Wednesday, December 20, 2017

The Sutton Register newspaper vanishes - 1942

Multiple newspapers in a town was common in the early days. Sutton lost that distinction 75 years ago this week when Ronald Furse of The Sutton News purchased The Sutton Register from the Brown family.

Last Mail Train in Clay County - 1967

The Burlington railroad played a big part in the siting and the development of Sutton. Mail service and passenger service were crucial to the folks in Sutton. Until 1967.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Letter from Harvard Man Gassed in WWI

We included this item in our column for the December 13th issue of The Clay County News with the note that we'd have the complete article here:

from the column's 1917 section:

"John T. Johnson of Harvard, son of Robert and Sara Johnson wrote his parents from a hospital in Birmingham, England after he, “…got my ration of gas Oct. 31 and the night of Nov. 2nd”. He was slightly affected in the left lung and had a peculiar sensation in his chest but said, “it’s all nicely under control.” He had been in the army for several years at various postings. His company was in Australia in 1915 when the entire crew enlisted in the British Army. They were in the Australian Imperial Forces serving in Egypt, the Dardanelles and in France where he encountered the poisonous gas. (That’s a brief summary of the letter – check the Sutton Museum blog for it all.)"

And the full article from The Harvard Courier newspaper of December 14, 1917:

Friday, December 8, 2017

Lyric Theater went dark, 50 years ago

From The Clay County News, December 14, 1967:

1942 9-State Blackout Test

Nighttime bombers posed a huge threat to Britain and their answer to protect cities was to institute "blackouts" to hide the cities from bomber crews.

Who knew how deep into the interior of the U. S. the threat might reach? The blackout proclamation appeared in The Sutton News, December 10, 1942.

The Test results appeared in The Sutton News a week later on December 17, 1942:

From our Clay County News column of December 13, 2017:

Wartime blackout procedures were based on British practices begun on September 1, 1939 immediately before the outbreak of WWII. These conditions continued until September 1944 when Britain relaxed to a “Dim-out” set of rules. Full lighting was restored in Britain in April 1945 and on April 30th, Big Ben was lit after 5 years and 123 days of darkness.

War impacts the culture. Britain’s blackout inspired a popular song first recorded by Vaughn Monroe. Though a good rendition, I prefer Vera Lynn’s version, both available on of course. Incredible lyrics matched to a great song. Young folks unfamiliar with the song and the melody do need to fix that. The opening stanza:

When the lights go on again all over the world
And the boys are home again all over the world
And rain or snow is all that may fall from the skies above
A kiss won't mean "Goodbye" but "Hello to love"

My preferred rendition:

Vera Lynn, "When the Lights go on Again (All Over the World)

Vaughn Monroe was first to record the song:

Vaughn Monroe, "When the Lights go on Again (All Over the World)

And then there is Vera Lynn's concert in 1990 at age 73. She was born March 17, 1917 and is now 100 years old:

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Donald Burns wounded in Africa - 1942

Donnie Burns of Sutton took a bullet in the arm in action along the Moroccan coast north of Casablanca. He was with a crew of five Coast Guardsmen working the beach when they were hit.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

1942-1950 Sutton Wedding Clippings

The recent Shirley Wach donation included a scrapbook of newspaper clippings of Sutton weddings from about 1942 - 1950.

The note inside the cover indicates it was the work of Christine Fenske and it was "Book IV". Pages are 7 X 10 inches. About 80 of the pages in the book are filled. 

This 7" X 10" scrapbook of Sutton wedding newspaper clippings was part of the Shirley Wach collection received recently.

If there might be a clipping of interest to you, stop by the museum on a Sunday afternoon or drop us a note and we'll check it out for you.

The clippings were pasted into a catalog from the W. M. Welch Scientific Company in Chicago. A few of the trade catalogs are available at for impressive prices and the Smithsonian seems to have a display of them. Several hundred items at the end of the book were not covered by wedding pics and are somewhat interesting in themselves. 

Friday, November 24, 2017

1917 Sutton Red Cross Report

We mentioned this story in the Clay County News column of November 29. Mrs. A. W. (Mayme) Clark reported on items sent from the Sutton Chapter of the Red Cross to France.

This article appeared in the November 30, 1917 issue of The Sutton News. 

WWI Embalmers in the Trenches

Insight into conditions for our predecessors, 100 years ago.

The Harvard embalmer/furniture store owner ran this ad in 1917 calling for support for the Purple Cross Bill, a bill supporting means to recover and preserve the bodies of soldiers on the WWI battlefields.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Honored by the French, but Why?

Excuse the "inside baseball" post here, but it's interesting, I guess, but in any case, certainly curious.

Among the services by our host, BLOGGER, a Google product, are several statistics including information about our audience. There has been a persistent mystery for the past two or three months, at least. 

We seem to have fans in FRANCE!

The metric that BLOGGER presents us is PAGEVIEWS. I'll let them explain that:

A pageview is a count indicating the number of times a Web page has been loaded into a browser. The publishing platform Blogger, used for all Blogspot-hosted sites, counts pageviews using Google’s proprietary algorithms.

This blog runs about 6,000 pageviews a month, a few hundred a day, it varies. And we not only see how much activity we have, but also where it comes from. The image depicts our "audience" for the past month, Oct. 10 - Nov 16. 

The numbers for the past month are:

France               2757
United States    2178
Ukraine              280
Poland                215
Russia                  65
Spain                   52
Germany             38
Brazil                  35
China                  30
India                   25

That's interesting, and we have no idea what to make of it.

Our long-term statistics go back to 2010 in the third year of our existence where our audience has been U. S. - 70,000; Russia - 15,000; France - 9,000; Germany 5,500; Ukraine - 3,500; South Korea - 3200; China - 2,100; Poland 1,600; U.K. - 1,200 and Canada - 1,000.

Those have been reasonably consistent, except for France which was not among the top not too long ago. France has spiked and spiked a lot in just a few months.


And it's not a passing thing. Our stats for today from 4 PM on the 16th through 3 PM today (17th) are:  France - 105, U.S. - 26, Ukraine - 12 and other countries petering out into single digits. 

Our reasons for bringing this up are threefold, at least.

1. Our visitors may find it interesting to learn we're watching and know where you live - at least what country you're in.

2. We are seriously confused about what we are seeing and someone will tell us we're all wet and do not understand BLOGGER statistics.

and 3. Hey you people in France. Hi and welcome. But really, what the heck are you doing here? Is there someone from Sutton now living in a swank apartment in Paris with enough time on their hands to refresh their browser all day? And why? Whatever the reason, even if it is somehow nefarious, we are still flattered, very flattered. 

No big deal, but we'd have to be brain-dead not to be at least a little bit curious.

Like a said at the top, "inside baseball".

Ong Methodist Church 70th anniversary in 1942

Our weekly column in The Clay County News obviously has a focus wider than Sutton. Our sources include past newspapers from Harvard, Clay Center, Edgar, and Fairfield with occasional references to others of the nearly 80+ newspapers that have lived in the county in the past.

We recently referenced the 70th Anniversary of the Ong Methodist Church with a promise that the full clipping would appear on our blog.

So, here 'tis:

Sutton Men in Service - November 1942

Newspapers in 1942 during the first year of World War II ran the list of local man in service each week.

The Army drew its recruits from the draft and voluntary enlistments. The Navy relied on voluntary enlistments. Their effort had a budget.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Program for the 1917 Farmers Institute in Harvard

The Farmers Institute was an annual event in Harvard celebrating agriculture and home economics with a variety of competitions. 

Monday, November 13, 2017

Sutton Opera House Scene

This intriguing photo was among the items from Shirley Wach's donation to the Sutton Museum. The photo is identified as a scene from the Sutton Opera House but is not dated.

Identifying a few of the actors would help to date the picture and would be cool in itself.

Any suggestions?

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Did Sutton Once have a Chinese Laundry?

It is unlikely that anyone has set out to find out if Sutton once had a Chinese laundry. That’s something you have to stumble onto.

And stumble onto it we did.

Check out Figure 1. There on the east side of Saunders Avenue, two doors south of Bender’s, just past the harness shop, is (was) a Chinese laundry. Show of hands. Who knew?

Figure 1. This map from the Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps shows the north end of downtown Sutton in 1889. Cool, isn't it?

And look catty-corner from Bender’s where the four-story Oakland Hotel is depicted in a crude floor plan showing where the kitchen, dining room and stairs were in the building.
Key to the map codes

What are we looking at?

We are looking at maps of downtown Sutton in 1889! The Sanborn Map Publishing Co., Ltd. developed Fire Insurance Maps of towns across the country. The maps were targeted at insurance underwriters who needed to know something about their markets.

These maps are color coded – yellow are wood frame buildings, red are brick and others are identified on the key. The cryptic identification on each building tells how many stories there were, the type of business and other special features of interest of insurance people.

There is a photo of a livery stable on the south wall at Astra Bank. We’ve made guesses where it was. No more guessing. There it is on the south bank of School Creek, just east of Sutton’s famous early Iron Bridge – the Lewis and Jarrett Livery stable. (Leonard Jarrett was the father of librarian Sibyl, and he was a Confederate cavalryman from Virginia.)

Figure 1 shows the north half of the north end of 1889 downtown Sutton to mid-block. Figure 2 picks up at a hardware store and tin shop on the west side and a confectionary and cigar store on the east. That would have been the Carney hardware store and the tin shop would be of interest to the insurance folks – fire is involved.
Figure 2. This is the 1889 map of downtown Sutton just north of the Railroad tracks. 
Smokehouses at meat markets are also marked including a blue one, stone.

Street names as well as block and lot numbers help locate the buildings. Most locations only list the type of business but lumber yards, elevators, livery stables and meeting halls are more fully identified. The red (pink) buildings on the west in lot 1 of block 5 and lot 10 of block 23 shows the Opera House to be upstairs over a grocery store. Neat, huh?

How did we find these?

We didn’t. Credit goes to my cousin Ken Nelson of Manassas, Virginia. Ken grew up on a farm near Clay Center though began life near Sutton. He worked for the Dept. of Ag in Washington, D. C. He is a champion of the Library of Congress. These maps are on the library’s web site.

Follow this link:  Sanborn maps for Sutton
A big shoutout to Sanborn Maps for these priceless looks at
Sutton 128 years ago. 

Or a search for “sanborn fire insurance maps sutton Nebraska” will return several links within You should see “Sutton” in a few of the urls – look around. 

There are seven entries, those for 1884, 1889 and 1897 are online with links. We’re looking at 1889 here. Maps for ’02, ’12 and ’24 are not online. Could you bring back a copy of those next time you’re in D. C.?

Figure 4 shows the south end of downtown. Note the Central Block. Remember the date on the building? 1887. The building was two years old when his map was drawn. The businesses were a hardware store (with tin shop), a grocery and bakery, a gentleman’s store and a saloon with a “Hall” on the 2nd floor. The building is red (brick) and is two-stories. The id near the back of the grocery/bakery seems to read “IR OVEN BST” which sounds like an oven in the basement, another good item for insurance folks.

The abbreviations can be challenging. You’ll find lots of “Dwg” which are houses, residences, “dwellings”. Milly is a millinery shop. You’re on your own for the rest.
Fig. 4 Downtown Sutton - South of the tracks. 
Figures 1, 2 and 4 are on Sheet 1 of the web site. Sheet 2 is a composite of other locations. Be careful, north isn’t always on top.
Figure 6. Site of today's Sutton Museum.

Figure 6 is of interest to the historical society. It depicts the location of our museum. Note that the little creek in mid-block is labeled “School Creek”. And the J. M. Gray Lumber Yard is shown in detail. The office was on Maple across the street from the railroad tracks. Note the “Dwg” on Cedar. That is the current middle museum building, once the Schinzel House. The drawing is a crude floor plan quite unlike today’s structure in the rear.

Figure 7 across from the today’s Post Office with a vacant building where the American Legion now is. The Occidental Hotel stood there within the memory of many mature Sutton residents. It is identified on both the 1884 and 1897 maps suggesting the Occidental Hotel may have had a false start.

In the northeast corner of Figure 7 is “Wind Mill & Well, w. Tank on Trestles” – another piece of information of interest to underwriters.
Figure 7. The American Legion is now in the southeast corner of this map.

Having fun yet?

Figure 8 should spark a discussion. We’re looking just north of School Creek and west of Saunders Avenue. The Federated Church would be at the north edge of the image. Text may be fuzzy here, but check the web site. That is a U. P. R. R. depot with a platform and supposedly railroad tracks heading east into … well, …. into the park???
Figure 8.What the heck is this? This 1889 map seems to be telling us about a Union Pacific Depot just north of School Creek on the west side of Saunders Avenue and more than that, there would be railroad tracks past that depot... Tell me more.
What do we make of this? I found instances in the Harvard maps where a building was marked “to be…” something indicating that the map drawer was indicating a planned building at that location.

Research into Nebraska railroads led to a House of Representative’s document about railroad incorporation filings for the St. Joseph and Grand Island Railroad (today through Glenvil, Fairfield, Edgar, Davenport, etc.) for a spur through Sutton to York.

And, as part of the Jim Griess estate, the Sutton Museum received several pre-1900 Sutton Register newspapers. The October 11, 1888 issue had a small item that read, in part: “Union Pacific Route – The new line between Alma, Wilcox, Minden, Fairfield, Sutton, York, David City, Lincoln and Omaha. Trains No. 11 and 12, mail and express, run solid between Alma and Lincoln…”

I’d have put those trains on the tracks that ran from Fairfield through Clay Center, Verona, Sutton, Lushton and on to McCool, tracks that carried the little grain-mover we called “The Pook-Eye” back in the ‘50’s and ‘60’s, the one that dragged box cars of grain from Lushton and Verona into Sutton to ship out on the Burlington.

But in these Sanborn maps we have a suggestion of railroad tracks and a second Sutton depot where I never suspected there might have been. Where was that track’s bridge over School Creek? And other questions. Or, never mind.

Anyhow, moving on.

Figure 9. Sutton businessmen signed off on these maps.
Figure 9 is the certification signatures for the map. Several “undersigned agents” of Sutton certified these maps as “…correct as far as they can see…” The names are Martin Clark, I. N. Clark, Bemis & Hairgrove attorneys, (unk), Theo Miller, E. W. Woodruff, J. B. Dinsmore, E. P. B??? and Thurlow Weed. That is, these distinguished early Sutton businessmen were fine with a map showing a railroad and depot north of School Creek.

Anyone else surprised? Or is it just me?

Our initial intent for this article was to plow through 1888 newspaper ads and other business information and identify the specific businesses in each downtown store front. Clearly, that would have been (will be?) a much longer article.

So, did Sutton really have a Chinese laundry in 1889? There was also one in Harvard on Oak Street. Maybe laundries were just called “Chinese” because… Or there really were Chinese entrepreneurs following the railroad locating new markets.

And back to the north end of downtown to the Oakland Hotel. We have pictures of that building before it burned in 1902. It was a serious hotel, lots of rooms, a restaurant, a landmark well-known along the Burlington from Lincoln west to Denver. But we lost it.

Consider these downtown buildings, especially the Central Block, listed here at two-years old in 1889 and still standing today, still in productive use and still on the short list of Sutton’s main attractions. Our downtown buildings are our primary distinctive community treasures.

There is positive movement by the city and several concerned citizens to once-and-for-all get behind a plan and action to take small steps to spruce up the downtown, then to stop the deterioration of these treasures, then to do more. Restoration? Revitalization? Prevent the buildings from falling down around our heads and shoulders – call it what you will.

But if you agree that downtown Sutton is worth saving and sprucing up, then consider joining in and supporting this action. Take another look at these Sanborn maps from 1884, 1889 and 1897. Sutton has a history. Sutton has a heritage. Both deserve a future.

And what the heck is it with that U. P. depot and tracks???