Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Honest Headlinesman - Clay Co. Invention

Radical Football Measurement Device: This is the story of two Clay Center gents who became disgusted with the rules of football. There they were, it was 1938 and rules required that just to measure the progress of a football team down the field, three men from the sidelines had to stop the game, pick up a couple of sticks tied together with a chain, run all the way out into the field, sometimes all the way across the football field, set the stakes, stretch the chain and then, and only then, see if the ball had been advanced far enough for a First Down.

Then those three men would pick up their two stakes with the chain, traverse the distance back to their sideline, reset the sticks on the sideline and then, finally then signal for the game to resume.

Disgusting. You would think that by 1938 some kind of better system would have been invented.

So Leonard (Bum) Cassell and D. B. Massie, both of Clay Center devised the mechanical Honest Headlinesman to streamline and speed up the game of football, improve accuracy of measurements and keep the game running smoothly for the players and fans.

This description of the device appeared in the Clay County Sun newspaper on May 5, 1938. The device was implemented in high school conferences on one college conference in the fall of 1938. It lasted for a few years and faded from the scene.

Clearly, an idea whose time has still not arrived.

Personal note: Leonard Cassell was better known to me as Uncle Bum. - Jerry Johnson, Sutton Historical society.

Little Nebraska Annie

Minnie (Rowe) Crabb, 1886 Sutton High grad likely when she was living in New Mexico. We do not know the circumstances of this photo but one wonders if the costume designer for a certain 1939 Judy Garland film might not have seen this pic.

Among the ten names in the Sutton Alumni Directory for the graduates of the class of 1886, the school’s third class is Minnie Rowe listed with her married name of Minnie Crab. It’s probably be a good bet that no one in Sutton today ever heard of Minnie Rowe.

That changed a couple of weeks ago when a small package arrived in P. O. Box 92 for the Sutton Historical Society. Minnie’s grandson, a retired college professor had assembled a biography of his Grandma Minnie with the text and photos of her life – her diaries, the text of books and poems she wrote, her family story and more.

Our articles normally require an effort: pick a topic, determine if there might be enough material, research that material, organize a proper article and then write it. Imagine the excitement of finding a topic with organized material of a story ready for the telling. So, thanks to David Thayer of Coralville, Iowa for sending the story of Minnie Rowe back to Sutton.

Minnie Rowe was born in 1870 to Joseph and Mary (Whatton) Rowe in Leicester, an industrial city in the middle of England. The men in Joseph’s family were listed in the English census as “cordwainers” who were shoemakers but generally associated with a better class of shoes especially leather shoes and other luxury footwear.  Joseph owned a shoe factory and Mary was the supervisor of the women workers.        

In 1872 Joseph sold his factory, packed up his family of wife and five kids including two-year old Minnie, his mother and step-father and two step-brothers and headed for Nebraska “where oranges grow” or so he was told. Well, Osage orange is another name for a hedge apple.

The family arrived in Boston and took the train west to Sutton and bit more to the rail stop of Inland. Apparently Inland was just across the line into Adams County at that time. The brothers filed for two homesteads just north of the railroad tracks northeast of that Inland settlement. The account of homesteading makes it sound like as a farmer, Joseph was a darn good shoemaker. Within a year he pulled up stakes and came back to Sutton setting up a small shop to make and sell shoes.

Joseph was no more than the second Sutton cobbler. One of his step-brothers, William Wollman preceded him becoming Sutton’s first shoemaker according to the Andreas History of Nebraska. Wollman had some experience in the pulpit in England and was recruited by Sutton folk to serve as their first preacher until a real one made it to the new town.

Just a word here about the surnames. Joseph Rowe’s mother was Harriet Rowe who later married John Wollman. Joseph kept his mother’s maiden name and grew up in the Wollman family with their eight children.

The Wollman and Rowe brothers must have had some influence in the community as the northwest township in Clay County became Leicester Township named after their home town. The pressing question here is, “How do you pronounce “Leicester?” I’ve heard a range of attempts though many avoid trying. The font of all useful knowledge, Wikipedia includes audio clips of such words. The mechanical voice says something close to “lesta” – a spelling that would have saved some paper over the years.

Thus, Minnie Rowe arrived in Sutton where she graduated at the age of 16 in 1886. There is one other Rowe, Grace who graduated in 1893 but she does not show up with this Rowe family.

Minnie taught grade school in Albion right after high school. Among the documents pictured in the material from her grandson is a teaching certificate from Adams County issued in January 1892. The back is endorsed by officials from Hamilton and Boone Counties and by G. M. Graham, Co. Supt., Clay Co.

She attended Hastings College and one of her poems is identified with “Hastings 1890.”

In 1890 and 1891 Minnie took a trip to England where she visited siblings who did not emigrate and other family members. Her diary from that trip is only one of the segments of diaries included in Mr. Thayer’s story of Grandma Minnie.

Minnie met a young man when she was at Hastings College. Charles Crabb was from Fairmont who
Minnie (Rowe) Crabb’s wedding picture, June, 1901, Stockham, Nebraska
completed two years of college before running out of money. He went back Fairmont until he heard of a new college in York. He persuaded the school master to let him teach a few preparatory classes so he could afford to continue his own college studies. Those circumstances gave him a firm grip on the pole position and a good head start to be one of two in the first graduating class at York College in 1894 – the next class was in 1897.

Charles and Minnie married in June of 1901 while she was teaching and was the assistant principal at Stockham High School.

Charles and Minnie Crabb lived in Missouri; New Mexico; Oklahoma; Deer Lodge, Montana and Los Gatos, California during their married life.

Charles was a chemist, published a country newspaper and was an ore buyer and assayist for Sherman-Williams Paint Company for a time. The paint company sent him to Kelly, New Mexico, now a ghost town near Magdalena, NM. So what kind of mine do you suppose to be working in? The family does not have
Downtown Stockham, Halloween, 1900 where Minnie 
taught school and was the assistant principal.
solid evidence for the answer but Mr. Thayer and I would guess a lead mine.

A bit of research uncovers that the mines at Kelly did produce lead and silver but the interesting story involves turquoise rock in the waste tailings of the mines. After the mines played out someone sent some of this waste off to be analyzed only to learn that it was an uncommon jewelry grade rock found only in a few places in the world. Labs at the Smithsonian did that work and the rock was named smithsonite. A “kelly mine new mexico” search will lead you more on this story including a couple of youtube videos or the Kelly Mine.

All during these adventures our Sutton grad was keeping diaries, writing poetry and stories, many about places she lived including Clay County. Minnie had also been known as Myrtle but she appears to have not been fond of either name. She chose to write under the name of Little Nebraska Annie.

One of her products was a set of children’s books called “Mrs. Gray Bunny Books” which do warrant an entry at amazon.com but are out of print, surely to no one’s surprise.

The temperance movement figured in much of her writings including the bunny books and when the Crabbs moved to Los Gatos, California in 1925 Minnie became active in the Women’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) attacking the perils of Demon Alcohol. It was in 1940 while returning from a WCTU meeting in San Francisco on her way home to Los Gatos that Minnie and a friend entered the busy San Jose intersection of Stevens Creek Boulevard and Winchester Boulevard, were hit by a drunk driver and both killed. Karma.

Minnie (Rowe) Crabb’s story again illustrates that the interesting history of a community includes the stories of its people, however loosely connected and however minor that connection may be. Minnie Rowe’s story was likely completely lost to us unless her grandson graciously thought to share his work preserving her memory for her family.

Minnie walked along Saunders Avenue many years ago, shopped Sutton stores and had close friends here but she left no lasting footprints and hardly any memories of herself. We hope that you and the Sutton community enjoy making, and re-making her acquaintance. 

This article appeared in the March, 2013 issue of Sutton Life Magazine. For further information about this publication contact Jarod Griess at 402-984-4203 or at neighborhoodlife@yahoo.com

Sutton's All-Time Top Sports Story

1922 Championship Trophy engraved with names 
of eight players and Coach Knapple.

How do you pick an all-time “Top” thing? Was the Nebraska football dynasty of 1994-1997 superior to Alabama 2009-2012? What could really prove the question one way or the other?

Our question here is “What is the All-Time top Sutton sports story?”

There are several candidates: the football careers of Johnny Bender or Morrie Kohler, the boxing team as well as an array of championship banners in the high school gym. My candidate is one of those banners, the 1922 Sutton High School basketball team. Follow their story and tell me I’m wrong.

Sutton High won the Class A championship that year. They were Class B champions three years earlier. Visit the NSAA tournament history site at https://nsaahome.org/textfile/bask/bbball.htm if you’re curious about class structure of that era. Spoiler alert: it’ll take some time.

Sutton had a good regular season in 1922 with only four losses. Omaha Central was considered one of the fastest teams in the state beating Sutton 20-13 with Phil Steinhauer scoring 10 of those 13. The trip was a split with the boys beating Ashland on the way home 27-11.

Another loss came at Lincoln High though the local team won the rematch at home later in the season by 23-16. There was a loss to Geneva and a 19-10 loss to Clay Center. Accounts are incomplete and sometimes ambiguous, but there was apparently a 37-1 win over York and wins over Superior, Hastings, Grand Island and Omaha Commerce (later Tech) among others.
The 1922 Class A Championship banner in today’s gym.

We should mention Sutton’s home basketball court of the era. The gym was below the basement of the big brick school building southeast of downtown. If that school were a house, the gym was the fruit cellar, a full flight of stairs below the basement. The east sideline was a brick wall. Court length was scrunched so that the center jump circle intersected the keyhole circles – not just a little. Opponents called it “The Crackerbox.”

Clay Center won the Clay County tournament with a second win over Sutton 26-25 score when a Sutton buzzer-beating shot, didn’t. But their overall record qualified the Sutton Mustangs for the state tournament joining Clay Center in Class A competition.

Sutton defeated Fremont in the opening state tournament game 20-9 (or 22-9 or 30-12 depending on which contemporary account you’d like to use. This kind of research can be as much art as science.) Clay Center went down to Hastings in the first round 19-8.

Sutton’s second game was a rematch with Omaha Commerce who had won the 1921 championship and defeated Central in the first round. Sutton beat them for the second time by 16-2. Commerce became Omaha Tech the next year and won championships in ’23, ’25 and ’26.

The Mustangs reached the finals by beating Grand Island 13-9.

Two hundred and sixteen teams competed in the various classes with attendance well above previous meets. Presentations of trophies for all lower classes were completed before the Class A final game between Sutton and Crete. Crete was a much taller team led by a 6’ 7” standout. The shorter Sutton captured the support of one of the largest crowds in the coliseum to date.

It was a close exciting game led by great team play by Sutton. The Mustangs led by 6-5 at the half led by forward Milton Wieland’s who finished with seven points. Our local team prevailed 13-11 to earn that Class A banner in today’s gym.

You might expect that winning the Class A State Championship would be a fitting end to a glorious season and by itself, would have made this team’s performance competitive to be Sutton’s top all-time sports story, but these fellows weren’t done yet. They now faced a Dakota challenge.

Yankton High School had won the South Dakota state championship and then won a series with the North Dakota champions. Yankton offered a “loving cup” as a trophy for the winner of a three game series with Sutton – challenge accepted.

The Yankton newspaper account of the first game raved of the “fastest and cleverest” game on the local floor in years. It was 10-10 at the half and a final of Sutton 24 to Yankton’s 17. The “Bucks” promised a better second game and delivered in the first half for a 9-1 lead. Sutton recovered to trail 17-10 with eight minutes to go then ripped off eleven straight points to win the second game 21-17.

Two wins secured the loving cup in the best of three series with one more game to play, a game won by Yankton 23-17. The Sutton News pointed out that Sutton players were distracted by news of their continuing season.

University of Chicago coach Amos Alonzo Stagg (a character himself) had a vision of a national high school basketball championship tournament. His 1917 effort kicked off that dream before World War I intervened. His ’20 and ’21 tournaments gained ground and in 1922 he moved the meet to April to accommodate state champs. Sutton businessmen contacted Stagg, raised funds and Sutton was one of twelve state champs among the 32 team field.

The Mustang’s first opponent was the Illinois state champion from Canton. Again, Sutton fell behind 16-10 at the half before Gilbert Wieland and Harvey Schwarz led a spurt to a 27-23 win. Mt. Vernon, Ohio defeated Sutton’s friends from Yankton to become the next opponent.

Sutton lost to Mt. Vernon in that second game. The Sutton News story was headlined, “Cagers Get Measles” describing that the team had gotten sick before the game. The Sutton yearbook mentions fatigue from travels and the effects of Dakota water. Philip Steinhauer’s memory supported the second option – the team had a collective serious digestive condition that forced them to play with only three men on the court for a time.

Yes, it was a Great Run (pun intended.)

Who were these fellows?
The Starting Five of Sutton’s 1922 Class A Championship team – l to r: Milton Wieland, forward; Herbert “Piggy” Spielman, guard; Team Captain Philip Steinhauer,forward; Coach Frank Y. Knapple; Gilbert “Gibb” Wieland, guard and Harvey “Blackie” Schwarz, center.

Forward Philip Steinhauer was team captain. He became a successful farmer just north of town and served on the county board of supervisors for many years.

Milton Wieland was the other forward, later a Lincoln dentist.

Harvey (or Henry or “Blackie”) Schwarz was the center and team captain in 1923. He later lived in Oceanside, California.

Herbert “Piggy” Spielman was a guard and became a coach in Pilger and Minden by 1940.

Gilbert “Gibb” Wieland, Milton’s cousin, was the other guard and became a dentist in Sutton.

The bulk of playing time went to the five starters. Three reserves earned engravings on the state trophy. Earl Vauck was usually the first sub – later Sutton businessman and mayor. Edwin Wieland, Gilbert’s older brother, served for a time as Clay County School Superintendent. The third substitute was Milton Grosshans, an Alliance pharmacist in 1940.

A pre-season news article listed Alex Kahm, E. Rauscher, C. Wolfe, Leo Grosshans and Fred Schultz as trying out for the team.

Sutton’s second year coach was 25-year old Francis Y. (Frank) Knapple of Lexington. He had played four years at Cotner College in northeast Lincoln and was the basketball coach at Omaha Central about 1950. Knapple was the Douglas County School Superintendent in 1963.

The post-season exploits of the 1922 basketball team is my candidate for Sutton’s All-Time Top Sports Story. Do you have a better one? Lemme know.
Local newspaper headline from March 17, 1922
for the Class A State Basketball Champions.

This article first appeared in the February, 2013 issue of Sutton Life Magazine. For further information about this publication contact Jarod Griess at 402-984-4203 or neighborhoodlife@yahoo.com.


Sunday, April 28, 2013

New 1913 Harvard Town Marshal

Research for our weekly Clay County News column regularly turns up interesting history told in the distinctive journalistic style of the times.

These items, the first and third, not the vandalism item though that's worth the time also, attempt to tell the story of the May, 1913 turnover in the position of Town Marshall in Harvard, Nebraska. Our interpretation appears after the clipping.

O.K. What happened? It appears that the incumbent marshal was appointed by the mayor in May, 1912 but did not ever receive the blessing of the city council. Why not? "...division in the council upon the license question." What does that mean? I'd guess Mr. Hickman found himself, at the moment, on the wrong side of the alcohol/prohibition discussion.

As for the new marshal, we are not given his name just this not to strangers describing the new fellow in a manner that suggests everyone in town was imminently familiar with him. Clearly, the editor was comfortable describing him this way - must have been a pretty good friend.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Early History of Clay Center

This story of the early history of Clay Center appeared in two parts in the March 10th and 17th issues of the Clay County Sun in 1938. It was written by Faye Palmer, daughter of long-time publisher of the Sun.