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.