Sunday Stories: Harold Elmer and Edith (Smith) Humphrey

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

Harold Elmer Humphrey was born in Sutherland, Nebraska on July 24, 1901, to James Fernando and Irma Jane (Pierson) Humphrey. He attended elementary and high school here, graduating with the Class of 1919. Following graduation, he attended college in Lincoln, Nebraska for a period of time. He returned to Sutherland, joining his father in the barber shop located on the west side of Walnut Street in downtown Sutherland.
Harold and Edith Humphrey
Edith Adelaide Smith was born in Schuyler, Nebraska, on January 7, 1904, the youngest child of Charles Henry and Adelaide (Lawrence) Smith. When she was twelve, the family moved to the Platte Valley community west of North Platte, then to Sutherland several years later.

Harold and Edith were secretly married on March 29, 1921. Their “secret” was revealed several weeks later as Edith was still in high school. The members of the school board had to make a decision, whether or not Edith should be allowed to complete her senior year and graduate with her class. She received a favorable decision.

Harold worked in his father’s shop until 1926, at which time he purchased a shop in North Platte and moved the family. In 1928 he purchased a shop in Sutherland, moving the family back. They also purchased a home on Pine Street at this time.

Harold and Elizabeth were the parents of two sons, Donald Harold, born May 17, 1922 and Charles James, born March 3, 1924. Donald passed away on December 18, 1929, following a short illness. Charles grew up in the community, served in the Army Air Corps during World War II, completed college, married, and has resided here since.

Harold continued to barber for many years. Soon after buying their home, they enlarged it as they needed more room. During the depression in the thirties, Edith housed and prepared meals for a number of school teachers. When construction of the Reservoir began, the main floor of their home was rented to a civil engineer and his wife, their garage was converted to sleeping quarters for several men working construction, the family moved to the basement. When water began coming into the basement due to the high water table, they moved into the garage.

During the depression years, Harold would “barber” for about anything in payment for his services. One rancher would let his bill grow until he could pay with a quarter of beef. Harold also received cream, chickens, turkeys, and garden produce in payment.

Edith was a talented musician. In the days of silent films at the theatre, she played the piano for the “Mood Music”. Music played a large role in her life. She could play any song “by ear” after hearing it once. She was involved in the choir at the Methodist Church for many years.
In 1938, they established a Dry Cleaning business, first behind the barber shop on the east side of Walnut Street, later in the building they acquired on the corner of First and Walnut. This change of location was made in 1943.
When Charles and his wife, Marilyn, returned to Sutherland in 1949 to operate the dry cleaning business, Harold built a new barber shop, attaching it to the west side of the corner building. A barber shop is still being operated at this location.
In 1953, Harold sold the barber shop, moving to a farm they owned near Sarben. For a number of years, they spent the winter months in warmer areas of the south and southwestern USA, spending much of their time playing contract bridge.

They celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary on March 29, 1971. They continued living on the farm until Harold passed away suddenly August 17, 1971. At this time, Edith moved back to Sutherland. She traveled extensively overseas and in the United States in her remaining years. Edith passed away on March 7, 1979. Both are interred in the Riverview Cemetery at Sutherland.


  1. They were part of my growing up very special folks.


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