Sunday, August 30, 2015

Sunday Stories: Ernest and Cora Danielson

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

The history of Ernest and Cora Danielson is their life in Sutherland, Nebraska. Coming to America as immigrants made life hard for Ernest.  He was farmed out to the Bratt Ranch in Keith County after he finished grade school. This was an arrangement whereby a child was taken in and given room and board for doing chores and tasks he was able to do. Ernest’s first summer wages was a milk cow that he gave to his parents so the family could have fresh milk.

Still on a ranch in his teens, Ernest was riding horseback home to Sutherland when his horse tripped and fell, breaking his leg badly. His leg became infected and the Dr. told him it should be amputated. An Indian squaw told him she could save his leg with a tool that looked like a meat tenderizer to make it bleed out the infection. This was successful, however the injured leg healed shorter. He walked with a slight limp but was very active until his death.

Later in his teens he returned to Sutherland and joined his father in the carpentry business. Through the years Ernest helped to build the Lutheran Church, the Methodist Church, the High School, the Hospital, several family homes in the area and a home for the family on Pine Street.

Ernest was the manager of the baseball team, was a member of the Odd Fellow Lodge and attended the Lutheran Church until his marriage.
Ernest was born May 29th, 1882 in Gailsburg, Illinois to Carl and Betsy Danielson. Cora White was born May 9th, 1889 in Hershey, Nebraska. Her parents were Simon and Sarah White who homesteaded south of Hershey. On January 1st, 1914, Ernest and Cora Mallissa White were married in North Platte. Cora had completed “Normal School” in North Platte and taught at O’Fallons, Nebraska several years before her marriage. She rode horseback to and from her school.

For a couple of years they tried farming south of Sutherland, but were dried out or hailed out. They moved into town and Ernest resumed his carpentry. In the thirties when money was so scarce, the family survived with an orchard, chickens, and a big garden. Lots of canned food and home-made bread and rolls were everyday fare. The children wore hand-me-down clothes or homemade, some from flour sacks.

Through all these hard times they were faithful to the M.E. Church. They instilled Christian morals in their children. Cora was a good Bible student and taught the Mary and Martha Sunday School class for over 30 years. She was proud of her ten year perfect attendance pin. She belonged to the Royal Neighbors and was bookkeeper several years for the Lodge.

They enjoyed their later years in the small house he built for themselves. Ernest never really retired before his death on June 11th, 1963. Cora passed away on June 17th, 1973. They are buried in the Sutherland Cemetery.

To this union three children were born. Esther Danielson Walbert and her husband live in Sutherland, Nebraska. Grant and his wife live in Bellevue, Washington. Vance and his wife live in Lincoln, Nebraska. All the children were born in Sutherland, Esther on January 22, 1918; Grant on December 18th, 1920; and Vance on February 18th, 1928.

Ernest and Cora were dedicated to their family, church and hometown of Sutherland.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Sunday Stories: Carl and Betsy Danielson Family

I love this story, because it shows that romance was alive and well in the lives of our ancestors, and also highlights some of the difficulties that can be encountered when tracing your family tree - especially when names were changed in the lines at Ellis Island.

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

The history of the Carl and Betsy Danielson family is partly due to the research of cousin, Marcey Danielson Bashford, who traced our family back to Fredrich Christian, Duke of Schleswig-Holstein, Count of Daneshjold in the 17th century Sweden. The Sutherland Centennial offered the opportunity to trace our family back two generations and forward two generations for a total of 133 years.

Carl Johan Danielson was born March 14th, 1858, at Torsaker, Gavleborg, Sweden. He spent two years in the military service in Sweden where he received training in woodworking.

Brita Stina Blom was born May 24th, 1859 at Ockelbo, Sweden. Carl built a wooden hope chest for the Blom family. When he delivered it, he noticed the way Brita was admiring it. The next week Carl delivered a miniature jewelry box which was a replica of the hope chest. Carl and Brita were married in the village of Abotorpen, parish of Ockelbo, Sweden on June 24th, 1881. Esther Walbert has the hope chest which brought he grandparents belongings to America. It is 109 years old (1991).
Carl and Betsy Danielson (Carl Johan Danielson and Brita Stina Blom Danielson)
In 1882 they embarked to America from Goteborg, Sweden. At Ellis Island, New York, Brita Stina Blom changed here Swedish name to the American name Betsy Christine. Carl Johan shortened his name to Carl John. The couple moved on to Waukegan, Illinois where they resided for three years before moving to Wahoo, Nebraska for seven years.

The Danielsons moved to Sutherland, Nebraska in 1892. Carl John was a master carpenter when they arrived in Sutherland. He either built, or helped build most of the original town proper, including the Lutheran Church, the Methodist Church, the library, the school, homes of the local gentry, and the family home at 620 First Street.

Carl John was an avid reader and had a library of over 500 books in the attic of their home. 

Grandmother was deeply religious and read her Swedish Bible daily. They refused to teach the grandchildren Swedish, saying they were Americans. The family belonged to the Lutheran Church.
Carl John died September 12th, 1926. Betsy Christine died January 1st, 1936. Both are buried in the Sutherland Cemetery.

Ernest Albert, the oldest child, was 10 years old when the family came to Sutherland. He was one of 12 children, four of whom died in infancy. Ernest was born May 29th, 1882 in Gailsburg, IL. Arthur was born November 5th, 1884; Carl was born November 17th, 1886; Mable was born May 6th, 1888; Teckla was born October 15th, 1890; Alfred was born October 28th, 1892; Victor was born February 25th, 1896; Lillian was born December 16th, 1897.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Know Nebraska: Fort Robinson

Hopefully many of you will know Fort Robinson. If you don't, you're in for a treat. If you know about Fort Rob, but have never visited, or it's been a long time since you visited - don't wait! This is a wonderful Nebraska treasure and should be on your list regularly!
Beautiful landscaping in front of the stables.
Fort Robinson is located in the far northwestern corner of Nebraska. The closest town is Crawford, and it's about 30 miles west of Chadron. This area of Nebraska is known as the Pine Ridge, and it is absolutely gorgeous - and filled with history and western culture.
Crow Butte
The history of Fort Robinson is the history of the American west. It began in the early 1870's as an army outpost to provide support to the Red Cloud and Spotted Tail Indian agencies. The fort was active throughout the turmoil surrounding the Indian wars through the 1870's and into the 1890's. It is the site of the death of Crazy Horse in 1877; The 9th Calvary or Buffalo Soldiers served here beginning in 1885; It is the site of the heartbreaking Cheyenne Outbreak of 1879; Dr. Walter Reed served as the post doctor from 1884 to 1887; "Old Jules" Sandoz was treated here by Dr. Reed; It served as an army remount depot during World War I; It served as a K9 training center and prisoner of war camp during WWII.
One of the wonderfully restored officer's quarters open for lodging.
After it was decommissioned in 1947 it was turned over to the USDA to become a beef research station. Sadly, it was badly understaffed, and as buildings fell into disrepair because the staff was insufficient to maintain them, they were demolished. The hospital and many of the barracks fell prey to this neglect. Finally, the locals became disgusted with this destruction of their heritage and petitioned the government to "cease and desist". The research station was relocated and the fort was turned over to the Nebraska State Historical Society and the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission to develop as a State Historical Park.

Reconstructed buildings - the far left is the guard house where Crazy Horse was killed. The far right is the barracks where Dull Knife's Northern Cheyenne were held before the break out.
Today the park makes the perfect location for a family vacation. The lodging possibilities are many and varied. According to the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission website:
Fort Robinson State Park visitors can choose lodging from rooms in the 1909 enlisted men's quarters or "cabins" ranging from sleep 2 to 20 in the former officers quarters that date from 1874 to 1909. All cabins have kitchens, baths and bedrooms. Larger cabins also feature living rooms. Cabins are furnished with blankets, towels, stoves, refrigerators, silverware and cooking utensils. Lodging is available from mid-April through mid-November.

Lodge rooms have double or twin bed rooms; Cabins & Adobes sleep 6 to 12 people; Brick officers Quarters sleep 14 to 20 people; Comanche Hall can handle family reunions as it sleeps up to 60 people and has a complete kitchen. Housekeeping cabins are supplied with linens, basic cooking utensils, dishes and silverware. You may also reserve a picnic shelter for your group or family reunion. Group and meeting facilities include Dodd Hall, Buffalo Soldier Barracks, the Mare Barn Annex and Buffalo Barracks Squad. Dodd Hall and the Buffalo Soldier Barracks can seat up to 200 people and the mare Barn Annex seats up to 125 people. Buffalo Barracks Squad Meeting Room seats 120 people and includes a small kitchen. Don't forget to ask about having the Fort Robinson Restaurant cater your next group or meeting event.
The parade grounds of the fort. The building houses the historical museum.
There is also an excellent campground - which is what we took advantage of. Our campsite was in the Soldier Creek campground, and was right next to the creek. At night, bats would fly out of the creek bed and skirmish crazily with the mosquitoes. Given that the bugs weren't too bad, I would have to guess the bats won. A friendly squirrel even greeted us in the morning searching for handouts.
Northwest Nebraska is an entirely different experience than the rest of the state. They say Nebraska doesn't have mountains, and in height, they're right, but the Pine Ridge area, with its soaring buttes, tall pine trees and rural roads winding through fantastic scenery makes you feel as if you are in the mountains. Except that they are extremely uncrowded!
Red Cloud Buttes in the distance from the vantage point of the jeep tour.
 Our fifteen and four year old granddaughters loved that Fort Robinson has a swimming pool.
The four-year-old also loved the pony rides!
Mark and son-in-law loved that it was directly adjacent to the Legend Buttes Golf Course.

I loved the history, and our daughter, who was six months pregnant just enjoyed relaxing!
The horsedrawn history tour
 We took in as many of the incredible activities at or near the Fort as possible.
A returning trail ride
Trail rides, pony rides, the horsedrawn history tour, jeep ride, steak dinner cookout, museum tours, rodeo. You can easily immerse yourself in nature and in the incredible history of the area.
Jeep ride
Steak cookout
Monument commemorating the Cheyenne Outbreak on the surmised path of the survivors into the hills south and west of Fort Robinson. 
Unique performance in the Thursday night "rodeo games" a calf-skin sled race.
The Trailside Museum featuring "Clash of the Titans".
The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission preserves and operates most of Nebraska's public lands and historical parks, but that doesn't mean that they know how to market it or provide the information that visitors are looking for. Finding out just what is going on, how much it costs, and the schedule takes you down a rabbit hole on the Internet. Below is the schedule of events and the cost in July of 2015.

One thing we didn't get to experience was the Post Playhouse. A long-running professional summer stock theater, the Playhouse hosts several productions each season, with about 12 performances each week. When you know the dates of your visit, check the Playhouse schedule and get your tickets ordered. They sell out quickly!

Finally, if you're looking for an incredible summer job, consider applying! According to employees at the park and locals we spoke to in town, the park generally employs around 150 during the summer travel season, but this year they were down around 50 employees. You could see it in the maintenance, shortened hours in some of the amenities, and in the quality of some of the activities.

Enjoy your stay!

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Sunday Stories: Arthur William Elfeldt

Arthur W. Elfeldt was born in Lancaster, Co., Nebraska, on Sept. 8, 1887. As a child he lived near Hallum, Nebraska, on the family farm. When he reached the age of 14 he developed a very pleasing bass voice, using it to sing in the church choir, and in a short time, became a member of a male quartet. He loved to sing and continued to sing in different male quartets until his late 60s.

As a young man, he held several jobs in Lincoln, Nebraska. Namely, a grocery delivery boy, and later as a salesman in a men’s ready-to-wear store.
In his early twenties, he moved with his parents to Beatrice, Nebraska. Here he and his father owned and operated a grocery store and a restaurant. It was here that he met Edith B. Wallace. They were married on November 1, 1910. In 1911, he and Edith came to the Sutherland area, settling on a farm 12 miles southwest of town. Rural life was not easy in those early days, but both Art and Edith were hard working, dedicated people. It was on this farm that they raised their four children: Glenn, Marie, Beulah and Carl.

The farm consisted of about one and a half sections, 300 acres of cultivated land and the rest pasture. Art worked long hours plowing, planting, cultivating such crops as wheat, corn, oats, barley and cane. Along with this work, he developed a good strain of Hereford cattle. The combined family milked cows, separated the milk, sold cream and butter, and used the rest to help feed pigs. Edith raised huge gardens, preserving, pickling and canning what the family didn’t use fresh. A large dishpan of strawberries was picked each morning for most of the summer. She also raised many chickens, usually about 300, each year by using the setting hens to hatch the eggs. It was not unusual for her to have 15 or 20 hens setting at one time, all in their individual pens so each one had to be fed and watered separately. These chickens were the family’s main source of meat during the summer months. Beef and pork was butchered in the fall. When the weather was cold enough to keep the meat, it was eaten fresh, but most of it was canned or cured. There were no freezers back then.
Neighbors were a valuable part of country life in those days. Not only for the social contact, but also for help with many farm jobs. If anyone had a job that was too big for him and his family to handle, the neighbors came from miles around to give him a hand, and in return, each one helped the others. When this happened, the men always knew there would be a table laden with lots of good food when their work was finished or meal time came around.

Art was a dedicated member of the Odd Fellow’s Lodge, holding all the local offices during his lifetime and also working at state level in their Lodge.

He was an active member of the Farmer’s Cooperative Association, serving on the Board for many years. He believed the organization was a big help to the individual farmer’s needs and their contribution to all as food producers.

Art was a member of the Lion’s Club, and was proud of the work they did to help others. He was an active member of the Methodist Church all of his life, and continued to sing in the choir as well as help in other areas of the church work. He serve3d on the rural School Board most of the time while his children were in school, and was regarded as a person who would always offer a hand when and where it was needed.

Edith died in 1953. After he was alone, Art seemed to have a wanderlust. He traveled extensively, but only within the United States. He kept a record of where he went and just a few months before his death, he was able to say he had driven his own car in every one of the lower 48 states and also in Alaska. His advice to OLDER drivers was “If you are in unfamiliar territory, stay off the Interstates because, by the time you can read the exit sign, it is too late to make the turn.”

Arthur W. Elfeldt died on July 6, 1967.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Sunday Stories: William F. Elfeldt

In recounting the history of the Snyder family in Lincoln and McPherson counties, I touched on the Elfeldt family, as one daughter, Alberta "Bertie", married Sutherland's Glenn Elfeldt and they made their home here their entire lives. That prompted this series recounting the origins of the Elfeldt family in our community.

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

William F. Elfeldt was born in Clayton County, Iowa, July 19, 1860. At the age of four years, he moved with his parents, to a farmstead in Minnesota. Four years later, in June 1868, they emigrated to Nebraska, and located in Lancaster County.

On September 1, 1882, he was united in marriage to Minnie C. Fisher of Crete, Nebraska. They were the parents of four children: Arthur, Ella, Effie, and Earl. The family grew up near Hallam, Nebraska. Before moving to Lincoln County, they lived for a short time in Beatrice, Nebraska, where William and son Arthur, had a grocery store and a restaurant.
In October 1911, William and his wife, Minnie, along with Arthur and his wife of one year, Edith, moved to the Sutherland area. They had bought a farm 12 miles southwest of Sutherland, which is still operated by Skip Elfeldt, who is the great grandson of William F. Elfeldt. This partnership was bought out by son, Arthur, in the early 1920s.

William was a life-time member of the Methodist Church, for years serving as Sunday School Superintendent, Sunday School teacher, and church treasurer. He was always very interested in the welfare of the church, and financially helped build churches in different communities.

For several years, he was engaged in general merchandise business from which he retired in 1926. He served as Village Clerk and Police Judge in Sutherland for two terms, and was always interested in public improvements in Sutherland.

Of William and Minnie’s family, only Arthur and Ella remained in Sutherland. Ella helped her father in the store while he owned it, and later was cook and dietitian at the Russell Hospital. “Art”, as most people knew him, remained on the farm southwest of Sutherland until he retired in 1942, when he and his wife, Edith, moved into Sutherland.

Art and Edith had four children, Glenn, Marie, Beulah, and Carl. Glenn and his family came back to Nebraska from Colorado to take over the farm business when Art retired.

William, or “Bill” as his friends knew him, was a person who appeared very stern most of the time, but he had a good sense of humor under that stern exterior. He could tell stories to his grandchildren that were never forgotten, and were only figments of his imagination. He loved mules and bought his last “span” of mules just a few years before he died. He used them to mow grass, and was so proud to be seen driving them. The following is a quote from a letter written to his granddaughter in 1932, “When Minnie and I were young, we did not have a “whoopee” Ford, but SAY, we had a nice young span of bay mules, new harness, and a new wagon and good health.” Also, in the same letter, he wrote, “Oh, it has been such a lovely day.”

He and Minnie took trips to Montana, Colorado, and Texas in their Model T Ford Coupe. One card that the folks at home received while they were traveling related that they had driven 125 miles in ONE DAY. Quite an accomplishment in those days.

William F. Elfeldt died on August 9th, 1938.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Know Nebraska: Dobby's Frontier Town

Nebraska is full of unique attractions, and Dobby's Frontier Town in Alliance, ranks right up there at the top. When you're from a state rich in natural beauty, important history and western heritage, yet lacking the signature "mountains or beaches" that constitutes, in the minds of some, a destination, you get very creative in celebrating what you have.
Such is the case with Dobby's Frontier Town. One man had a vision to save the pioneer heritage of his beloved area of Nebraska. You'll find the details of his story in a story published in Nebraska Life Magazine in 2012 and now posted on their website.
Suffice it to say that Dobby's is an absolutely unique western village, filled with authentic buildings from Alliance's past, as well as clever and accurate reproductions.
It was one man's vision, but when age and the scope of the project combined to signal it was too much for one man, volunteers stepped in and convinced the city of Alliance to take over ownership and save it. It is now governed by a board of directors and many tireless volunteers who spend countless hours keeping up with maintenance and expanding the village.
Here you'll find a school house, jail, saloon and bordello, general store, blacksmith shop, and a bank, among many others.
There is a straw bale home, a log cabin, a church and a gas station. The age of the station can be guessed at by the price of the gas - 5 cents a gallon!
The grounds are beautiful! Though it is tucked away just on the outskirts of Alliance, it truly evokes the feeling of being a small town isolated on the prairie.
While in most museums visitors are barred from the artifacts by velvet ropes, here at Dobby's you can sit and stay a while, absorbing the atmosphere, and letting the experiences of the people who lived there soak into your bones.
It's all FREE! Although I encourage you to make your way to the General Store (pictured above), where you'll find the donation jar and guest book. Sign the book and let them know where you're from and what you think of the work they're doing - then leave a generous donation in the jar to help them with that work.
They hold an annual celebration on the third week in September, with fun and games, live music, living history and fabulous down-home country food. I encourage you to pencil it into your date book.
One of the most special things about Dobby's, is when you walk into the buildings, it's as if the inhabitants have just stepped out and will return momentarily. It has none of the mothballed static feel of a museum. It truly feels like a living town.
You'll have fun wandering through the community, imagining life on the frontier and considering with appreciation the drive and determination it took to create such an attraction.
We had the opportunity to visit Dobby's a year ago, but when we pulled up with our RV, we didn't think there was room for parking, so we drove on by. This year when we returned, we found that there is plenty of room. While there isn't a huge parking lot, there is plenty of room, even for a 31 foot RV like ours.

I've linked the website and the Nebraska Life article above, but Dobby's also has a Facebook page. You'll also find some great reviews on Trip Advisor (along with some comments from folks who clearly don't "get it".) It's been featured in Roadside America, and Road Trippers, and there's even a multi-cache geocache that will take you on a self-guided tour.

Dobby’s Frontier Town is located at 320 East 25th Street/Nance Road Alliance, NE 69301 and is open April-October, Monday-Sunday 10am to 6pm. Winter Hours (weather permitting)is by appointment by calling: (308) 760-3574

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Sunday Stories: Billie Lee Snyder Thornburg

Billie is the last of the children of Bert and Grace Snyder that I have to write about. I couldn't find any information in the history books, but I did find her obituary, which I am sharing here. I met Billie in the early 2000's when I had the privilege of recording a narration of her first book, "Bertie and Me". She followed that up with three more books, "Bertie and Me and Miles Too", "Sandhills Kid in the City" and "City and Prairie Bones". All of these memoirs offer glimpses into Nebraska and North Platte's past.

The books are out of print, but can be found on Amazon from third-party sellers.

Billie Lee Thornburg, 96, of North Platte, passed away Feb. 14, 2009, at her home.

     She was born April 12, 1912, to Albert Benton and Grace Belle McCance Snyder in her grandfather McCance''s sod house a few miles north of Cozad. Her early years were spent on the family ranch 11 miles west of Tryon. She attended grade school in rural McPherson County. Billie was baptized in the Eclipse Episcopal Church at an early age.

     When Billie and her sister were old enough to attend high school her father Bert leased out his ranch and moved his family to Salem, Ore., where she graduated from high school.

     Billie was married to Tiny Riley, who later died of injuries from a rodeo accident.

     In 1955, Billie married William Robert Thornburg, a career Navy man. They lived in Japan for two years and in Norfolk, Va., where they were active in real estate. In 1977, they returned to North Platte to care for Billie''s mother.

     She was a dance instructor in North Platte for many years. At the age of 90 she began writing and was working on her fifth book when her health and eyesight began to fail. Among her books were "City & Prairie Bones," a story of North Platte''s "Little Chicago" days. She also wrote "Bertie & Me", "Bertie & Me and Miles, Too" and "A Sandhills Kid in the City." She formed The Old One Hundred and One Press Co. and published for others as well.

     She was an accomplished knitter, having made many beautiful sweaters. Billie was a people person and had gathered many friends over her long life. She also had a love for animals, most recently their cockatoo Charlie.