Tuesday, December 30, 2014

The Israelsons

In 1877, Andrew P. Israelson of Henry County, Illinois purchased 160 acres of railroad land three miles west of Sutton joining the Swedish community in Saronville. Nine of his twelve children survived infancy and came to Clay County with him, four boys and five girls or enough of a brood to put a large Israelson stamp on the community.

So where are all those Israelsons today? We don’t meet them on the street or find any in the phone book. What happened?

Before we get into the story(s) of the Israelson descendants, let’s learn a little about this early Sutton area immigrant settler.

Little Anders Peter was born in January 8, 1824. His father was Israel Carlsson; his mother was Catharena Petersdotter. At least that’s what we think we know when we squint at the handwriting in images of church records from the village of Asby in Östergötland, Sweden. We are looking at the cursive handwriting of a rural Swedish church official 191 years ago. What could possibly go wrong?
An offical of the Asby Kyrka recorded the birth of Anders Peter Israrelson in January, 1828 identifying his father as Isarel
Carlsson of the Hultet torp under Norrby. So we know the name of his house near the village. 

Were it up to me, he’d have been born on the 6th of January but keener eyes than mine have determined that squiggle to be an “8” and so be it.

His parents’ names have come down to us as Israel Carlsson and Catterina Petersdotter, names which illustrate patronymic naming convention that was prominent in Sweden in the 19th Century.

We need a few words about that naming scheme in which a kid’s last name, the surname is based on the father’s first name, not his last name. Here, Israel Carlsson’s kids all had the last name of Israelson and girls would sometimes, not always have Israelsdotter for a surname. The double “s” we see in the Carlsson name was also optional.

The Israelson family of Saronville came from the small village of Asby in
Östergötland, Sweden about 1851. (This image is from Google Earth.)
The string of male ancestors for Anders (Andrew) Israelson shows the pattern: Israel Carlsson, Karl Röriksson, Rörik Månsson, Måns Eriksson and Erik Amundsson. We have no record of Erik’s father but we can guess his first name was Amund. Don’tja think? The use of the “C” and “K” in Carlsson and Karl was pretty loose too.

Swedes were not the only ones who used naming systems unlike the one we are use.. Patronymic systems were and still are widespread. Indian tradition gives the kid dad’s first name as a middle name. Arabic “ibn” and Hebrew “ben” both mean “son of.” The English used the “-son” suffix and also borrowed “fitz” from the French, actually from the Normans. “Mac” or “Mc” did the same thing for the Irish and Scots and there are “van” and “von” name elements elsewhere. Russians and other slavs use variations of “-ovich” to point to their father. And the list goes on. When people started to use two names, it was natural to put the second name to use to talk about lineage.

But back to our guy. Andrew Peter Israelson married Charlotte Sophia Larsdotter on March 8, 1851, not sure where. Her birth record is easier to read than his. Even I can make out Lars Svenson and Stina Svensdotter as her parents. Her name was listed as “Lotta” followed again by squiggles.
The Asby Kyrka (church) has preserved an earlier structure behind today's
building. Ancestors of many Sutton/Saronville families are buried in this
churchyard. (Image from Google Earth, Street View)
Andrew and Charlotte arrived in the U.S. either later in 1851 or possibly in 1852. Their first child, daughter Emma Caroline was born in Illinois in December, 1852; eleven more children would be born to the family before the move to Clay County in 1877. Three of the last five children did not survive infancy.

The Israelson’s began farming in Clay County on that quarter of railroad land. Later Andrew filed for a homestead on a neighboring section and he and Charlotte lived in the Saronville community the rest of their lives; she died in 1906, he in ’09.

So how come the Israelson family did not survive here?

There were four boys to carry the name forward. They all would use the Israelson name as this is where the Swedish patronymic system did not survive the trip to American and would be discontinued by the Swedish government – to very little distress as I understand it.

After Emma came John William. He had one daughter, Ruth; they moved to Pasadena and Ruth died at 22.

Son Richard had four kids, two sons but neither of them had children.

Andrew Grant Israelson was quite a fixture in the Saronville community. Among other things, he was the correspondent for all matters about Saronville for the county newspapers. He had four children but neither son remained in the area. A. G. Israelson died in 1945

The last hope to keep the Israelson name going long term in Saronville was the George Gilbert Israelson the fourth surviving son. He married Alma Jarrett. Alma was one of four daughters of Leonard Jarrett, one of two Confederate veterans buried in the Sutton Cemetery. Alma and George lived only a short time in Washington state before she died in 1907. Hers is the only grave in the Sutton Cemetery bearing the Israelson name.

George and his second wife, Lizzie Housel had a son in Washington and there is a son in the next generation carrying the Israelson name in the Pacific Northwest.
Andrew Israelson and wife Charlotte are seated on the left. We date this photograph to pre-1890 ad the complete family
including all children who made it past infancy are included. Daughter Phebe, likely standing at the left, died in 1890 at
the age of 25 giving us a last-possible date for the picture. 

There are other descendants elsewhere carrying the surname including two teachers in the Grand Island Northwest system in the not-too-distant past. And I’ve corresponded with others, but none locally. So the Israelson name isn’t in our phone book, our voting roles or the driver’s license of anyone around here.

Does that mean that the Israelson family no longer exists in Clay County? Let’s think about this. Do we assume that only the male line carries the family forward? Is that true? It is true for the surname itself, but only for the surname. Moms do have something to contribute to the continuing a family, don’t you think? Let’s look at the daughters in Andrew and Charlotte’s family.

Emma married a fellow named Adolph Aspegren and they had 15 children, nine made it to adulthood, three died as infants and the others at ages 6, 12 and 20. They are also my great, grandparents.

Not all local Aspegren’s come from this family. Adolph’s brother Carl Gustaf contributed his share so there are Aspegren-related Israelsons as well as all those other in-laws.

Martha Israelson married Frank Pontine; Christina became Mrs. Erick Nelson and Mary Hannah married Charles Gustav Hultman.

Granddaughter Cecilia Aspegren married a Johnson with a sizeable family representation still in the area. Her sister Amanda married an Erickson and had five sons. Ella Aspegren became a Rudeen and Edith a Venell.
Andrew Israelson died February 5, 1909 and is buried in the Saronville
Methodist Cemetery northeast of Saronville and northeast of the Lutheran

Subsequent generations of Israelson descendants carry other last names including Lemkau, Unterseher, McKenzie, Mau, Reutzel, Saathoff, Douglas, Van Patten, Hurst, Serr, Rolfes and lots of others. Plus, traces of the Israelson genetic cloud has dispersed coast-to-coast with their disguised identities.

So, contrary to first appearances, the Israelson Family is still a part of the Saronville/Sutton community and is flourishing quite well, thank you.

Another illustration of our large under-the-radar families is the Walton family picnic I grew up with the second Sunday of every August, sometimes in Sutton but also in Clay Center, Edgar or Hastings. There were often nearly 100 people at the picnic, but no Waltons. A distant cousin in Geneva, Gale Walton, the furrier attended early on, but that was it, never a Walton in sight. My great, Grandmother Rhoda Walton died in1932; her father Isaiah Walton died in 1894 but it was still the Walton Family Picnic.

A common form of family research is to identify one ancestral family and trace all of their descendants rather than looking for the ancestors of an individual. In this illustration I’ve taken one of my sets of great, great grandparents Andrew and Charlotte Israrelson and examine their descendants, which of course go deeper today than fourth generation that I represent. Remember, we have eight sets of 2nd great grandparents each equally deserving of this treatment.

For me those eight family surnames were Jonasson, Klintberg, Aspegren, Israelson, Cassell (or Cassels), Maxwell, Rowlison and Walton, the eight family surnames of my eight 2nd great grandfathers. But as I’ve maintained here the family lines of those wives, my 2nd great grandmothers adds the family surnames of Petersdotter, Persdotter, a second Petersdotter (no relation to the other one – dad’s names were “Peter”), Larsdotter, Laing, Inglis, Kinnear and Hall.

Everyone has a genetic tree with 16 people on the tree four generations back, whether you know their names or not. They were there for you, all eight men and all eight women. Step back one more generation and you will find 16 fathers and 16 mothers, each providing you with a different family surname. And so on, and so on and so on. Every baby has a rich family history before they even utter that first cry.

Members of the Sutton Historical Society have a program in place which helps to remember these family names which have faded from phone books and other current lists. The Brick Project consists of a large footprint of inscribed bricks commemorating the people of the community, past and present. For more information about that project, stop by the museum or call.
Andrew and Charlotte Israelson are among the 250 past and present Sutton area founders, settlers and other residents
remembered on commemorative bricks at the museum. They were your author's great, great grandparents. 

This article first appeared in the November, 2014 issue of Sutton Life Magazine. Contact Jarod Griess at 402-984-4203 for more information or at neighborhoodlife@yahoo.com

The Clock is Ticking and our Heritage is Slipping Away

Is this worth saving?

The Central Block - centerpiece of the south end of downtown Sutton dated 1887 is 128 years old as we move into 2015.

Sutton residents are fortunate to have some of the finest historic buildings in the area which depict the once-common architecture of plains frontier towns. And many of us are proud of our downtown.

But age is creeping through the foundations, the frame and the facades of each building. Left alone each and every one of these buildings will gradually, maybe faster than that, deteriorate past the point where no amount of effort and expense will save them. Drive to Clay Center, Harvard and other surrounding towns to see our future, unless...........

Arresting the deterioration of old buildings is a formidable prospect, and expensive. The beauty and historic significance of downtown Sutton is a community asset. We cannot expect the individual owners of the pieces of our downtown to carry the full load of determining whether or not downtown Sutton will have any look similar to today's in ten, twenty or thirty years. The Central Block is 128 years old. What will the west side of the south business district look like in 2050? Or the west side of the north end? Or the Bender Building? Unless.....

A few years ago there was a small group which made noises and some actual action to address the question of preserving downtown Sutton. The time was not ripe, or the effort was not there, or the hurdles were just too high. All that's changes since that time is that the situation has worsened. That will continue, unless.....

Unless what? Unless some sufficiently large group of Sutton residents and organizations decide that preserving downtown is a worthwhile objective and put some collection of smart heads together to figure out how, it soon won't matter.

The first question really is, "Is it worth it to save downtown Sutton's historic appearance?" And "No" really is a legitimate answer to the question. In fact, that is the implicit answer currently being "voiced." Is it not? Is that a consensus?

If not, let's do something.

Sutton's Sesquicentennial approaches - 150 years since the beginning of our town. We have choices about which specific event to measure 150 years from but current planning is for the year 2021, 150 years since the community of the banks of School Creek went from one homesteader to a hundreds of people, a railroad and dozens of businesses between April and the end of the year.

Wouldn't it be a great 150th Birthday Party for Sutton and Suttonites to celebrate the 150 year history of the community AND the prospect that the distinctive appearance of downtown Sutton will be here to enjoy for another generation or two or.........?

This comment has been inspired by a small cadre that is ready to stir the pot on this question. Stand by to be stirred.....

Jerry Johnson
402-773-0222 or better yet, comment below...

S U T T O N in 1 9 2 0

By Jerry Johnson & the Sutton Historical Society
Advertisements provide a cross-section of life of the times. These ads from the 1920 Sutton Times newspaper supplement the
clues we find the census to develop a picture of what our town was like 95 years ago. The George Auto Company was very proud of the Light Six and their $1385 price for the Studie. 
In the whole town of Sutton there was only one mechanic in 1920, Elmer Scherer, according to the census. He must have been busy, unless the eleven fellows who identified as “machinist” were taking some of the auto repair work.

A couple years ago at the time the 1940 census became public, we did an article using that census to describe what Sutton was like in the year 1940. Now we go back two decades and examine the 1920 census in Sutton and take a look at Sutton that year.

Oscar Dalgren had one of the two dairies in Sutton in 1920.
He advertised regularly in The Sutton News.
Before delving into the actual census, let’s remind ourselves of the “big picture.” The World War had ended barely a year earlier. Serviceman had recently returned. The mood in the country and in Sutton must have been riding an upward slope. War spending boosts the economy and when production capacity is redirected from war material to civilian products and people have money to make a market, the standard of living will rise. Good Times.

George Barnell was the census enumerator in January, 1920. He visited both the first and second wards in Sutton plus that portion of School Creek Township which was within the city limits of Sutton. The enumerator identified the trade and industry of each employed individual. About 300 of the 1600 people counted in Sutton listed their job (trade) and business (industry); the rest were the young, the old and housewives. There were years when “keeping house” or blanks were used to identify non-employed women. The 1920’s “None” seems cold.

A couple things jump out at us from the beginning of this examination. The railroad was important for the development of the town but probably more importantly it provided employment for lots of townspeople. There were many teachers, merchants and salespersons, but perhaps the largest industry in Sutton in 1920 was listed on the census was in the “House” industry. That included plasterers, painters, brick masons and at least 18 carpenters. House construction in 1920 must have been in full swing.

House building means folks in real estate: A. W. Clark, Adolph Eckhardt, Fred Grosshans, W. F. Hoerger, C. J. Hughes, Chas Hultman, Peter Nuss, Henry Grosshans and H. M. Hanson. There were plumbers: C. R. Neuman, Clarence Conkin, the Untersehers, Fred and L. G and a fellow named Art Kessler.

J. W. Thompson, H. H Schultz and James Stone were Sutton’s Medical Doctors in 1920. Practical or
Dr. Stone was a new doc in town with offices over the City
State Bank, today's Cornerstone Bank corner. 
trained nurses included Lydia Horst, Marie Schwarz and Selma Schwarz. Dentists were D. W. Dulaugh, G. M. Griess, Ferdinand Griess, D. J. Pope and M. P. Yocum. The dentists needed assistants. Annie Anderson and Leah Ochsner called themselves Office Girls in dental offices. There were two office girls in doctor’s offices too, Selma Ebert and Hildegard Griess.

Carl Held and the Lillidoll’s, Lee and Nels were the town druggists.

Barbers? Yes, Roy Cain, Hugo Ochsner, Frank Ryan and George Strayer. Alex Reifschneider and Fred and C. E. Nicolai were blacksmiths. Milo Brown was a sand dealer at the sand pit.

Oscar Dahlgren and J. F. Anthes lived within the city limits and called themselves dairymen. Hauling things around town generated enough business for four “draymen:” Walter Athey, Robert Beattie, John and Emil Stover. Julius Heinz also did local hauling but he identified as a “truck driver” apparently having sold his team, perhaps to George Beattie, horse buyer.

Horse-based operations still supported harness makers J. J. Bauer and William Reuter. But the times, they were a-changing. Ray Van Patten, Ralph George, Carl Griess, Otto Kohler, Earl Russell, C. A. Swann, George and Jacob Wahl, R. B. Weird, Olen Whitlock and L. D. Yost were all machinists in the “garage” industry reflecting advances in transportation technology. Garage owners included Lewis Esch, WW. George and Ed Griess. E. S. Majors was “Agent” with “Standard Oil.”
Local Sutton newspapers carried ads for businesses in Hastings, York, Lincoln and Omaha. One former Sutton merchant,
William "Billy" Gold, continued a presence in the old home town with ads like this in Sutton papers. Or did you not know
that the founder of Lincoln's premier department stores for several decades got his start in downtown Sutton?
Communications technology shows up with nine telephone company employees. F. W. Kennedy was the manager of telephone operators Emma Brown, Opal Foster, Gladys Foster, Hilda Nuss, Mary Scheidemann and Lulu Sheehy. William Glanz was the only telephone lineman listed – suspect there were more. Nathan Tyler was the janitor in the telephone office. Mr. Tyler’s claim to fame is that he is one of two Confederate soldiers who made their homes in Sutton. The other, Leonard Jarrett age 74 in 1920 listed his occupation as “None.” Leonard’s daughter Sibyl was the city librarian in 1920 and for many more years. Another city employee was Philip Green, policeman.

Edmund Ochsner, Henry Grosshans, Thomas Purcell and Harry Stevens were “grain buyers.” Benders and Grosshans had “Implement Houses” with several employees each.  Albert Griess and Richard Grosshans had lumberyards again, with employees.

C. M. Brown had his Sutton Register newspaper; Merton Conn managed the theater; Harry Anderson was a photographer and E. E. Trabert was the veterinarian.

L. P. Sornson was a bank president, Henry and W. F. Griess were bank VP’s. J. W.  Knox, J. F. Burke, Ed Kirchhefer, Laura Bauer and R. M. Mecham were cashiers and bookkeepers. Jacob Steinbrecher was the janitor in one of the bank buildings.

How many of these folks have you heard of? How about J. L. Lohmeier, M. R. Foster, Edward Sheehy and C. N. Ochsner who were proprietors of billiard parlors? Not pool halls, billiard parlors as we learned that distinction in a song by Robert Preston: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LI_Oe-jtgdI

This has to be on the short list for best business logos, ever. His name
was Wm. B. Baehr and he worked the "W" and two "B's" into the log
along with the bear. Genius. It doesn't have anything to do with
jewelry, but who cares?
Retail businesses? A bunch: Melchoir Figi, George Rauscher, Henry Wiedenbach, Carl Wieland and Henry Willard claimed “general merchandise.” Samuel Carney, Frank Weston and Albert Wenzlaff had hardware stores. Edward Stoner and W. D. Patterson were tinsmiths in hardware stores. Eva Gell had a millinery shop; Frieda Redinger, Catherine Mueller, Pauline Fraley and Edith Cunningham were dressmakers; Harvey Stenson and Fred Hanke were tailors; and though there was no laundry mentioned, the enumerator identified Katherine Klein and Nina Courtright as “wash women” to mark their place in Sutton’s history. May not be a term we’d use today, but I’ll bet they each had a good business in their Maltby and Saunders Avenue homes.

R. H. Melhlaf and August Ochsner identified their businesses as “Gent’s Furnishings” which seems better than “Men’s Warehouse” or “over there to the left of the DVD’s at Wal-Mart.”

Les Bauer had a confectionery store; Albert Lewis, William Baehr and J. R. Easley were jewelers; Jacob Serr had his restaurant and George Honey and Carl Spielman had a furniture store though they listed their trade as undertaker. Carl Eichler was a waiter and Marie Kahm a waitress.

The eight clergy in Sutton were listed with a trade of “minister” and an industry of “gospel.” Those were Reinhold Birk, Laurence Dunphy, John Goemmel, Albert Hild, Michael Hofer, R. Kirchhefer, Chas McCorkie and William Norenberg. Who can match them up with their churches?

A collection of business locations that are relative to other
businesses lets us develop the pieces to a jigsaw puzzle to
locate more and more of the long-gone and forgotten places.
Theresa Bender, Clara Huber, Emma Lissman, Susie Nelson, Elsie and Freida Perlenfein and Mary Waters were housekeepers. Lillie Reichert was a cook in a private home.

There were teachers, a lot of them and they need to be mentioned: Thelma Bernhardt, Hattie Henderson, Helen Huppert, Minnie Kleinsmith, Edna Sharkey, Hazel Wilson, Evra Garrison, Hazel Catteson, Margaret McCall, Calvin Miller, Madge Miller, Opal Nuss, Gladys Brown, Hazel Chambers, Louise Elfring, Lulu Hines, Hilda Hofmann, Eva Oakley, Eliza Rath, Gertrude Rath, Olga Rath, Elizabeth Vance and Minetta Unterseher. F. M. Marchek was the superintendent at the high school.

E. P. Griess was the Postmaster, Wesley Brown his assistant and James Catterson was the postal clerk.

There were 22 people in the “railroad” industry category. Another 15 were categorized in “steam railroad.” Engineer Louis Hogan and brakemen Rheuben Herzon and H. C. Ochsner led to the guess that the “railroad” folks were trackmen and “steam railroad” indicated train people. However, brakemen Roy Irvin and Russell Swearingen and conductors Thomas Lang and William Pscherer were “misplaced” under “railroad.” Dunno.

F. T. Pumphrey was “agent” likely the Depot Agent. Every railroad town needed a telegraph operator or three: Harry Todt, Charles Schwarz and Reon Silver.

The section foremen were Henry Heinz and Adam Kern with laborers Henry J. Bender, Reinhold Heinz, Carl Heinz, Amo Krueger, John Reger, George Schleiger, Edward and William Steinhauer, and John Yeager. Riley Huddleston and W. F. McCall were the bridge foreman and carpenter.

J. H. Fleming was called the “roadmaster” on the steam railroad. Laborers in that category were Alex Bauer, Henry Haberman, August Heinz, Jacob Kahm, George and Conrad Krass, Edward McCall, George Metzger, George Ross and Albert Rubach.

When harness sales slowed down, Bauer needed to diversify
Peter Steinhauer was listed as the Motorman with the Street Railroad. What was that about?

A. W. Clark was the mayor of Sutton in 1920. He was the son of early developer I. N. Clark and the husband of the former Mayme Wieden. His given name was Albert but you often see him called “Bertie.” His other business that was not mentioned in the 1920 census was Ice Man drawing his raw material from the pond down the hill to the east of his house.

The City Councilmen were John Roth, O. W. Challburg, Carl Held and Jacob Weber. Charles Brown was the city clerk.

How many names did you recognize? Were any of those occupations a surprise?

We can learn a lot from casual reading of census records. We’ve now extracted scraps of information from the 1940 and 1920 versions. Perhaps we’ll step back someday to look at 1900 and 1880. Stay tuned.

This article first appeared in the October, 2014 issue of Sutton Life Magazine. Contact Jarod Griess at 402-984-4203 for further information about the publication.

Those First Years were a Hoot in Sutton

Sutton’s beginning in 1871 was a rocky one but a good story.

If you wanted to start a town on the Great Plains in the 1870’s there were two things you needed, water and railway access.

School Creek provided the water, but, looking at it today…(?). Railroads provided the means to ship goods in and products out. Passenger service made trips to Lincoln, Omaha, Chicago, St. Joe, etc. feasible and then routine. The railroad was a good thing.

We are lucky to have a contemporary account of the very early days of Sutton in the Centennial Sketch of Clay County that was compiled for the Fourth of July 1876 centennial celebration in Sutton.

The sketch was written by the Historical Committee consisting of Dr. Martin Clark, Judge John Maltby and Erastus White of Sutton and Esra Brown, Ira Pearsall and J. T. Fleming from Harvard. Erastus White of the Clay County Globe newspaper in Sutton published the sketch. Dr. Martin read an excerpt at Sutton’s centennial celebration in the park on July 4, 1876.

The first townspeople arrived in April, 1871 and were greeted by Luther French in his dugout on the east side of School Creek. An early official act was the appointment of Luther French as Sutton Postmaster on August 8th of ‘71. The first Sutton Post Office was in Mr. French’s coat pocket. Later he used an 8 X 10 glass box.
This document identifies the early post masters in Clay County.
Arthur Burlingame succeeded French effective January 1st, 1872 with a salary of $12 per year which was increased to $400 six months later.
The Burlington “End of Track” arrived in Sutton from the east on August 12, 1871. The contract between the railroad and the U. S. Post Office called for the railroad to deliver mail to the post office if it was less than 80 rods (1/4 mile) from “the station.” There was no station in Sutton but stopping the train to handle mail would allow passengers to get on and off the train effectively making Sutton a station.

In practice, Burlington trains did not stop but trainmen tossed the mail off and grabbed out-going mail from Mr. Burlingame. On August 19th 1872, postmaster Burlingame decided not to endanger himself anymore and left the outgoing mail in his office, as was his right. Near that same time an incoming sack was tossed into a muddy ditch and the cat fight was on.

Mr. Burlingame complained to the government which ordered the railroad to use the Grafton site about four miles east of Sutton as the mail drop off point and to make the Sutton connection at their own expense. The railroad hired T. R. Linton, a local freighter to carry mail from Sutton to the Grafton station for $100 per quarter.

The site of the crane, post and activities in the dispute between
Sutton and the Burlington railroad - the old Way Avenue
Next the company built a crane opposite Gray’s lumber yard at Way Avenue and Maple Street intending for the postmaster to hang mail there to be grabbed as the train whizzed through town. Locals sawed the crane down, apparently the only unlawful act by local citizens in this whole affair.

The company replaced the crane and one winter morning the route agent thought he saw a mail sack on the crane for the first time. He grabbed it and the weight of the dead dog in the sack almost jerked him out of the car.

Steam locomotives needed water and there was a tank outside of Sutton. The railroad next agreed to deliver mail at the tank which was more than 80 rods from the post office opposite the Gray lumber yard. That distance forced the post office to provide the courier. The arrangement worked out until a real depot was built two years later.

And there was a real estate segment to our story.

The Burlington Railroad had established their Grafton site about four and a half miles east of Sutton. Why? The railroad owned the Grafton site and Sutton was owned by homesteaders, a critical distinction from the railway’s perspective. This was about half way between Fairmont and Harvard and also between Lincoln and Kearney and had access to water.

Shortly after the railroad came to Sutton, Mr. Joseph Wilsey, a railway attorney in Crete visited Luther French in his dugout and signed a contract deeding a railroad right of way through town in exchange for a depot.

Another story developed starting in May, 1871 when John Maltby began his quest for a “pot of gold” as Jim Griess characterized it. John Vroman, a vet had filed for a homestead on the 160 acres just south of French’s claim. Maltby intended to buy the claim but Vroman was out of town. Maltby and his friend William Way then contested the Vroman claim and won in a Lincoln court as Vroman was not living on his claim. Way took the north ½ of the claim south to Hickory Street; Maltby claimed the 80 from Hickory to near Helen Street at the south end of town.

John Maltby talked Luther French into subdividing his 80 into town lots and French began to sell off the lots. The Clark brothers, Isaac and Martin arrived in November, 1871 and purchased French’s unsold lots. But, remember Mr. Wilsey from Crete? Mr. French had never recorded that transfer of the right-of-way before again selling that property. Railway officials backed away.

The railroad now had substantive issues with Sutton property as well as issues of style. Sutton had several saloons which were cited as at least distasteful. Our folklore also points to Sutton’s disruption of the railroad’s plan for alphabetical stations along the route. Our town was a nuisance.

Among the prized memorabilia in the Sutton Museum is the
authenticated, original buffalo skull that played a role int the
battle with the railroad to  establish a Sutton Depot. 
The first Sutton station house was a freight car parked on a siding marked by a buffalo skull with the number “124” painted on it. Why “124?” Was that the mileage from the Plattsmouth Bridge over the Missouri? Any better idea?

In mid-December 1871 the railroad company moved the freight car to their town of Grafton. Sutton residents were getting desperate. Long-term prospects for the town were fading. There was no railroad station, trains weren’t stopping, mail service was a mess and they’d ticked off the railroad officials.

Townsmen sent Thurlow Weed to Crete offering one half of the unsold lots in the Clark, Maltby and Way eighties plus Maltby and Way added twenty acres for depot grounds. Colonel Doane of the railroad wanted two thirds of those lots and the depot ground as the price for Sutton’s depot. No deal. Isaac Clark failed in subsequent negotiations, things were bleak.

John Maltby went to Boston at his own expense to meet with more senior railway officials who denied knowledge of the disputes but nothing came of that visit, except he did make progress with his estranged wife on the trip, but that’s another story.

About this time Marthis & Robbins decided to move their Grafton grocery to Sutton. The Clark brothers donated a lot in town. George Bemis and W. Cunning took their teams and moved the Grafton buildings to Sutton inspiring the Bemis poem “Grafton to Sutton.”

Writers for “The Fillmore County Story” are adamant that the current town of Grafton traces its origins to the Fillmore City community north on the Blue and that only the name came from the Grafton in Sutton’s story. Okay, we’ll give them that.

Isaac Clark made a strategic move in July, 1872 when he shipped the first carload of heavy hardware to Edgar on the St. Joe and Denver railroad then brought the loads to Sutton by team and wagon. Other merchants began using this 20-mile cross country route for their goods depriving the Burlington of the business.

In April, 1873 the Clark brothers and Hosea Gray went to Lincoln and Plattsmouth to negotiate with the new superintendent of the company, C. F. Morse. They showed him their receipts from the St. Joe and Denver railroad indicating that the Burlington was losing about $20,000 in annual Sutton-generated freight revenue.
It took some doing, not all of it of a grown-up nature, but eventually Sutton had its depot. The depot was on the south
side of the main line a few dozen yards west of Saunders Avenue. This image dates from about 1940. The water tank
down the track to the west is a reminder of what was vitally important to the railroad, passengers and freight made
railroad operations profitable, but periodic water tanks along the track kept the trains running. That, and a bit of coal.
Railroad officials came to Sutton on May 1, 1873 where final negotiations established the price for a depot in Sutton: one third of the Clark eighty, forty acres from John Gray, forty acres from W. Cunning, another forty acres each from Henry Beale and John Maltby and one half of the Way and Maltby eighties. Sutton citizens had to grade the railway switch plus vote for Harvard as the county seat. The company later paid $5 per acre for this land and accepted 100 feet to the south of the right-of-way in lieu of 20 acres for the depot grounds.

The depot was built in the fall of 1873 and everyone lived happily ever after. (Sutton citizens did not vote for Harvard as county seat.)

However, there’s an open question in the story. Luther French filed for his homestead on March 14, 1870. By November, 1871 he had sold all parts of the eighty, some of it twice. How did he do that? Didn’t the Homestead Act require five years of “proving up” before the homesteader actually owned the property? Or am I missing something? Inquiring minds are curious.

This postcard photo is identified as being a Sutton scene. We don't typically fall out to have our pictures taken with railroad
rolling stock today, but then, we don't have Beauties like this one passing through either. Look at those drive wheels. I wish
we knew who the two ladies were.

 This article first appeared in the September, 2014 issue of Sutton Life Magazine. Contact Jarod Griess at 402-984-4203 or at neighborhoodlife@yahoo.com for more information, or LIKE Neighborhood Life Magazine on Facebook.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The French Family Story

Luther French filed for a homestead in April, 1870 on land that became part of Sutton. he was born in
1818 in Painesville, Ohio and migrated to Sutton with stops in Wisconsin and Iowa

Luther French was the first homesteader of land now within the town of Sutton. Those who know nothing else about Sutton’s past know that Luther French was the Town Founder. So, who was he? Where did this guy come from?

The fellow was born on March 7th, 1818 in Painesville, Ohio in Geauga County.

As this article is about the French Family we’re delving into genealogical research. Our first digression is the location of Luther French’s birth. But… check your Ohio map. Painesville is not in Geauga County but is in Lake County. Check the history of Lake County; it was created in 1840 out of part of Geauga County. Check again. An early candidate for the county seat of Geauga County was the town of Champion which was renamed Painesville in 1832.

Technically, Luther French was born in 1818 in a place then called Champion, Geauga County but that place is now Painesville, Lake County. This is a common issue. Place names have changed. And furthermore, what is a “Geauga?” Turns out it’s a Seneca Indian name for “raccoon.”

We’ve digressed, but that’s how undisciplined genealogy research works, and it’s more fun that way.

Luther’s father was William French (1781-1862), Otsego, New York to Leroy, Wisconsin. His mother was Phoebe Morris (1768 – 1831), Tyler, Virginia to Geauga County Ohio. Luther’s paternal grandparents were another William (1744-1838), Westerly, Rhode Island to Geauga County, Ohio and Elizabeth Avery (1754-1813), Montville, Connecticut to Otsego, New York. Luther’s paternal great, grandparents were yet another William French (1720-1761), Londonderry, New Hampshire to Ohio and Prudence Gavitt (1720-1753) who was born and died in Rhode Island.

We’re back three generations from Luther and in the Colonial era. His fourth French ancestor was Michael French, born in 1660 in Ipswich, Massachusetts. Several published family trees list Michael’s death in Line Township, Webster County, Nebraska in 1719. I’m going out on a limb here and suggesting that ain’t true. His son William was born in July, 1720 in New Hampshire, a better guess for Michael’s demise.

The next four French ancestors were Thomas, Thomas, Thomas and Jacob. Their wives were Mary Adams, Mary Scudamore, Susan Riddlesdale and Susan Warren – opportunities for confusion.

A good genealogy goal is find immigrants. The French immigrants were the first Thomas and his
The four Littlefield women were daughters of Elisha and Lydia Littlefield.
Left to right, Amanda Jane LeCount, Eliza Ann Johnson, Polly Emiline
FRENCH and Frances Agusta Wheeler.
wife Susan Riddlesdale, both born in the little town of Assington near Sudbury in Suffolk County, England. Assington was mentioned in the Domesday Book, William the Conqueror’s Great Survey in 1086 (it’s an old town). They died in Ipswich, north of Salem, Massachusetts. The second Thomas and his wife Mary Scudamore were also immigrants, he from Assington and Mary from Gloucester in the west of England.

We’ve just followed the French line. Other branches of Luther French’s paternal lines include the additional surnames of Avery, Bill, Deacon, Wilcox, Ransford, Mason, Lechmere, Kemp, MacCoone, Bush, Sunderland, Raymond, Smith, Waite and Lester, each line with stories and an immigrant. William Adams came from the town of Wem in Shropshire, Philip Gavitt from the Isle of Jersey, John MacCoone from Aberdeenshire in Scotland, Ransford probably from Northampton and Philip Bill from London. There are others with less certain origins but it appears that all of Luther French’s paternal lines stem from the Colonial period.

The story of Luther French’s mother’s lines is sketchy. Phoebe married William French about 1806 at the age of 38. She was the widow of Zachariah Swearingen and had two daughters, Nancy about 14 and Mary age 13. Phoebe’s maiden name was Morris, the daughter of James and Mary Morris.

William and Phoebe probably had six children: Susanna, Moses, Robert, Lucy Ann, John Calvin and our Luther. No information is available about Susanna and Moses but it appears Robert, Lucy Ann (Jones) and John Calvin French all had large families.

Our guy Luther French married Polly Emiline Littlefield in 1848. She was born in Readsboro, Vermont in 1826 to Elisha Littlefield and Lydia Parson. The men in Polly’s Littlefield line were Asa, Edmund, Nathaniel, Edmund and Anthony. They were all New Englanders back to the immigrant Anthony who came from Titchfield in Hampshire, England to Wells in York County, Maine. (Personal note: I have Littlefield ancestors from Wells, Maine, but the Maine woods were filled with Littlefields, still is.)

This state historical marker in the Sutton
City Park commemorates the French
dugout on the east bank of School Creek.
Other surnames in the Polly Littlefield family tree include Stark, Parsons, Battle, Caswell, Briggs, Spear, Kink, Woodson, Mott, Shooter, Felkin, Sanderson, Hall, Ferris, Woodson and Lewis, each with a tale to tell. Polly’s immigrant ancestors hailed from London, Cambridgeshire, Hertfordshire, Dorset and other English locales.

One of Polly’s ancestral lines leads to Dr. John Woodson who was born in 1586 in Dorset, England. His researchers claim he arrived in Virginia on April 19, 1619 on the ship GEORGE. The settlement was the Flowerdew Plantation, also called the Fleur De Hundred about 30 miles upriver from Jamestown. This is before the Mayflower.

Let’s declare victory on the French/Littlefield ancestors. Though I have documentation to support much of this research, a portion of it has relied on the work of others posted in family trees on ancestry.com. More time and effort is needed to confirm each piece of information. That is, I could be wrong. You’re welcome to dig in.

Luther and Polly were married in the Town of LeRoy in Dodge County, Wisconsin. Towns “Back East” are like our townships. The Town of Leroy is 37 square miles and contains the unincorporated communities (towns?) of Farmersville and LeRoy.

The French family included four kids in the 1860 census: Louisa (Harriet Louisa) age 10, Emma age 8, Laura was 5 and Luther (Arthur Luther) was 4 years old. Luther’s father William, age 80 was living with the family as was his second wife Lois Louisa (Fuller.) A young mystery French named Martin (age 27) was also in the household – where did he came from?

Five more children were born to Luther and Emiline: Ernest in 1861, James (1863), William (1865),
Harriet Louisa French was the first child of Luther and Polly
French. She was born in Wisconsin, married Commodore
Decatur Holliday and lived our her life in Long Island, Kansas
Edward (1866) and Lenora in 1867. The family had moved to Iowa City, Iowa before Lenora was born. Polly French died in 1867 as did the infant Lenora. Did Polly die in childbirth? It’s not clear, but possible. Childbirth was a hazardous event for mothers in much of our past.

We remember the story of the French family’s move to Clay County. After Polly died, Luther left the kids in Iowa, came west and filed for his homestead on School Creek in March, 1870. Polly’s brother Elisha Alvin Littlefield was on a farm not far away, likely attracting him to this area. The children waited for some time before deciding to follow their father. The two older girls, Harriet and Emma chose to stay in Iowa so sixteen-year old Laura collected her five brothers and joined Luther in his dugout in what is now Sutton City Park.
That’s the ancestral lines. What about the descendants of Luther and Polly French?

Harriet Louise married Decatur Holliday in Crete in 1870. That’s Commodore Holliday, a distinguished looking fellow. The Commodore and Harriet had ten children settling in Long Island, Kansas just south of Alma, Nebraska.

Emma married Alfred Wilcox in 1871. They had seven little Wilcoxes and lived in Sherman County northwest of Grand Island. Mr. Wilcox died in 1905. Emma married Oscar Fouts in 1918 in Oregon where she lived the rest of her life. Her children dispersed – Missouri, Oregon, Washington and central Nebraska.

Laura married William Corey in Sutton. He was the son of A. A. Corey, an early Sutton businessman. They had five children and stayed in Nebraska. Laura died in Lincoln in 1928.

Arthur Luther French married Barbara (last name unknown), had three children and went to Sheridan, Wyoming. Ernest French married Eliza Shuler, had one son and also went to Sheridan. James did not marry and died in North Dakota in 1949.

William French and his wife Anna had three children and died in Caldwell, Kansas in 1948.

Edward French established the long-term Sutton branch of the French family marrying Dora Alice Smith in 1895. They had three: Marie Ethel married Charles Burns, Robert married Mary Wells and Ruby married William Gayle McLaughlin. Edward and Dora have many of their extended family still in the area – show of hands.

You’ve followed some of the genealogy research for the French family. Visualize an “Hourglass Chart” which has Luther and Polly in the middle and a fan above them representing their ancestors and another fan below identifying descendants. Everyone has ancestors. Many have descendants. It’s where we fit into a family story.

This article first appeared in the August, 2014 issue of Sutton Life Magazine. For more information about this local Sutton publication contact Jarod Griess at 402-984-4203 or at neighborhoodlife@yahoo.com
Luther French lived out his later life in Fillmore
County just east of Sutton and died on January 23,
1896. He is buried in the Sutton Cemetery. 

Sutton's 65th Anniversary Celebration

The Sutton Register issue of October 5th, 1939 had this article about the town's 65th anniversary celebration

Sutton residents at 1939 celebration from 1870's

Residents in Sutton from the 1870's who attended the 65th anniversary celebration in 1939 were asked to register with the year of their arrival. Did you know anyone on this list?

My answer: Yes, my grandparents, Fred and Cecilia Johnson, him in '75 at age 5; she arrived in '78 as an Aspegren, age of 6.

Mrs. Oscar Swanson was Betsy whose story appears here in an earlier post.

1939 Window Displays at Sutton's 65th Birthday Party

Sutton residents held a 1939 celebration on the occasion of the 65th anniversary of the beginning of the town. They marked the town's start at incorporation in 1874. There could be a case made for saying the town started in 1870, 1871 (my favorite), 1873 or 1874.

This article appeared in the September 28, 1939 issue of The Sutton Register describing the window displays of historic items during the celebration. The article also provides another snapshots of operating businesses in 1939.

The Register reporter missed some of the window displays and an addendum appeared in the next week's paper:

These items had survived many years by 1939. Wonder how many are still in Sutton or could be found today?

Special Recognition for Certain 1939 County Rural Teachers

This notice appeared in The Sutton Register on September 28, 1939 listing 23 rural Clay County teachers who earned special recognition that year for the criteria listed.

Has it really been Five Years?

We began writing articles for Jarod Griess’ Sutton Life Magazine in August, 2009. This posting is based on the article written for the July, 2014 issue of that magazine, the fifth anniversary of this series and, I guess our 60th effort. Has it really been five years?

Do you still have every one of those magazine articles? I doubt it; neither do I. A few issues seem to have drifted away. But the majority of those magazine articles, or at least a version of them became posts on this blog and remain readily available.

Check the “Labels” section on the right of the page for the “Sutton Life Magazine” entry for the collection in roughly reverse chronological order.

This photo of Army PFC Jack Wayne Schroder illustrated
our May, 2013 article in Sutton Life Magazine about the
selective service draft. The 20-year old Clay Center soldier
was killed in Vietnam in 1967.
And in full disclosure, there really aren't 60 different articles; three of them grew to become two-part articles in multiple issues.

The articles in our series seemed to group themselves into categories:

1.      Tales of the early days of Sutton
2.      Biographical stories of noteworthy individuals
3.      Odd topics difficult to categorize, and
4.      Articles with some philosophical bent about studying or thinking about the past

The first articles in the series appropriately looked at the early settlement of our town. We called it a small town with a big story. It has proven to be a big enough story to keep the series going for five years. Our second article examined the reasons why a town would develop here, at that time and in that manner. The plains 125 miles west of the Missouri River were ripe for development with recent statehood, security provided by the recently freed up U.S. Army, approaching rails, railroad land and homesteads, etc.

While the railroad was a critical factor in the town’s beginning, it was not a smooth start. Sutton’s “war” with the Burlington & Missouri River Railroad was worth an early article all by itself.

The August and September, 2010 articles were especially fun as we researched and guessed the origins of the names of the streets and avenues of Sutton. Were many curious enough to even wonder about that? Don’t know, but once we started looking at the topic, it was impossible to stop. There are still three avenues to the east of town which we still don’t have definitive answers for. It’s still open for your suggestions.

We had an article on “Sutton Firsts” in April, 2011, stories of early immigration by Germans and Swedes, explanations of the workings of railroad land sales and homesteading and the stories of early settlers.
Our article about Satch generated feedback from many who
remembered this venerable icon of Sutton for decades and
appreciation from those too young to have known the man.
We are proud of this article and the reaction.   
The stories of the settlers fit into our set of biographical articles. F. M. Brown, homesteader and publisher of The Sutton Register warranted a two part article as did developer I. N. Clark. We did an article in May, 2010 on the Gray family, builders of the two houses which today host our museum.

The April 2012 article dealt briefly with some of the more obscure characters with Sutton connections. William Mehlhaf acted on his dream to search for the Lost Dutchman’s Mine; Walter Wellman, likely the first Sutton newspaperman at age 14 later pushed the envelope on hot air balloon travel trying to be first to the North Pole and to start a trans-Atlantic mail and passenger service; Herbert Johnson became a nationally-known cartoonist for the Saturday Evening Post and Country Gentleman magazines in the ‘30’s and Sutton joined the first UFO frenzy in 1947 with sightings by Henry Fuehrer, Henry Trautman and Doc Ochsner.

Our real “hoot” is finding little tidbits of our community history that has faded away and become lost such as the mention in a faded newspaper that in the late 1880’s Sutton merchant William “Billy” Gold moved his business to Lincoln starting Gold & Co. on “O” Street.

We were able to tell the stories of three more obscure, but interesting pioneers, coincidently, all women who left the tiniest of tracks for us. Nellie Stevens was the first Grafton school teacher and later operated a millinery shop in Sutton with her friend Alida Curtiss. Alida later memorialized their story in a novel called “Mother Wanted a Son.” Fiction can sometimes tell as much about our history as researched documentation.

Our article and posting about Dr. Madeleine
Leininger remains the most visited post on
the blog. It first appeared in the November
2012 issue of Sutton Life Magazine.
Minnie Rowe, Sutton Class of ’86, 1886 that is, wrote children’s stories under the name of Little Nebraska Annie and became a temperance leader. Betsy Swanson emigrated from Sweden to Saronville via Salt Lake City and Council Bluffs, not the usual path to our community.

Probably our best biographies, so far, are of Ted Wenzlaff and Madeleine Leininger. Col. Wenzlaff made connections between our town and world and national events bringing those events into a focus we would not appreciate without that local connection. Dr. Leininger kept her Sutton ties while creating an entirely new profession within the world of nursing by traveling and studying around the world, writing dozens of professional papers expanding the nursing field and leading prestigious academic and professional organizations. The Leininger article from November, 2012 has been the most visited blog posting since it first appeared.

And we tracked down Edward W. Woodruff for the June, 2011 issue. His name appears high on a north-side building along with the date “1881.” He came from “back east” likely Illinois, stopped in Sutton to build that building, serve as councilman and mayor then moved onto a public service job in Washington, D.C. before living in Oregon and retiring in Pasadena. Some live their whole lives in one place, others, not so much.

Among our “miscellaneous” topics, those hard to categorize was a piece about the Clark’s donation of four city blocks for the city park and how one of the Mrs. Clarks took ten years to give in and give up her prized trees.

There were articles about the nature of Sutton in 1923 and in 1940. We’ll have to do a couple of more of those sometime soon on other years. A favorite was the story in February, 2013 of the 1922 championship Sutton High basketball team.

We expanded beyond Sutton to tell about the 1st Nebraska Infantry in the Civil War and a Januaary, 2013 pitch for examining local history while traveling. That one was no small feat: working Key West into a Sutton, Nebraska history article and I even think it worked.

Another story beyond Sutton was the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President Kennedy but even that story had its Sutton connection with the photo of the escort of the cassion with horses originally purchased by Sutton’s Col. Wenzlaff for the Arlington Cemetery funeral detail.

Several of the articles fit into the fourth category which talked about how we study or look at history.
Our story about the Sutton chapter of the  Royal Highlanders
lodge around 1900 came as a big surprise to many.
Just last February we discussed “What do we know and how do we know it” looking at the challenge of locating and evaluating evidence and documentation that is reliable and appears correct in describing past events. Just one month prior our topic was about observing change over time to interpret the history of a place or a facet of society.

An early article described using the census to interpret the facts about people to learn the history of a place.

Did we have a specific objective about telling the story of our Sutton community when we started this endeavor five years ago? I don’t recall one. We’ve evolved into producing a series of articles which rotates through types of topics as the months roll by. We try to live up to the objective of the Sutton Historical Society to “collect and preserve the artifacts and information about the Sutton community,” in this case it is the information that we are collecting and preserving by presenting it in these articles.

We preserve what we have found by posting most of our articles on the blog referenced at the beginning of this article. We thank Jarod Griess and the staff of the Sutton Life Magazine for the opportunity to present the various stories of the history of our community in their magazine each month.

And we hope that you enjoy being reminded of stories from Sutton’s past and that you would consider joining us in telling these stories. --- The Sutton Historical Society.

The basis of this article first appeared in the July, 2014 issue of Sutton Life Magazine. For further information about this publication contact Jarod Griess at 402-984-4203 or neighborhoodlife@yahoo.com
Sutton's Colonel Ted Wenzlaff was the cavalry officer who acquired several of the horses in President Kennedy's cassion
for the Arlington Cemetery funeral detail. It's one of those Sutton connections we should try to remember.