Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The Boar's Nest

We have been researching the names, ownership and locations of business enterprises throughout the history of Sutton and recently came across the story of the “Boar's Nest”. The Boar's Nest gets our nomination for the short list of interesting businesses in Sutton in the early 20th Century. What makes it interesting? We'll get to that.

The story appeared in the Sutton Register newspaper in 1902. The Register is one of five newspapers that we know to have been printed in Sutton. The other four papers are The Clay County Globe, the Sutton Advertiser, the Sutton News and of course, The Clay County News. These papers did not all exist at the same time, but they did overlap providing multiple news sources over the years.

Our interest here is in the Sutton Register. This newspaper was founded in 1880 and purchased by Francis Marion (F. M.) Brown in 1886. Brown was the brother of Robert G. Brown, another Sutton pioneer who is connected to the founding of Clay County. F. M. Brown edited the Register until his death in 1919 when his son, Charles M. Brown took over the paper.

The Register in 1902 was a four page weekly. The advertisements are of particular interest in identifying numerous businesses with certain clues as to their locations. The paper carried a variety of items including a generous allotment to international news with datelines from all over Europe, South America and Asia. Each issue included a column of local tidbits under the title of “Local and Personal”. It appears that the locals did a lot of traveling that did not escape the eye of the editor. Typical entries were, “Henry Elfring went west on No. 5 Monday”, “F. J. Hoerger went to Omaha Tuesday on business” and “Burr Longstreth went to St. Joe Tuesday”. St. Joe seems to have been a popular destination. On January 9, 1902: “M. Figi will start for Switzerland in a few days, to visit his mother”. These folks got around.

The various lodges and organizations received attention including a note about The Lady Maccabees, Hive No. 42 spending a “delightful social evening with Mrs. Hennessey Tuesday”.

These old newspapers provide a hint about life in Sutton over 100 years ago. The Clay County News office has a collection of these papers but unfortunately, newspaper tends to deteriorate over time. The Nebraska Historical Society has preserved many of these papers on microfilm and the Historical Society plans on reviewing that collection to ensure that our history is preserved in that format.

But back to the “Boar's Nest”. The first issue of the Sutton Register in 1902 contains an article of the type that makes this kind of research entertaining. We learn there that: “The fact that a gambling joint has been in operation in Sutton for years is well known to everybody in this vicinity. Formerly the business was located on the south side, but afterwards moved into rooms on the north side, where it was known as the “Boars Nest,” where sports and congenial souls met to open bottles and jack-pots unmolested. New Years’ morning about 3 o’clock the city police decided to raid the “Boars Nest;” besides the proprietor, he found six men celebrating the arrival of the new year as only gamblers can. He pulled the whole gang, consisting of four Sutton men and three from other places, but afterwards allowed the men to go at liberty upon their own recognizance. The visiting sports lost no time in getting out of town on the first train. The REGISTER withholds the names of the parties on this occasion on account of their friends, but will not promise to be so lenient in the future under similar circumstances.”

It is hard to list all the things that article tells us about Sutton, 1902.

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