Sunday, December 30, 2012

Madeleine Leininger - "A Great Woman with a Great Story"

A Great Woman … A Great Story

By Jerry Johnson and the Sutton Historical Society

“A Great Woman … A Great Story” is an appropriate and fitting tribute to perhaps Sutton’s most famous daughter and is presented in a three and a half minute video on youtube at: - a tribute to Dr. Madeleine Leininger.

Dr. Madeleine Leininger of Sutton

Dr. Leininger has been recognized locally a number of times in articles and tributes but the story of her career does not grow old.

“He made a difference in the world.” Have you ever heard that said about an individual? Did that person really make a difference? In the world?

We’d all like to think that we made some difference during our brief stay on the planet and on certain scales, we all do. But not many of us truly do something that alters the world for untold thousands and thousands of people. We have at least one Suttonite who did just that.

The Sutton High class of ’42 was a large class for our town, fifty-eight graduates in the early months of a world war. The boys faced an immediate responsibility to “make a difference” on the stages of the Pacific Theater and the European Theater of WWII. One grad made the ultimate sacrifice in a tank battle on the western front near the borders between Germany, France and Switzerland.

Many scattered across the country making their marks from coast to coast. One fellow went on to become an executive at Temple University. Others stayed close to their roots becoming standout citizens of our local community. But the ‘42 grad of this story did truly make an indelible mark on the world.

Madeleine Leininger was born July 13, 1925 to George and Irene Leininger on the farm south of Sutton though the video mentioned above gives her birth as 1920. After graduation from Sutton High she was in the U. S. Army Nursing Corps while pursuing a basic nursing program. She received her nursing diploma from St. Anthony’s School of Nursing in Denver, a B. S. from St.Scholastica (Benedictine College) in Atchinson, Kansas, her M. S. psychiatric and mental health nursing from Catholic University in D. C. and a Ph.D. in cultural and social anthropology from the University of Washington. She was the first person in a graduate nursing program to receive a Ph.D. – quite a distinction. Her official certifications read: PhD, LHD, DS, CTN, RN, FAAN, FRCNA – I’ll not elaborate.

Dr. Leininger’s broad academic background led her to blend her two fields study, nursing and anthropology to create a new discipline, transcultural nursing.

She was working in a child guidance home in the 1950’s when she realized that behavior patterns in children appeared to have a cultural basis. She spent three years in Eastern Highlands of Papua New Guinea on a field research project with the Gatsup people. There she came to realize that nurses and other health care personnel were handicapped in their attempts to provide health care if they did not understand the culture and history of health care of their patients.
Dr. Leininger visited and studied more than a dozen cultures world-wide.

Madeleine studied a number of diverse societies while formulating her then-radical ideas about the nature of nursing. Those ideas coalesced into her Theory of Transcultural Nursing defining an entirely new professional sector of nursing and health care practice.

Dr. Leininger was able to instill her ideas into formal educational programs as she attained leadership positions in the field at the University of Cincinnati, the University of Colorado and as Dean, Professor of Nursing and Lecturer of Anthropology at the University of Washington. It was under her leadership that the University of Washington was recognized in 1973 as the outstanding public institution of nursing in the country. Her resume must have been suitable for framing.

Her academic career continued at the University of Utah where her collection of titles included Director of the Doctoral and Transcultural Nursing Program.

The theory and principles of transcultural nursing were quickly ingrained into nurses training throughout the world as the list of her professional writings grew to include over 200 articles and book chapters, more than 25 of her own books and edited works, 850 public lectures and numerous audio and video presentations. She managed to work in stints as visiting professor and scholar at about 70 universities around the world – her various biographies seem unable to keep up with and agree on the “gee-whiz” statistics of Dr. Leininger’s career.
Dr. Leininger with a group of Gadsup children on a return trip
to Papua New Guinea probably in 1990.

She settled down, as best she could in 1981 at Wayne State University in Detroit where she accumulated another list of academic and professional titles. She retired as professor emeritus from Wayne State University in 1995.

Every formal field of study needs its definitive publication for exchange of ideas and to establish standards and methods. Dr. Leininger accommodated with the founding of the Journal of Transcultural Nursing in 1989 and served as its editor until 1995. The publication recognized their Foundress shortly after her death by reprinting (unfortunately, as a single paragraph!) an article from 2009:

The Madeleine Leininger Collection constitutes 15.5 linear feet of her papers in the Walter P. Reuther Library at Wayne State. The thirty-three pages of the “Finding Aid” of the collection are at: and is worth your time to get a feel for the important work of this Sutton girl. Prepare to be overwhelmed. Other collections of her works are at Florida Atlantic University, Boston University and Madonna University in Livonia, Michigan.

I’ve provided a few of the dozens of internet links concerning Dr. Leininger. I’m pretty sure no other Suttonite generated as much academic and professional material. But I must include two more of those links. A detailed and lengthy account of her work is at: and an entertaining youtube video at:
is rather clever, if a bit hokey with a skit apparently done by enthusiastic nursing students including an appearance by Madeleine as Mary Poppins. Yes, really.

Did growing up in Sutton have any unique or direct influences that may have led to Dr. Leininger’s success? We probably shouldn’t make such a claim without specific justification. But there is a hint in the 1940 census of where an important influence may have come from. Madeleine was 14 at the time of that census. Her sister Eulalia was 17 and listed as a “public school teacher.” School documents for that fall list Eulalia as a second-year teacher in District #38, the Rock School six a half miles south of Sutton.

We can imagine how a sister but three years older and already teaching school might have had an impact on Madeleine. Leininger family stories confirm Eulalia’s influence including her encouragement and help in sending Madeleine off to begin her education and the career that became “A Great Story about A Great Woman”.

Dr. Madeleine Leininger died on August 10, 2012 and is buried in Sutton’s Calvary Cemetery.

This article first appeared in the November 2012 issue of Sutton Life Magazine. For information about this publication see   or contact or write to Mustang, Inc., 510 West Cedar, Sutton, NE 68979  or call 402-984-4203.

They Left; Where Did They Go? What Did They Do?

Following the stories of Sutton folks out in the world.

By Jerry Johnson and the Sutton Historical Society

The Sutton High Alumni Directory tells us that our classmates and friends and those of our parents and grandparents have dispersed all over the country and beyond. Ever wonder what they are doing, what those in the past did? Their stories are part of the history of the Sutton community too.

State and town promotions include the famous people who were born, or had a connection to the state or town. Nebraskans take pride in claiming Johnny Carson, Dick Cavett, David Jansen, Sandy Dennis, Gordon MacRae and others from the entertainment world. A favorite Omaha trivia question is, “Who gave 18-year old Henry Fonda his acting start at the Omaha Community Playhouse?” The answer of course is Marlon Brando’s mother. Towns create a tourist industry based on the birthplace of a president or movie star or other celebrity. Those connections become part of the local history and heritage.

The cover of a collection of political cartoons from the 1930's
by Herbert Johnson of Sutton

We’ve had recent reminders of our own similar heritage here in Sutton. Madeleine Leininger’s Sutton funeral reminded us of her incredible career as a pioneer in the nursing profession. This 1942 Sutton High graduate created the discipline of transcultural nursing. The archive of her papers (1961-1995) at Wayne State University measures 15.5 linear feet; her name at generates 116 results of her books, collections and related works. She had an influence in the world and as her hometown, Sutton and those of us in Sutton can be proud of her.

The opening production in the newly refurbished Allegro Wolf Arts Center was a performance of the play “The Guys” which in its eleven-year history has become the signature work of the arts to commemorate the 9/11 World Trade Center disaster. After performances of the play, the playwright, Anne Nelson told us of visits as a girl to her grandparents in Sutton. She convinced us that even as a New Yorker who was raised in Stillwater, Oklahoma she feels a special affection for Sutton, Nebraska. Those of us in Sutton can take pride in that connection.

The poster for the movie version of Anne Nelson's play
"The Guys" about a NYFD captain and a journalist one
afternoon in September, 2001. Anne's parents are Sutton
natives and graduates of Sutton High School.
In the earliest days of the Sutton Historical Society we began to collect the stories of past residents of Sutton and others who had some connection with our community.  Some were well-known but many had been forgotten; either their stories had never been told or had faded to obscure references on yellowing newsprint in the news office basement.

We enjoy the story of Walter Wellman, one-time 14-year old Sutton newspaper publisher who became obsessed with hot air balloons and tried to become the first man to the North Pole via his balloon. (See the historical society blog at )

Herbert Johnson was a political cartoonist and drew cover cartoons for the Saturday Evening Post and other publications. Again, see the blog.

Ummo Luebbens, the son of a Sutton banker invented the round baler.

1964 Sutton grad Diane Klein as Diane Jordan, moved to Nashville and began a recording career that is best described by the title of an interview a few years ago: “Almost Famous.” She appeared in a couple of movies including “That’s Country” where she shared billing with quite a lineup of country stars:  

Paula Felps (Burklund), class of ’81 enriched the Open House at the Sutton Museum a few years ago with a book signing featuring a few of her works. An internet search today reveals her current work as a writer, editor and among other things, car critic for ladies. Not ordinary cars either. Check out for a photo of her in a $480,000 Mercedes McLaren. Anyone else here ever driven that car?

We’ve revived a few sports stories. Johnny Bender was a star halfback at the University of Nebraska for five pre-NCAA years before coaching and naming sports teams such as the St. Louis Billikens, K-State Wildcats and Houston Cougars. His story is at our blog.

A few years ago I fielded a call from the NFL Historian (yes, he said it was a real job) who was working on a web site listing the 1,000 oldest living pro football players: He had traced the Oregon State star and late 1930’s pro Morris Kohler to Sutton, Nebraska and asked if I knew when he had died. I stammered a bit then said, “I could give you his phone number.” I called the Kohler home to warn them before calling the historian back. We soon learned that Morrie was #14 on that list of 1,000 old pros. We were able to revive Morrie Kohler’s football story here in Sutton while he could still enjoy the recognition, again.

Incidentally, two Nebraska-connected fellows were ahead of Morrie on that list: Tippy Dye, the genius who hired Bob Devaney in 1962 and Bill Glasford, NU coach 1949-1955 who still holds down third position on the list of 1,000 at age 98.

Soldiers have brought distinction to our town. We’ve written about the two Medal of Honor winners, Jacob Volz and Orion Howe a number of times – again, see the historical society blog. About a dozen Sutton area men perished in World War II including Marine Merritt Walton who received the Navy Cross entitling his family to see a Navy ship named after him. The destroyer U. S. S. Walton thus is likely the only warship with such a Sutton connection. Nebraska’s southwest Asian war fatalities including Sutton’s own Sgt. 1st Class Tarango-Griess are recognized at the Fallen Heroes Marsh southwest of town.
The Navy Destroyer USS Walton (DE-361) named for Marine Sgt. Merritt
Walton killed August 7, 1942 on Gavutu Island in the Solomon Islands.
Sutton newspapers identified Walton as the first Sutton man to be lost
in World War II.

Ted Wenzlaff from the class of 1921 had a distinguished military career but he also made a great contribution to the understanding of the history of the Germans from Russia. His nephew Jim Griess continues to extend that work.

There are lesser, but still interesting connections between our community and history in general. One hundred years ago Wisconsin Senator Robert “Fighting Bob” LaFollette visited Sutton during his brief run at the Republican nomination for president. Fighting Bob made his connection with Sutton by reminding them that his brother had once lived in Sutton.

Others from Sutton have made contributions to the business world, the arts, education – the list goes on and on. Knowing where our “ex-pats” went and what they’ve done is interesting and worth knowing. Taking pride in someone else’s accomplishments is a sincere way to honor that work.

Members of the Sutton Historical Society consider it part of our mission to collect and preserve these stories that are a part of the community’s history and making them available to be enjoyed by all.

Do you have any nominees who belong on this list? If so, let us know. Better yet, join us in our efforts to build the list. The historical society meets the first Tuesday of the month at 7:30 PM, generally at the Historic House at 309 N. Way Ave. And we have a pancake breakfast at the American Legion the first Saturday of each month from 7:30 – 10:30. Stop in for breakfast, coffee or “just visiting.”  Call 773-0222 for information.

This article first appeared in the October, 2012 issue of Sutton Life Magazine. Contact Mustang, Inc. for more information:  or  510 West Cedar, Sutton, NE 68979 or 402-984-4203.

Interpreting Our History from Stuff & Memories

Our historical society strives to tell the story of the history of our community through several channels.

We have artifacts on display at the museum which one generation remembers, another generation has heard of but are completely new to yet another generation.

The rural school house on North Way Avenue tells its story to anyone with even a hint of an imagination. Visitors standing in the school house can picture what it must have been like to attend such a school sitting alone on a country road in the middle of winter, a small group of kids with one adult often not much older than the oldest students.

We have a growing inventory of old photos from the early days of the town that together tell a story of wooden frame store fronts beside muddy streets with telephone and power poles and lines. We have photos of families and individuals, some identified, many not.

Each of these resources, artifacts, old buildings and photos provide a piece of the story of our town’s past. It is up to us to assemble those pieces to solve the puzzle of what our town was like seventy-five years ago or one hundred years ago or at its very beginning over 140 years back.

Central Block in downtown Sutton, South end, West side, in 1908. This photo appeared in Don Russell's "Sutton Nebraska - 125 Years - A Pictorial History" among other places. Russell attributed the photo to Roger Bauer and Artis Lemkau.
Those puzzle pieces can be used to build a variety of images and impressions of what life must have been like for the early residents of Sutton. Join me in imagining my great-grandmother Anna Klintberg visiting downtown Sutton stores with two or three of her six children in tow as she crossed the dusty or muddy streets shopping for clothes for the kids or more likely material to sew, basic grocery items – coffee, sugar, produce and other things not grown at home or maybe something for herself. Now add a piece of information from the 1900 and 1910 censuses where we learn that Anna never learned English well enough to tell the census taker she spoke the language. Did she shop in Sutton just two miles from her farm home or did she prefer to go to Saronville further away but where her friends and relatives spoke Swedish and definitely where she attended church services conducted in her native tongue as long as she lived?

See how a very few pieces of the puzzle of Anna’s life come together to give us insights into her life.

Old newspapers have become my favorite resource for deciphering the puzzle of life in Sutton’s early days. These old newspapers were written to report the happenings of the day to an audience of contemporary readers who shared the context of living at the time. Articles were written with the valid assumption that readers already knew the background and context of the story and those things did not have to be repeated in the story. So as we read those stories today we can be sure that we are missing things. You can probably see the same characteristic in articles in this week’s newspaper if you imagine yourself 100 years from now reading an old yellowed paper (or in another medium) and recognize that you wouldn’t catch important assumptions.

Our old Sutton newspapers, the Sutton Register and the Sutton News, are great resources for looking into Sutton’s past. The history of the comings and goings of businesses is documented well but generally identify the locations with the name of a building, a name that no longer is used – context again. As we continue studying these old newspapers, the more we begin to build our own version of the necessary context to make better sense of each article.

A persuasive impression from these early newspapers is that early Sutton residents led an intensive social life. Local clubs, lodges and organizations had reporters who filled many column-inches of newsprint each week telling about their respective organizations, and there were a lot of them.

Each church seems to have had organizations for men and women and a few for children. Ladies Aid and church circles played a big social role. The Masons, Knights of Pythias, Odd Fellows and Rebekahs, Knights of Columbus, AOUW (Ancient Order of United Workmen) and other lodges operated in early Sutton, some lasting into recent times. The Masonic Temple building that hosts City Hall was built just fifty years ago.

The Grand Army of the Republic (G. A. R.) had an active post in Sutton with at least 40 members into the twentieth century. The American Legion and the Auxiliary has a long history in town and continues today.

There were clubs for specific activities such as the Bicycle Club, Walking Club, numerous card clubs, Sutton Junior Stamp Club and the Sutton Girls Stamp Club. (Wally and Fritz Bender were stampers.)

My father remembered his days in DeMolay and regretted that that organization had folded before I came along.

Clubs were known by their initials. The O. E. S. had a chapter in Sutton, No. 54 as well as the P. E. O. Sisterhood, the J. U. T. and S. O. S. The W. C. T. U. (Women’s Christian Temperance Union) fought their battle against Demon Rum in Sutton, throughout the county, state and nation.

The DAR (Butler-Johnson Chapter) was active in Sutton. There was a Fortnightly Club, Women’s Home Missionary Society, Red Cross, Farmers Union and something called W. H. M. S.
I once ran across an article about the forming of the Clay County Dentists Association. Belonging to a club was a popular thing to do, be it a professional club, social, special interest or whatever. And as you’d expect, people joined multiple clubs.
The Sutton Bicycle Club in 1894. This photo was attributed to C. V. Hines in the book, "Sutton Nebraska - 125 Years - A Pictorial History" published by Don Russell and the Clay County News in 1977.

My nominee for the champion Sutton Clubber is Mayme (Weiden) Clark whose name appears in articles about many clubs. She was not only a member but was often an officer, the reporter or just had her name pop up a lot.

O. K., so there were lots of clubs in Sutton over the years. What can we infer from that piece of information?

It’s clear that Sutton folks from the early days of the 1880’s into the ‘30’s were social creatures. These clubs and organizations were a form of entertainment in the pre-TV days. But there was probably more to it than that. We can’t help but imagine that members of these clubs developed a large network of very close friends. They were very willing and eager to spend a significant amount of time engaged in a particular activity with the same circle of friends month in and month out.

Does knowing such information help you to understand more about the people in our past? Of course it does.

Does the process of analyzing these tidbits of information to arrive at such a conclusion sound interesting? I think it does.

This article first appeared in the September, 2012 issue of Sutton Life Magazine. For information about this small-town publication contact contact or write to Mustang, Inc., 510 West Cedar, Sutton, NE 68979 - 402984-4203.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Social Networks and 1950's Farming

The industry of Sutton is farming, always has been and will be for a long time to come.

It all started when the fellow we consider our founder, Luther French choose a piece of bottom land straddling School Creek for a homestead and to grow a little wheat.

Luther French grew that first wheat using methods, tools and equipment that would have been recognized by earlier farmers going back many generations, decades or even hundreds of years. A serf from the twelfth century could have walked up and pitched in without needing a bit of training.

During 142 years of farming around Sutton essentially all of the technological advances in crop farming has been reflected on these farms.  Improvements in metallurgy, mechanization and methods altered the way the ground was worked, which crops were grown and how. Progress has been rapid and steady.

Those of us who grew up on farms in the 1950’s witnessed many significant changes and saw the tail end of several wide spread and common practices. I’m thinking of threshing, corn shelling and hay stacking.

Those three jobs had been around a while and by the ‘50’s had advanced from horse power to engine power but were still labor intensive. A farmer could not do these things by himself. He needed a crew. To borrow a contemporary phrase, “It took a village.”

Let’s start with threshing.

Before combines, wheat (or oats) was cut and collected into bundles by the “binder” ( ). The next pass was shocking, collecting several, seven as I recall, bundles, standing them on end leaning together in a tepee-like “shock.”
Soon the grain was ready for threshing. There are still a few threshing machines sitting along our roadsides. Check out ( ) to see how they worked.

Threshing, shelling and stacking required a crew. How did the farmer find a crew? By negotiation. Each farmer built his crew by agreeing to help a neighbor or relative when he threshed, shelled or stacked. These one-on-one agreements produced to group to get the job done.

Hornbacher’s threshing machine in operation in 1912 during the horse and mule days.
Generally, a farmer’s crew was a unique set of his neighbors. When he reciprocated and helped a neighbor on his crew, it was with a different set of men from that fellow’s neighbors. So a broad network, a network of workers but a real social network developed that extended out a long ways.

The threshing crew had well-defined divisions of responsibilities. There were guys who collected the bundles and brought them to the threshing machine from the field in wagons. There men pitched bundles onto the canvas conveyor, heads first, of course. There was a name for that conveyor – feeder or something. Don’t remember.

The thresher separated the wheat from the straw. Somebody had trucks and trailers to collect the wheat and move it off to town or scoop into a bin. Straw was blown off onto a pile, preferably downwind and out of the way.

Each of these operations had some jobs that were assigned to boys. The straw pile was one of those responsibilities. One of my jobs was to direct the straw blower. Another was to “top off” the wheat in the trailer as it got full.

Threshing had been a big thing for decades and feeding threshers was one of the real tests of a farm wife. Unless she had a houseful of daughters, a parallel work crew developed from among the wives in the neighborhood. Threshing crews could be large; appetites always were. “There’s enough here for threshers!” described any table with lots of food.

Harvesting corn was different then from now. The corn picker was a great improvement over picking by hand but handling the crop remained the same. Corn was stored in the corn crib that was a part of every farmstead. The crib was filled in the fall and the corn dried over winter and through summer. Some of us remember what “sealed corn” was but that’s a different discussion.

The corn sheller in the ‘50’s was generally a truck mounted machine, perhaps a John Deere machine and was someone’s seasonal business – Hornbacher and Trautman in Sutton, Schrock in Edgar, my grandfather, Fred Johnson in an earlier time.

When a farmer was ready to shell, he’d schedule the corn sheller and contact his crew – neighbors, relatives, etc. These corn shelling days, like threshing and stacking hay, took priority. It would seem like a challenge to coordinate all those schedules, but a farmer would drop everything to go work at his neighbors because he would soon need the same consideration from each of them.

Rhiny Hornbacher’s horse drawn corn sheller rig and crew in 1915.
The corn shelling crew had guys raking and scooping corn out of the crib into the “drag” on the machine and others to handle the grain, the cob pile and the pile of shucks. One of my jobs was catching the cobs in trailers and scooping them into the cob house trying to keep ahead of the shellers. Check out ( ) and other neat videos of corn shellers.

Hay stacking was the third crew-based task from the ‘50’s. Before general access to balers alfalfa, and prairie hay (are there any prairie hay fields still around, anywhere?) was stored in stacks of loose hay, sometimes huge stacks. Hay stacking changed summer windrows of hay to neat stacks of winter feed.

This crew had a couple of fellows with wide hay forks mounted on the front of tractors (earlier horse drawn.). These forks were 10 or 12 feet across. This was probably the fastest any farmer drove his tractor in a field. The hay forks brought the hay up close to the stack where a hay stacker lifted hay onto the stack. There were “overshot stackers” though I don’t remember them. ( )

My father had a Jayhawk Stacker, a large two-wheel contraption that hooked on the front of his Allis-Chalmers. It had a hay fork that lifted hay to the top of the stack via a cable wrapped around the axle of the machine. The fork lifted as the machine moved forward. The trick was to judge how far back from the stack to engage the lift to hit the right height as you got to the stack.

A small group of guys stood on the stack and packed the hay to make it water-tight, or mostly so, an art form I never caught onto. My job was to rake up the loose hay out in the field that had fallen off the hay forks.

These three jobs were long-running shows in our part of the country over decades into the ‘50’s when progress made them obsolete, all within just a few years. Progress empowered the single farmer to do more and more by himself negating the need to develop close relationships with his neighbors on such a scale. Progress and efficiency are always good things. Aren’t they?

This article first appeared in the August, 2012 issue of Sutton Life Magazine. For further information about this magazine please visit or call 402-984-4203.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Dedication of the Sutton School building - 1912

The new Sutton School was dedicated on November 18, 1912. The building was built in one year and served as a high school and elementary school was used through 1963.

The second part of this article refers to the new gym. It was in the basement, actually a second lower level and became known as "The Crackerbox." It was not large - the circles at the free throw lines intersected the center circle.

Friday, October 12, 2012

A Happy Schoolhouse

Our Wolfe School house enjoyed its best day in many years as twenty-two fourth graders from Sutton schools visited on Friday afternoon, October 12th.

The sound of enthusiastic school kids filled the one-room school house at the Sutton Museum.
The one-room school echoed with the sounds of bright and curious kids making the most of a field trip to a giant visual-aid for their current block of studies.

It was a day for the Sutton Historical Society to realize some of the potential of our prized historic building. Speaking for the school building, it was the greatest of days to relive a moment of its past. And I'm sure the kids took away a much better understanding of what it must have been like to attend such a school.

Just as happened thousands of times across rural America, kids posed to capture a memory before a one-room school house.

Thanks to Mrs. Wademan for allowing us to share our afternoon with this great bunch of kids. Good luck to all.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Sutton's Kindergarten Class of 1987

This photo appeared in September 26th, 2012 issue of The Clay County News in the "Clay County in the Rear View Mirror" column. The photo first appeared in the October 1, 1987 issue of the paper and was identified as the Sutton Class of 2000.  I promised to identify the young people on this blog - here goes.

This was the morning class:

Front row, l to r: Michael Stuhmer, Jason Lorenzen, Brandon Scheidemann, Amy Griess, T. J. Jones, Scott Ulmer.
Middle Row: Mike Kleinschmit, James Majors, Amanda Leininger, Joe Waddell, Jaana Eckhardt, Lyndsay Miller.
Back Row: Kiley Domeier, Jennifer Grothe, Jamie Smith, Angela Majors, Tiffany Stahl, Taylor Pope, Jessica Moody.
The afternoon class did not appear in the recent issue of the paper but they did appear in the original 1987 issue, also identified as the Sutton Class of 2000.

Front row, l to r: Angela Huber, Anna Hultine, katie Sheridan, Lisa Hofmann, Brian Zimlich.
Middle row: Jed Sharkey, Nicky Brown, Carisa Ramsey, Danielle Stevens, Danielle Nuss, Antonio Hemsath.
Back row: Kelly Jasnoch, Sandy Gowen, Ben Kauk, Amelia Nuss, Michael Dennis, Aaron Plettner.
Heather McCann was not pictured.

Passion for the Past

It has been almost seven years since the founding of the Sutton Historical Society and three since we began contributing to Sutton Life Magazine. It is time to report on what we are doing.

The mission of the Sutton Historical Society is to collect and preserve the artifacts and information about the past in the Sutton community. The first need when we started was a home for the artifacts, the Sutton Museum.

The three museum buildings, the Historic House, the Wolfe Country School Museum and the museum in the original John Gray house soon became an established part of the Sutton scene.

Six of the active young people in and around Sutton about 1900: Carl Spielman, Ada Gray,
Homer Gray, Irene Honey, Albert (A.W.) Clark and Mayme Wieden.
The Historic House displays the home of John and Emma Gray much as it might have looked soon after they built it in 1908. Their original home serves as to space for museum items and the Wolfe school provides visitors, especially kids, a look at country schools fifty and more years ago.

The museum supports that part of the mission of preserving artifacts. Visitors enjoy hands-on access to household items, furnishings and other artifacts that have a Sutton story. The artifacts, the stuff of the past, comprise an important and expected part of the role of a museum. People enjoy the butter churns and bed pans as well as other items common in the past but gone from our everyday life now. We appreciate the many, many contributions from people who have made possible our collections.

Among the items in the museum are the original dining room set in the historic house, the baggage cart from the Sutton depot, a bedroom set from the early Honey furniture store, high school annuals, Ebert sister paintings, Beulah Ochsner’s hats, and veterans’ stuff  – uniforms, memorabilia, photos; the list goes on and on.

The second part of the historic society’s mission involves finding and preserving information about Sutton’s past, not only preserving that information but distributing it for the education and entertainment of those with an interest in Sutton’s past.

This series of articles in Sutton Life Magazine has played an important part in distributing information that we uncover about the history of the Sutton area. There are so many stories about the deeds of earlier Sutton residents that have been lost from our collective memories or are known to only a few. The various outlets from the historical society give exposure to these stories.

A few of the forgotten, or almost forgotten stories we’ve uncovered include the story of William Wellman, a 14-year old Sutton newspaper publisher who became obsessed with hot air balloon travel attempting to reach the North Pole and Europe in his balloon; the Umma Luebbens’ invention of the round baler; Adeline Nolde’s design for the FFA emblem, the breadth of Ted Wenzlaff’s military career; Alida Curtiss’s Grafton and Sutton-based novel about her friend Nellie Stevens; Eugene Bemis’s book “The Squawker” and his career as publisher of the York New Teller newspaper; Herbert Johnson’s Saturday Evening Post covers; Betty Swanson’s immigration story from Sweden to Salt Lake City to Council Bluffs to Sutton and many, many more.

We’ve retold the stories of several better known Suttonites plus the stories of groups of people in the town’s past. Remember the article about Satch? All of us over a certain age remember that man. He was the identity of the town for several years. Out-of-town athletes knew Satch but how many in our younger generations had heard of him? If stories like his are lost our town will lose some of its personality.

Our newspaper column has also been in place for three years. There are stacks of old county newspapers in the basement of the news office. You could spend your own time going through those old papers to learn something of the story of Sutton’s past. Instead, we lay out the highlights from 25, 50, 75 and 100 years ago each week. Besides, one hundred year old deteriorating newsprint will not withstand much more handling.

Our online presence at offers yet another outlet for information about Sutton’s past. The advantages of the blog are that it is easily updated, can be as timely as today and it reaches people world-wide – it really does.

So there are two major categories of things the historical society does: stuff and stories. My personal preference is the stories part. And yes, I do have a passion for finding and retelling those stories.

We all need something to be passionate about. But those of us in the historical society are the first to admit that historical matters are not everyone’s interest, much less passion. If you don’t share our passion in historical matters I hope you have found your own. But if that is the case, why have you come this far in this article?
The Wolfe School District #55, a part of the Sutton Museum and fully furnished with desks, piano,
pot-belly stove and an assortment of period grade school textbooks.

Maintaining and developing the historical society demands effort and some money (yes, we have a light bill, insurance and lots more.) There is a small, and yes, passionate cadre of loyal workers and supporters of the historical society. We are proud when visitors comment on our products and acknowledge the work. But our small number constrains how much we can do.

Our visitors and those who contact us via email, phone calls and letters are actually skewed towards the non-residents, even the out-of-staters. People who once lived in Sutton or whose parents or grandparents were once residents maintain their interest in our town. We field a steady stream of requests for information about people who once lived here and someone is trying to reconstruct the memory of them. There is real satisfaction in fulfilling that kind of request.

Do you have even a glimmer of passion for the past? Or would you like to develop an interest? We would be thrilled to have you join us. There are numerous projects on our TODO list, projects that we think would add to our understanding of Sutton’s past and would educate and entertain. Just contact us and we’ll talk. We can show you what we’ve done and the kinds of things we’d like to do if we only had more hands involved.

The museum is open from 2 – 5 PM on Sundays or call 773-0222 for an appointment. Our monthly meetings are the first Tuesday of each month at 7:30 at the historic house, 309 N. Way Avenue. We have a fun gathering the first Saturday of each month with our Pancake Breakfast at the American Legion from 7:30 to10:30. The breakfasts provide a steady revenue stream that keeps our financial head close to the water line. Your enjoyment of the pancakes and conversation is an easy way for you to help out with that funding part of our challenges. Another kitchen volunteer or two would be great too.

So visit the museum and the blog, read the newspaper and continue to read our Sutton Life articles to enjoy our work. Better yet, join us and help us expand this service to the greater Sutton community.

This article first appeared in the July, 2012 issue of Sutton Life Magazine. For further information about Sutton Life Magazine or for a subscription, please visit: or call 402-984-4203.

Kuchen in Sutton and Around the World

The kuchen is a big part of the heritage of the Germans from Russia in Sutton. We celebrate this food product with a Kuchen Baking Contest each year during Dugout Days, typically the last weekend in June.

You can learn a bit more about this food at such sites as:   or .

Besides Sutton, Nebraska and the Dakotas, we found kuchens in a bakery in Lodi, California run by a woman from North Dakota. Her racks were filled daily with at least a hundred of the tasty custards of many flavors. And we were not especially surprised to find a food product for sale in Germany and Switzerland that was very similar to the kuchen. Both of those locations were in kiosks in train stations. The Friedrichstrasse Train Station in Berlin had a busy place dispensing kuchen but calling it by another name, something that started with an "s" and my have been 'spiesel" or something like that - memory fails.

A custard that looked and tasted much like the kuchen we are used to
 in Sutton , Nebraska purchased in the main train station in Zurich, Switzerland
The main station in Zurich also had a product for sale that looked and tasted much like kuchen. It certainly hit the spot early in the morning heading out on a day of sight-seeing.

It made sense to find kuchen in those places in Berlin and Zurich. Zurich is in the German speaking portion of Switzerland.

The real surprise was to find an item called "German Pastry" on the menu at a Chinese bakery in San Francisco.

I had to try out this German Pastry and guess what. This is what it looked like.

This is an item called "German Pastry" at a Chinese bakery in San Francisco.
It looks and tastes a whole lot like a plain kuchen from the Sutton Bakery.

I spoke with the owner of the place and the "chef." They said that one of their cooks in the past had introduced them to the German pastry and they had continued to make it after the fellow left. Neither of them could remember where the fellow had come from.

The Chinese bakery is pictured below. It is at 1941 Irving Street in San Francisco, just south of Golden Gate Park and between 20th and 21st Avenues.. There are two Sheng Kee Bakeries on Irving Street, the other being further to the east near 9th Avenue.

There are other Sheng Kee Bakeries in the Bay Area.

The Chinese Bakery that features a German Pastry, or kuchen - who'd a thought?

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Teddy Roosevelt stopped in Sutton September 20, 1912

A Presidential Candidate Made a Brief Stop in Sutton 100 Years Ago

Theodore Roosevelt, candidate for president on the Bull Moose Party ticket, stopped at the Sutton Depot on the afternoon of September 20, 1912. 

Retail politics at that time made good use of the railroad system making "whistle stops" along the route speaking to hundreds at each little town covering a lot of ground in a day. Compare with today's two or three, maybe four appearances a day with a few thousand people in each crowd.

News item in the September 26, 1912 edition of the Sutton Register

Roosevelt became the youngest president in September, 1901 following the assassination of William McKinley and was re-elected in 1904. He was succeeded by Taft in 1908 and attempted to earn the Republican nomination again in 1912. When Taft was renominated, Roosevelt formed a Third Party called the Bull Moose Part and became the third major candidate in the race. The split in the Republican Party assured the victory of Woodrow Wilson in the 1912 election. 

1912 Pyrotechnic Entertainment

Entertainment in 1912

So what was there to do 100 years ago? It looks like a drive to Hastings might have been worth it. Sorry I missed this...

Ad from the Sutton News newspaper September 27, 1912.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

1940 in Sutton

Let's take another look at a particular year in Sutton, this time 1940.

Ads from 1940 Sutton Newspapers

The 1940 census was released on April 2nd after being locked up for 72 years giving us a glimpse of who was doing what in our town. We also used the 1940 Sutton Register newspapers for a better image of the year.

Right off the bat, two things stand out. The country and especially our area were well on the way towards crawling out of the Great Depression. There is optimism in the tone of the newspaper articles. One newspaperman insisted that Nebraska was just one good crop away from recovery illustrating he saw weather as a bigger problem than economic and banking issues. Farm mortgage debt was 7 billion, the smallest figure in 20 years and down from over 9 ½ billion in prior decade. The record high was 11 billion in the early 20’s.

The other news that took up newspaper column space was the expanding war in Europe. Stories from the German side almost matched that of the English and the tone was much like a spectator of a sporting event. Writers seemed almost certain the US would not be dumb enough to get involved in another intra-European squabble.

Locally, florescent light was new at the Central Café. News reached town that local sports star Vic Kohler was wed in Hawaii during a bowl trip with his brother Morris and the rest of Oregon State football team. New license plates were red on blue drawing criticism that they would be better employed advertising for a carnival company.

Changing times threatened the K. C. & O rail line from Clay Center to Fairfield and the sixteen mile freight line from Sutton to Clay Center appeared doomed too.

Mystery birds appeared in yards, black, but not a blackbird, white bills, short tails and smaller than a robin. No one knew what it was.

The Sutton Register was $1.25 per year.

The county board of supervisors was Chairman Henry F. Tjarks, E. L. Smock, O. B. Percival, Fred Mock, Fred Kreil, John H. Schmer and Emil Hutline. Brothers-in-law Roy Oakley and Henry Vauck were in the midst of their long-running act as County Clerk and County Judge. Sheriff John J. Harr and Deputy Ralph Spencer policed the county.

There were a number of excuses to socialize: the Golden Rod Club, S. N. T. Club, Sutton Women’s Club, Fortnightly Club, P. E. O.’, J. U. T. and Fairview Club among others.

Prominent town boxers included Ray Roemmick, Allen Bender, Earl Plettner and Elmer Plettner.

But it is hard to beat the census for a cross-section of what people were doing and where. Sara Ebert was the enumerator for the census in the town of Sutton, Lee Lilliedahl counted noses in rural Sutton Township and my Dad, Clarence Johnson was the enumerator for School Creek Township. Yes, School Creek was the first thing I looked at when the census came online.

Let’s concentrate on businesses in Sutton. First, the gas stations stand out. William Ebert, Orville Levander, Alex McDonald, John A. Mathewson, Albert Hust, Herman Griess, George Reutzel, Chester Wesson, Adam Rasby, and William Wasson (gas station and café) all claimed to own or operate gas stations.

There were mechanics: Adolph Ekhardt, Reuben Wiard, Carl Unterseher, William Stertz plus Art Wach and LeRoy Cronin at the Ford garage,   

A fine figure of a vehicle - the 1940 Chevrolet
Four people, Gerald Nuss, Henry L. Rothrock, Ronald Spielman and pianist Helen Levander were listed as being with an orchestra.

Alexander Bauer and Ewald Nuss were bakers. (E.T.’s name was Ewald, didn’t know that.)      

Blacksmiths were William Steward and Fred Ehly. John Reifschneider called himself a junk dealer. Sibyl Jarrett was the librarian, of course.

Grocery stores were operated by Robert M. Figi, William Wieland and William Schmidt (also with dry goods).

Remember the produce stations? Floyd Sinner had one, John Eberhard listed himself as “cream tester” – that lasted a while. Emil Ochsner and son Milton ran a hatchery and developed an incubator as was done in Clay Center. (One of Emil’s is in the porch at the historic house.) Henry Haberman Jr. told the enumerator that he was a hired hand at a chicken ranch.

Henry Scheideman and Peter Scheierman were butchers; barbers Earl Atkins, Paul D. Welch and Goss Randall checked in and Frank Weston was a hardware merchant. 

Paul Ebert had a café, wife Nora was the cook and daughter Ursula was the waitress. Reuben Nuss was also a cook in a café.

Other merchants included: Earnest Jones, retail; Gottlieb Tesler, grocer; Fred Hanke, tailor shop; Albertis Lewis, jewelry store; and Carl Bruckner, variety store;

Herman V Nuss and Joseph Welch identified as Medical Doctors and Dr. Welch doubled as the mayor. Dentists were David J. Pope, Dwight Dulaigh, Herbert J. Ocshner and Gilbert Wieland. Dr. James S. Barbee had begun the long association of his name with Sutton veterinarian services. George Miller, Lee Lilliedahl and Theodore McKibben all plied the pharmacy trade.

Alfred Snedgren was superintendent of schools.

There were bankers: William and Nellie Hoerger, Edd and Walter Kirchefer while Samuel J. Carney listed his occupation as banker and his industry as hardware. Margaret Carney was “Editor – talking books.” (What was that?)

Lillian Phelps had her millinery shop, Jess Giffen managed a Ladies Ready-to-Wear shop as did Anna Bauer, Charles and Lila Gibson were manager and cashier at the Lyric Theater, Clarence Hurst was the bookkeeper at an implement dealer, Clair Nelson managed the bowling alley and Gottlieb Ehly was a cemetery sexton.

Five Sutton city residents listed rural mail carrier as their job: George Barnell, Olen Whitlcok, Wesley McDonald, George Schwab and Guy Swanson (our mailman on RR #2 northwest of town).

On Maltby Street we find sisters Anna, Martha and Selma Ebert, ladies this farm kid never knew, regrettably. Francis Lombardi was the priest. The hospital staff was Anna Stockham, manager; Maxine Johnson, trained nurse and Gracie Urbauer, practical nurse.

John Fuehrer was a painter and paper hanger but his son Edwin was trying his hand as a meat cutter at a grocery store – that worked out well. Fuehrer’s cheese spread is good today but who remembers his braunschweiger and his efforts to reverse engineer the Kraft product?

Tavern owners and bartenders Walter Green, Jacob Serr and Lucas Trebelhorn were serving that thirsty market. The insurance business was represented by John C. Grosshans, Martin Challburg (he had two dogs in the fifties, or were those ponies?) and Mrs. Mayme W. Clark was a hail and tornado insurance agent, really.

Herman Lorenzen sold Rawleigh products. Victor Kohler was the gymnasium janitor. This would have been between seasons of professional football in Boston and dad Otto was the undertaker. William Rickard and a few others identified with WPA road construction.

Emma Huffman was the supervisor, NYA Sewing Project. There were several young seamstresses learning that craft in Sutton in the Sewing Project. The National Youth Administration was a New Deal agency in the WPA from 1935 through 1943 and unlike the CCC, the NYA also served women. Lyndon Johnson once served as its Texas director.

John Helzer and others reported their occupation as “Book Repair, WPA Library Project.” Employees of this project repaired and re-conditioned tens of millions of books in school and public libraries in 45 states in another New Deal employment program.

This has not been an exhaustive list of Suttonites in business, professions and trades but a cross-section of those listed in the 1940 census. To calibrate the population, kids who were five in 1940 were in the high school graduating classes about 1953 and are approaching their 60th reunion, a lot of folks, to be sure. Many in the ’40 census carried on in the same or similar positions for decades and are well within the memories of many more of us.

We hope you enjoyed this look back at Sutton 72 years ago and at the people who were walking the streets, buying and selling in these store buildings and doing their part to prepare the town for us, today. The 2010 census will be released in January, 2082. What will that little kid in the stroller you saw today think about when she sees your name in that ancient 2010 census record?

This article first appeared in the June 2012 issue of Sutton Life Magazine. For further information about Sutton Life Magazine or for a subscription visit

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Carolyn Ackermann Doll Collection

The historical society will soon be able to proudly display the extensive doll collection of the late Carolyn Ackermann of Geneva and of the Sutton Ackermann and Scheiermann families.

Carolyn's family recently offered the collection to the Sutton Museum as a means to meet Carolyn's wish that her collection remain intact and not be sold.

Members of the historical society are making plans about the best ways to display and to honor the collection and the pride of the collector.

Sutton History TIDBIT - the Bemis Cow

Mrs. George Bemis (Ada Augusta Gray) told this story in her "Reminiscences of a Sutton Pioneer" in the October 19, 1933 issue of the Sutton Register when she was living in York. The story probably took place about 1871 or '72, soon after they had settled in Sutton. The "spouse" in the story is George Bemis, one of the early attorneys in Sutton.

"We bought a cow, and it was brought home one night and milked with great ceremony. The next morning when my spouse made no move to repeat, I finally asked him if it was not time to milk, and to my great amazement, he said, 'Why, are you out of milk already?' Heretofore, he had owned only driving horses and the care of other domestic animals was a mystery to him."

Monday, July 30, 2012

1880 Sutton Advertisers - Clay County Globe

We have received a dandy little scrap book titled "The History of Clay and Fillmore Counties" from the Sheridan family, another of Betty Sheridan's gems.

The book contained a clipping from the Sutton Register in 1931 in which they quote from a copy of The Clay County Globe that was printed in Sutton on Friday, November 5, 1880. It was Vol. 6, No. 20 implying that the Globe had been in publication for some time. The issue included the news that Garfield had defeated Hancock for the presidency. But a very interesting piece was the list of advertising in that issue of the Globe. This was not an extensive list of Sutton businesses in 1880 but just the list of advertisers in one issue of a weekly newspaper.

Attorneys:  H. W. Gray, R. G. Brown, Bagley & Bemis, Stone & Stone, A. A. McCoy and J. S. LeHew

Doctors:  A. O. Kendall, M. V. Clark and A. H. Keller

Druggists:  W. J. Keller and H. H. Keller

General Merchandise:  M. Wittenberg, Merrill & Co. and John Honey & Sons

Dry Goods & Clothing:  Stein & Kramer

Hardware:  I. N. Clark & Co. and Way & Hoerger

Implements:  Thompson & Bros. and A. C. Clyde

Bakery and Confectionery:  W. W. Wieden

Dentist:  J. H. Johnson

Masons and Plasterers:  H. B. Batteshill and C. M.& W. A. Heusel

Wells & Pumps:  J. S. Lewis & Son

Harness: John A. Ling and Jos. Grice

Jeweler:  Paul Braitsch

Hotels: Clark House and French Hotel

Groceries:  Roberts Bros.

Photographer and Tin Types:  W. A. Fowler

Millinery: Mrs. C. Braun

Livery: Hawkins & Torrey and Moon & Roberts

Wagon Maker:  K. T. Jones

Blacksmith:  Lehrman & Nagel

Meat Market: Bemis & Barnhart

Tailor:  Geo. H. Sporl

Flour and Feed:  J. W. Heusel