1945 and transferred as a junior to the University of Denver where she received her B.S. in 1947. She was a member of the Phi Chi Theta professional sorority.

Jimmie was a long time member of the I.O.O.F. having gone through the chairs in 1929. In Sutherland he owned a plane enabling him to deliver implement parts in the Sandhills. Friends piloted the plane. He also checked attendance at the Star Theatre.

Gertrude was a faithful member of the Methodist Church, receiving her 50-year pin. After the restaurant was closed, she devoted a great deal of her time to the church.

Jimmie and Gertrude retired in 1957, selling the Implement business to Bernard Gummere, Jimmie continuing in auto sales. He passed away October 8, 1971 and is buried in the Sutherland Cemetery. He was a “dyed in the wool” Nebraskan and always enjoyed living in a small town, fishing in the reservoir, etc.

Gertrude enjoyed needlework, singing and cooking. She preceded Jimmie in death on November 9, 1970, and is also buried in the Sutherland Cemetery. Jimmie’s grandmother was a cousin to Stonewall Jackson.

Submitted by Illa Mae Armstrong Imroth

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Sunday Stories: Harvey James Applegate

Excerpted from the Sutherland Centennial 1891 – 1991, published in 1991.

Born January 16, 1907 (Died, Sutherland, Nebraska April 10, 1996 – All of the writing in this article is his, except for notes in parentheses, as of 1991). At the age of 34 years, married Geraldine Russell, who was born March 26, 1912. Geraldine was born and raised in the Tecumseh, Nebraska area, attended Peru State Teachers College. She taught school five years in Filley, Nebraska, and two years at Gisert. She then came to Sutherland and taught in the Elementary schools for District #55. She passed away June 8, 1984.
Harvey and Geraldine Applegate
Three children were born to this union: James Harvey, John Russell (b. Jun. 28, 1944 d. Jun. 20, 2003), and Emily “Susan” Kerley (b. May 25, 1945 d. Sep. 23, 2002) who is now living in Sacramento, California.

I went to the first through the sixth grades at Excelsior School located south of Sutherland. Then came to town school for the seventh grade, went back out to Excelsior for the eighth and ninth grades. Graduated from Sutherland High School in 1926.

Bessie McIntire was my first teacher at Excelsior. Other teachers were Mary Brown, Bessie Miller, Marie McQuire, Mildred Applegate, Hildred Applegate, Margie Mapes, Mrs. McKinely, Mrs. Martin, Naomi Reynolds, and Bertha Johnson. Mrs. Bertha Johnson taught every one of the Applegate children in one school or the other, or somewhere along the line of the education process.

In approximately 1923-1925, my father commenced to buy land up in the Sandhills. At that time had cattle on the leased Henry Olson place where Mel Lake lived. After graduating from High School, I stayed out at the “South Place” for a short time, then on Thanksgiving Day, in 1927, I went to the Sandhills and I have made my home there ever since.

I lived on the “Attebury Place”, Section 2 of T-15-N, R-34-W. Was there until I moved up on the hill on the Section 36, T-16-N, R-34-W, this is catty-corner from where Harshfield’s loading chutes are now located. On March 26, 1931, John Gaiser, a bachelor, died; Mart and Helen Mathers lived and used the Gaiser place. Mathers went back up to Trego’s place; so I moved onto the Gasier Place and finished out Mather’s term.

This is Section 10,T-15N, R-34-W. IN 1933 we purchased the place and is now (1991) the home of James and his wife, Gail.

There is a distance of 12 miles from the North Platte River up to the Birdwood Creek. We purchased land in the middle of these two landmarks. Over the period of years, people lost their land, the banks and finance corporations would sell them out. Some of the people who stayed and toughed it out were the Harshfields, Greens, McLains, Muellers, Cokers, Tregos, McNeels, Orhlands, Lunkwitz, Cases and Brogans.

Twenty sections make up the Applegate holdings today, some of the people whose land became a part of the Applegate Ranch are McLain, the school section, Gaiser, Dancer, Olson, Hunkey, Kilpatrick, Attebury, Halstead, Lunkwitz, and Lake.

Geraldine and I moved to town in 1949 in a little house south of the railroad tracks, and in a few years moved to my current home where I have lived for 25/30 years.

I am a member of the Methodist Church, Nebraska York Rite of Freemasonry of North Platte, Tehama Temple A.A.O.N.M.S. of Hastings, Nebraska. Was a 50-year crop reporter for the Department of Agriculture, received the Beaver Award-Boy Scouting on March 27, 1977, Grand Marshal of the Sutherland 4th of July parade, and received my Admiralship of the Great Navy of the State of Nebraska in November 1984.


Mr. Applegate is the benefactor of the “APPLEGATE SCHOLARSHIP” given each year to one of the Sutherland High School Graduating Seniors. He is a kind, warm-hearted man, and is the first to help out if someone is in trouble. There was no other calling for this intelligent man, who made substantial returns for his time and money invested in his ranching and commercial businesses. He has always been willing to exert himself to keep abreast of the times to realize a profit on his investment of time and money. ~Claudia Eberly

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Sunday Stories: Lincoln Colfax Applegate

Excerpted from the Sutherland Centennial 1891 – 1991, published in 1991.

Born August 14, 1866 in Marion County, Iowa; the son of George Washington and Mary J. (Pallin) Applegate. (On December 2, 1912, early in this series, I posted the story of George W. Applegate, the first Applegate in Sutherland.)
He remained in Marion County, where he acquired an education and assisted his father until 1886. While his parents had already moved to Lincoln County, he stayed on in Marion County, Iowa until the spring of 1886.

After his arrival in the region, he homesteaded a quarter section of land, proved up on his claim, and placed it under cultivation. In the meanwhile, some of his neighbors became unwilling to continue their efforts on account of the hardships which always prevail in a new district; and he added to his holdings at a higher price until in 1920 he had 3,000 acres on which he had made all of the improvements himself. Lincoln married Emily S. Richards who was born July 15, 1875, on November 24, 1897 in Cheyenne, Wyoming. She was born in Wisconsin, but had moved to Keith County with her parents, Edward E. and Mary Jane (Tunstall) Richards, both natives of England. Emily Susan Richards passed away February, 1963.

There were eight children in the Richards family.

Lincoln engaged in general farming and stock raising and was very successful up to the time of his death on November 1, 1944.

Lincoln and Emily became the parents of the following children: Mary, Laura, Ellen, Harvey, Clarence, Elizabeth, Woodrow, Jeanette, Walter, and Francis and Chauncey, both of whom died in infancy.

He was a member of the Episcopal Church, and a member of the school board of District No. 27, also known as Excelsior School.

The following is a short history of the Applegate children. Mary married Marion Brown, and their children are Tom, Georgia, Robert (Bob), Lucille, and James. Mary passed away in 1989.
Laura was born on April 18, 1902, and married Norris Anderson, who was from South Dakota. They had no children. Laura died on August 3, 1944 with complications of emphysema. She’s buried in the Sutherland Cemetery. Laura taught the Anderson School south of Maxwell for approximately one year, then attended business school in Denver, Colorado. In approximately 1925 she moved to California where she studied to become a nurse, embarking in the nursing profession at the Methodist Hospital in Los Angeles, California.

Ellen was born on August 29, 1903. She graduated from the Sutherland School in approximately 1922. She never married. She taught school at the Boyle School, and at the Bussmer School north of Sutherland. She moved to California and continued teaching at the Herbert Hoover High School in Glendale, California. She is now (1991) living in a retirement home in Yountville, California.
Clarence was accidently electrocuted south of Sutherland in September 1956.

Woodrow lived up in the Sandhills after the war, but did not like it there and moved to North Platte. He sold his property when he became ill with Multiple Sclerosis. He then moved to Old Mexico to be in the warm weather year around. He died in 1981 and is buried in the Sutherland Cemetery.
Elizabeth married Alvin Hahn also from South Dakota and he was a cousin of Norris Anderson who married Laura.

Jeanette married Walter Quillin from Grand Island and she is living in Grand Island today (1991).

Harvey was born on January 16, 1907.

Walter was born in 1916, and was killed in a construction accident in San Francisco, California. He preceded Woodrow in death.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Sunday Stories: Claretta (Shuler) and Peter Laboranti Family (Class of 1945)

Excerpted from the Sutherland Centennial 1891 – 1991, published in 1991.

Peter Laboranti was born June 24, 1925 to Angelo Laboranti (1899-1966) and Mary (Dolf) Laboranti (1899-1973) in New York City. They emigrated from northern Italy and married July 20, 1924. Peter grew up on the streets playing a game called stick ball. He attended Aviation High School, then began work for United Airlines in 1944. He served in the U.S. Army Air Force (1945-1947) stateside and in Germany, returning to United Airlines following discharge.

Claretta (Shuler) Laboranti was born December 21, 1926 in the living room of Oscar and Nora Shuler. Their farmhouse was built on ruts of the Oregon Trail southwest of Sutherland.
As mentioned in the earlier Shuler story (see link above), this is the house my (Seifer) family moved to when we moved to "town" from the Sandhills in the early 1970'2.

Claretta spent her first 14 years attending school, doing evening chores of picking cobs from the pig pen for the kitchen cook stove, carrying wood for the heating stove, putting grain in the horses feed box and hay in the mangers and checking to be sure the windmill was running to fill the tank for the evening’s rush of livestock that lowered the level fast. Our goldfish swam near the bottom.

Social activities were few. Sunday school and 4-H club that helped teach us cooking and sewing, were held in the schoolhouse. It was usually a long walk to these activities as the saddle horse was not always available.

The four Shuler children, Mervan, Cleo, Merna and Claretta, attended District 18 – West Fairview School as did an older cousin, Helen Stedman, who lived with them after the death of her parents. Once a year the students put on a program which sometimes ended with a box social. The money collected from this auction would buy much needed supplies or a new bat and ball.

Summers were spent working in the hay fields. Large hats shaded our faces, our arms were covered with old cotton stockings to keep us from getting too sunburned. The burlap covered water jugs were nearly always empty by the time the haystack was topped and we headed home in the two wheeled cart that was used to pull the stacker cable that lifted the stacker load of hay, dropping it onto the haystack.

When Claretta entered Sutherland High School she resided with the E. H. Adee family for four years. She worked in their honey house during the summer.

Saturday night entertainment was either a dance at Jeffers Pavilion in North Platte or attending the Sutherland Theater after having a malt at Arnold Drug. We then walked home on dark streets as World War II brought the blackout and the ten o’clock curfew.

After graduation from S.H.S., Claretta spent a short time in Denver then moved to North Platte with her mother. Her father had passed away in 1942. She worked at O’Conner’s Dime Store for a time then attended a Communication School in Omaha. Ultimately she was employed by United Airlines at La Guardia Field in New York in 1946.

It was here she met her future husband, Pete. They were married in North Platte on October 30, 1948, returning to Woodside Long Island for the next eight years.

Pete continued to work for United Airlines. Claretta was employed by TWA for nine years. She commuted by subway into Manhattan to work on the 52nd floor of an office building.

In 1956 they moved to South Floral Park where Darla Marie was born January 19, 1959. In October of 1959 they moved to Garden City, Long Island, New York, where they resided for 25 years as Darla was growing up. After her graduation she attended the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. Here she and daughter, Jennifer Marie (March 15, 1981) make their home.

In 1983, Peter and Claretta transferred to the San Diego area, moving into their Poway, California home. Pete retired in September 1984.

According to online obituaries, Claretta (Shuler) Laboranti passed away on July 22, 2006, and Peter P. Laboranti passed away on January 25, 2011 in Poway, California. 

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Sunday Stories: Fred Vernon Laubner

Excerpted from the Sutherland Centennial 1891 – 1991, published in 1991.

Born December 24, 1914 to Leonard (born Oct. 6, 1864, Portsmouth, Scioto County, Ohio; died Oct. 12, 1925 at Hershey) and Estella (Carrico) (born May 18, 1875, Parsons, Labette County, Kansas; died Mar. 28, 1959 at Denver, Colorado) Laubner, who lived and homesteaded in the NW ¼ Section 24 of the O’Fallons District. Was born on this homestead and attended the O’Fallons School. All of the Laubner offspring have attended the O’Fallons School.

My father, Leonard Laubner, donated the land to start O’Fallons School, and served on the School Board for 20 years or so. I loved the subject of history in school, and my favorite teacher was a lady by the name of Jennie Haist. She taught the intermediate grades: fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth; there were four grades in each room. Two teachers were hired in the High School. I graduated in 1932 at the age of 17 years, and with the honor of Salutatorian. The folks could not afford to send me to college so I could fulfill my dream of attending flight school.

I was on the “Championship Basketball” team in 1932; along with Elmer and Herman Swedberg, Vic Young, Ken Johnson, and Mackey. During the playoffs, we beat the Sutherland and Hershey teams, then went to Ogallala and nearly beat them. We had a helluva good team. I was also on the softball team, and was the only guy who ever knocked a ball up on the roof of Hoatson’s Garage. The ball diamond was where the Firehouse is today in Sutherland. A house was sitting in the location of the Adams Bank building, and McNeel’s Hotel was just south of the bank building.

I’m the youngest of five older brothers and sisters; they are: Oscar, Bertha (Mrs. Willard Ford), Clara (married Ed Lingwall, and later divorced), Andrew who married Bess Carvett, and later divorced, Etta (Mrs. Bernard Crews), and I married Lila F. Forshey, daughter of Alexander and Mary (Rose) Forshey on October 2, 1937. We ran off to Colorado to get married. Ken Johnson and Fern Binegar were witnesses. We were married by a preacher, Lila would not have a Justice of the Peace. Lila and I lived on the “home place” until 1959, and since that time, always in and around the Sutherland area until 1979 when I moved to Hershey, Nebraska.

My mother was a sister to Mrs. John Q. A. Harshfield. Grandparents were Pius Mathis and Julia Carrico, and Andrew and Mary Laubner. The Laubners are buried in Ohio, and the Carricos are buried in Sundance, Wyoming.

My Grandfather Carrico farmed before moving to Nebraska, and upon his arrival to this area, he worked for Sam Dikeman. He lived on the place now owned by Gene and Kay Kramer. He was the one that planted all the trees and built a sod house on that place.

I was born on Christmas Eve Day morning, and had a devil of a time getting a birth certificate. My birth was not recorded, no doctor, just a mid-wife was present. Getting a birth certificate was accomplished in 1940.

My proudest moment was when my son, Tom, was born in the old “Fenner” hospital in North Platte.
I didn’t like to dress up as a kid, wore overalls and sandals to school. When it got cold, I got a pair of ankle high button shoes and I hated those shoes with a passion, so hard to button.

Wintertime activities were playing cards, ice skating on “Fulk’s Pond” located across from where Fischers live at O’Fallons. When the ditch was built, they dug the dirt out to build up the banks of the ditch and the low ground made a good pond on the east side of the railroad tracks to skate. The Dringman girls were really good skaters, along with my sisters.

I’ve always liked guitar and banjo music. Lila played in a band “The Nebraska Ramblers”, starting in the early 1930’s. Once a week the band played on radio station KGNF and on station KODY for about one year. Lila was originally from Gibbon, Nebraska and her father hauled sand and had a truck farm and sold garden vegetables and melons.

Harshfields and Laubners always had family gatherings, Uncle John Harshfield would play the guitar, Alva would play the mouth harp, and most everybody would sing.

We would go out and hunt “chickens” (Prairie Chickens). There used to be a lot of chickens, but now all there is are grouse.

One time, during the war, Harshfields had a barn dance; Nicholsons and Beema Combs played for it; all the money taken in was given to the North Platte Servicemen’s Canteen.

My first job other than farming, I got paid $1.55 an hour and out of the first check, they took $1.53 Social Security. No other deductions. Bad times in my life were during the drought in 1934, when the bottom of prices fell on cattle in 1973, and in October 1979 when I lost Lila to cancer.

I’ve seen a lot of changes, not only in Sutherland, but the whole country. I hope people enjoy reading the various histories being written up for the Sutherland Centennial book.

According to online obituaries, Fred Vernon Laubner passed away on Jun. 1, 1994 at Hershey, Nebraska.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Sunday Stories: Ben Kuroki

Ben Kuroki, WWII Hero, dies at age 98

Ben Kuroki, the celebrated World War II hero who was the only Japanese-American to fly over Japan during the war, has died at his home in Camarillo, California, the Associated Press and Los Angeles Times report. He was 98.

Raised on a farm in Hershey, Nebraska by his Japanese immigrant parents, Kuroki and his brother, Fred, quickly volunteered for service following the bombings in Pearl Harbor. Both brothers were rejected by their first recruiter, per the American military policy that did not allow Japanese.

Ben and Fred persisted because, as Kuroki described his experience in an interview for The Omaha World-Herald during the conflict, "I have the face of a Japanese but my heart is American."

According to the Associated Press, the brothers then drove 150 miles to the next recruiter who allowed them to sign up for service. Kuroki then set his sights on another challenge: becoming an airman despite an Army Air Corp ban that prohibited soldiers of Japanese ancestry from flying.

Kuroki earned his chance when, while serving as a clerk at an Army Air Corp base in England, he volunteered from training as a desperately-needed aerial gunner. From there, he quickly earned a stellar service record, flying 58 bomber missions over Europe, North Africa and Japan during the war. His assignments to the Pacific, originally rejected because of his ancestry, were approved by Secretary of War Harry Stimson.

After the war, Kuroki received a journalism degree from the University of Nebraska in 1950 and worked as a journalist until his 1984 retirement as the news editor of the Ventura Star-Free Press.

In 2005, Kuroki's combat efforts and work overcoming prejudice earned him the U.S. Army Distinguished Service Medal, one of the nation's highest military honors. "I had to fight like hell for the right to fight for my own country," Kuroki said at the award ceremony in Lincoln, Nebraska. "And now I feel vindication.

Ben is fondly remembered and honored by the people of the Hershey community and the people of Nebraska as a remarkable man who loved his country.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Sunday Stories - Legacy

This is something different for a Sunday Story. I have been watching with fascination as a contractor has been renovating my Grandma Seifer's home in Sutherland. She moved to town after the death of my Grandfather, Fred. According to the family history, which you can find HERE, she was sixteen and he in his 40's when they married. As you can imagine, she was a widow for many years, from the late 1950's until her death in 1984.

The tiny cottage she lived in suited her just fine. She raised a huge garden and baked many a pie in her old-fashioned kitchen. After her death, the house became a rental unit and had fallen into serious disrepair. It has now been given new life.

Though the interior is unrecognizable, from the outside, I think it still shouts quaint, small town living! See for yourself.
Morning glory vines used to trail up the front porch
Looking from the kitchen to the front door
The dining room
It even has barn doors in the bedroom!
There's nothing old-fashioned about this kitchen now!
Back in Grandma's day, this shed was her wash house.
Here was where she raised a huge garden.
This is a perfect ending to the story. Her home will be home to families for generations to come! Want to make it your home? You can view the listing HERE: