Thursday, December 31, 2015

What's a Kilowatt in 1890

Okay, it's 1890, people are talking about electrical power and someone hears mention of a "kilowatt" and wants to know what that is. What do you tell them?





Sutton Register January 6, 1916


It's time to roll our resources for the weekly column in The Clay County News over to 1916, 1941, 1966 and 1991 newspapers.

Here's our first look at 1916 in Sutton as reported by F








Gold's Close-out Sale in Sutton - 1890

William Gold who went by "Billy" while operating his first store in Sutton held his Close-out sale as advertised here in The Sutton Register on July 4, 1890. Billy Gold ran this Sutton store for several years before moving to Lincoln where he opened a new store on the south side of "O" Street in downtown Lincoln - the largest Nebraska department store outside of Omaha.






Wednesday, December 30, 2015

The Waddle Sutton TV Center


Who remembers this Sutton Business?


Just another of the many Mom & Pop businesses that once provided highly-personalized local goods and services now replaced, for the most part, by the big-name stores 30 to 125 miles away. We are the victims of a predatory merchandising model and trained to think it is a good thing.

1917 Sutton Business Directory


The Omaha business directory in 1917 included sections about towns in eastern Nebraska including Sutton. The following clipping has the list of Sutton businesses for that year.















Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Early Days of Clay County from the 1915 Sutton News

The Sutton News published a series of three articles about the early days of Clay County on August 6, 13 and 20 of 1915. The articles concentrated on the period up to the 1860's during the days of the overland trails and the pony express in the southwest corner of Clay County.



This article appeared in The Sutton News on August 6, 1915

Part Two of the article was in the August 13, 1915 issue of The Sutton News

The Sutton News published the final part of their three-part series on August 20, 1915.





Sutton's 65th Anniversary Celebration

Sutton Celebrated its 65th anniversary in 1939. They were marking the founding in 1874 when the formal and official certification as a town occurred.

This article appeared in The Sutton Register.




Thursday, November 12, 2015

George Honey Biography

During the first several weeks of 1894 publisher F. M. Brown ran several biographies of Sutton citizens in his Sutton Register newspaper. 


George Honey built a large, two-story building on the southeast corner of Saunders Avenue and Hickory Street where he operated his furniture store/hardware store and mortuary. That building became the Sutton Schools Auditorium for many years. After the schools moved to the north end of town, it was a blacksmith shop and later was destroyed in a fire. 


The Sutton Community Center is now located on that site. 





Samuel Carney Biography


During the first several weeks of 1894 publisher F. M. Brown ran several biographies of Sutton citizens in his Sutton Register newspaper. 


This is the bio of Samuel Carney, the Elder. One of the first commercial businesses in Sutton and the first one on Saunders Avenue was a hardware store started by I. N. Clark. Clark hired Samuel Clark into that business. I. N. Clark soon turned to business over to Carney to pursue other interests - real estate and driving the development of our town.



Samuel Clark had a son, Samuel Jr. who took his turn running this hardware business later hiring his own assistant and clerk, Les Bauer. When Samuel Jr. retired, Les Bauer became Sutton's hardware merchant on the north side operating the business for several years.







John C. Merrill Biography

During the first several weeks of 1894 publisher F. M. Brown ran several biographies of Sutton citizens in his Sutton Register newspaper. 




Dr. John M. Birkner Biography




During the first several weeks of 1894 publisher F. M. Brown ran several biographies of Sutton citizens in his Sutton Register newspaper. 




Frederick J. Hoerger Biography

During the first several weeks of 1894 publisher F. M. Brown ran several biographies of Sutton citizens in his Sutton Register newspaper. 


This is the bio of Frederick J Hoerger - a bit raggen on the edge of the paper but this is a 121-year old newspaper - deal with it.



Saturday, October 17, 2015

John Roberts' Biography

During the first several weeks of 1894 publisher F. M. Brown ran several biographies of Sutton citizens in his Sutton Register newspaper. 


This is the bio of long-time Sutton grocer John Roberts. John Roberts and most of his family as well as his brother William are buried in the Sutton cemetery.




Monday, October 12, 2015

1915 Sutton Visit by Belle (Wittenberg) Ruben and Rev. Ruben.

We included a brief item about Rev. Ruben and Belle (Wittenberg) in the newspaper column on September 30, 2015. Then, on October 10th we received an email from a great-grandson of Rev. and Mrs. Ruben offering historic items from the family for the museum.

There are several online articles about Rev. Ruben. Search on both "Ruben" and "Reuben" to locate these pieces.

Watch this space...


This article appeared on the front page of The Sutton
News on October 1, 1915.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Ads from The Sutton Register in 1890

Among material we received from the Jim Griess family were bound copies of early Sutton Register newspapers. These adds appeared in 1890.















1890 Sutton Business Directory

Among material we received from the Jim Griess family were several old newspapers. This business directory appeared in 1890 issues of The Sutton Register published by F. M. Brown.







Friday, October 2, 2015

The Story of Technology

There is even a history behind your laptop.

We’re taking a diversion from the usual menu of Sutton history articles this month. Why? Because it is dealer’s choice and it’s a good story.

A few of us in the Sutton area had the good fortune of meeting “The Computer” years ago and have watched the progress from rooms filled with equipment and the humming of dozens of cooling fans to today’s laptops, notebooks and hand-held devices with keys/buttons a fraction of the size of my fingertips.

But that was not the really early days. Let’s go way back.

There had to be a “first” computer. What was it?
This model of the Babbage Difference Engine is in the London Science Museum. It was built from Charles Babbage's
design in 1822. The idea behind our computers will soon be 200 years old.

One candidate was a mechanism for programing the operation of a loom. It had “instructions”
“encoded” on a card “read” by the loom directing all that motion we see happening in a loom. That system had all the earmarks of a computer – stored instructions on the card, a mechanism to read and retrieve the instructions and mechanical pieces to perform complex repetitive functions.

An Englishman Charles Babbage is called the “father of the computer” as he was the first to envision a machine to do math calculations, in 1822 – way back. Babbage was working alone when an acquaintance joined him. Ada Lovelace was the daughter of the poet Lord Byron. Ada had an interest in math and logic and found Babbage’s work fascinating.
Lord Byron's daughter, the Countess of Lovelace was a mathemetician
who likely created the first algorithm - the first computer program. Ada
Lovelace was born December 15, 1815 and died in 1852. This is an 1840
portrait. Are you ready to celebrate her 200th birthday soon?


Ada created a library of Babbage’s notes and organized them into steps that could be performed by Babbage’s machine to solve mathematical problems. Those steps were an algorithm, what we later called a “program” – yes, the Countess of Lovelace was the first computer programmer.

The Department of Defense uses a programming language called Ada – I maintained a couple of programs in Ada – a language related to Pascal.

Let’s jump to 1890.

The 1880 census had gathered a lot of data. Huge teams were counting, adding, categorizing and otherwise analyzing the data from the census. There were fears that censes analysis would take more than ten years and not be done before the next census.

Herman Hollerith invented a tabulating machine and better yet, a card to hold information.

Census information was encoded on the card in columns of holes representing numbers or letters. The tabulating machine read stacks of these cards adding up the holes quickly finding how many of each category of information had been found on all those people. Genius.

Hollerith’s card was standardized by IBM in 1928 to an 80 column format. Hollerith had used trays that held currency so he made the cards the size of a dollar bill in 1887.

The IBM card was ubiquitous in its day. This card illustrates the hole punches that represented letters, numbers and special
characters. The standard card punch machine was the IBM 029 - oh, the memories. 
Many early computers had specific purposes – the loom control system is an example. Flight control systems on airplanes is another, as is the computer in your car. You can’t do anything else with it.

Engineers developed general purpose computers starting in the 40’s to do a variety of tasks, often simultaneously. War is a great motivator for society and our mid-20th century wars pushed computer technology a lot.

These general purpose machines were called mainframes consisting of many cabinets of equipment filling a room with whirring fans and disks and spinning tape drives and a whole staff of specialists to make it all work.

There were several serious competing manufacturers of computer hardware: Burroughs, NCR, Control Data, Honeywell, General Electric, RCA and of course, IBM. Inevitably, there was consolidation. (At SAC headquarters we used a Honeywell 6080 with a General Electric operating system to support planning for all aircraft and missiles in the nuclear war plan.)

The nature of software did not come easily to many. I remember trying to explain it to my father. After some false starts I used the analogy of the record player. The player was the hardware and the records were software – not good enough. A record is still a touchy-feely thing. I then tried saying that the sounds, the music was the software. Maybe better but any analogy works well until it doesn’t.

Progress to develop our computers came on many fronts. Think about calculators. Our museum has an early desktop mechanical calculator, a noisy, clunking machine with rows of buttons; a great device in its day. Digital calculators used a small processor (computer) illustrating the transition to automate functions. Soon there were spreadsheets on general purpose computers. It happened to all kinds of tasks that had been tedious and labor intensive. Good stuff.

Computers were bright, shiny objects for our popular culture.

One popular 1960’s TV quiz show featured a big complicated-looking thing on stage that “selected” the questions for contestants. The host would push a button, lights would flash, music played and IBM cards would be shuffled out into slots.

Mainframes were large and expensive. Even imaginative futurists were predicting only governments and large corporations would ever use these things. But every development trend led to smaller footprints, cheaper materials and manufacturing process and wide accessibility. Ever heard of Moore’s Law?

Gordon Moore was a co-founder of Intel and in 1965 he observed that the density of transistors on integrated circuit boards was doubling every two years. That meant that computer technology was getting twice as good and half as expensive every two years. Moore predicted that rate could be sustained for the next decade. It’s kind of leveled off in just the last three years. That’s why your laptop exists.

In the 1970’s another herd of manufacturers rode Moore’s Law into a personal computer frenzy. Who can forget the Commodore 64, the Osborne 1, TI-99, Radio Shack’s TRS-80, known as the Trash-80, and many more?

The very first personal computers came in kits. The Altair 8800 appeared as early as 1975; Apple’s first product was a kit for the Apple 1. And there was the Heathkit H-89. Now there was a machine.
Retrieved from the bottom shelf of the storm cellar, my
Heathkit H-89 computer built in 1979 shown here with the
original manuals. Nostalgia is almost painful.


A clever, or devious mail-order school in Los Angeles set up a four-part micro computing correspondence course which qualified for the GI bill. Many active duty people took this course in which the fourth part brought the kit for the H-89 desktop computer. So late in 1979 I had my first desktop computer.

About the same time, the Big Guys jumped in. The Apple II and the first IBM-PC were released – similar to the competition but with corporate power behind them.

Another example of the computer’s attractiveness to the popular culture was the Apple ad to introduce the Macintosh computer during the 1984 Super Bowl. It is listed among the best-ever commercials though the company followed it up with one of the worst ever at the next Super Bowl.

If Ada Lovelace was the most famous woman in the earliest period of technology, then the most famous modern day woman in the field was building her reputation about this time.

Grace Hopper was one of the first programmers of the Mark 1 computer at Harvard University. She created the first compiler for a computer programming language and was involved in the development of the COBOL programming language. She also invented the term “debugging” for fixing computer problems when she once removed a moth from a computer.

Grace enlisted in the Navy in 1944 at the age of 37 and served for 43 years attaining the rank of Rear Admiral. She had a small programming team in her early career where she developed a management philosophy based on the advice that, “It is much better to apologize than it is to get permission.”

She was a public relations treasure for the Navy - I heard her speak four times – mostly the same speech.

I recommend a ten minute video of Admiral Hopper’s appearance on David Letterman’s show;  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1-vcErOPofQ    

Our deviation from "normal" Sutton history is worth it just to introduce Amazing Grace to any who do not know about her. Do yourself a great favor and research the story of Admiral Grace Hopper, TPE (Technology Pioneer Extraordinaire).
The early mainframe computers evolved into powerful behemoths and those first personal computers evolved into small, but powerful behemoths. So what is the difference?

Most users today are using desktop and laptop computers with little or no appreciation of what the nature of the mainframes. I’ll illustrate with a system I worked with at a large grocery and drug store business in the ‘90’s.

We had a mainframe system in Dublin, California – it filled a room of 10 to 12,000 square feet with a staff of dozens of operators, about 100 programmers and a hundred or more other support folks including myself with a data security/disaster recovery group of six.

The company had more than 2,600 stores from California to New England, 43 warehouses, eight or ten major office complexes and more than 250,000 employees. Many people, probably more than ten thousand had either computers on their desktops or terminals with no processing capability. In either case, all were connected to the mainframe where nearly all processing was conducted and all company data was stored. The mainframe handled all that work.

There were many other devices connected to the system. Warehouse fork lift operators had a “terminal” on the fender of the lift where they were connected to a mainframe program that directed what merchandise was to be moved where. That’s dozens of fork lifts in each of 43 warehouses, many moving 24-hours a day.

Your desktop computer can’t do that.

I hear another question out there: “Where was the internet?”

The internet was deployed in 1993 after several years of development by major universities and the Department of Defense. And no, Al Gore did not invent the internet. But we have to honestly say that he likely had more to do with its development than most geeks working on it.

Senator Gore introduced the Supercomputer Network Study Act of 1986 which directed a flurry of activity and funded many of the efforts to develop the network. Gore’s interest in a network began when he was a house representative in the early 1970’s when he began to nag his colleagues on the topic, for a long time a single voice on the topic.

I began to use the internet well before there was a world wide web. There were a few bulletin boards across the country; I subscribed to one in Cambridge, MA and one called The Well in Northern California. I was living in Omaha. It was a long distance call (non-trivia costs then) for a dial-up connection at 300 baud. The meter was running.

The procedure was to sign on, download any of your messages (I don’t think we called it email) or search for documents you wanted to read, download them, sign off as soon as possible and read with the phone disconnected. We’d compose all our messages and line-up any documents we wanted to share, dial-up again and upload those messages and get off. And it was great. We were riding the advanced wave of the future and we knew it.

Several enterprises set up access to the internet by simply providing local phone numbers cutting that connection cost. AOL had a number in Omaha; CompuServe and Prodigy were not far behind.

Computer and networking technology has progressed rapidly for more than 40 years. It is not a real new thing, it is mature. But I’ve shown here that the beginnings were way, way before that – almost 200 years ago.

And finally, I am irked when I hear someone say they don’t use a computer, saying or implying that that is something for younger folk. I left the west coast ten years ago where older people had been naturally living in a high-tech world for some time. People in retirement homes were not only active email users, many had built their own web sites and were creating online content that was very good. The early bloggings support sites were beginning and older people were jumping into that world too.

The inclination and willingness to participate in new technology is not an age-related thing. It is much more a geography thing.




Barns, Round Barns


Barns were once the center of activity on family farms. You could make the case that the barn was the most important building on the farm place. It was almost a Barn Culture. But we’ve lost that.

The barn served as a machine shed housing those early versions of power plants – horses and mules. A barn might house a full-fledged dairy operation or just where Bessie was milked. A corner stall might have a sow and her pigs, or some sheep.

One section of the barn might be a grain bin, the handy source of fuel for those early power plants, milkers and other livestock. And the haymow stored feed from last year’s hay crop and was often home to a few litters of kittens.

Barns were important.

Settlers moving west from the farms along the eastern seaboard were well versed in the value and
This is likely the last photo of the barn on the Johnson-Jasnoch farm northwest
of Sutton. The Google Earth imagery date for the Sutton area is 4/17/2014,
three weeks before the tornado stuck the area on Mothers' Day.
variations of barns. A barn study could be the basis of an entire tour of New England.

Farmers among our European ancestors had developed barn construction to an art. Family living quarters were often located next to the barn – body heat from a few dozen cows could keep the adjacent living quarters almost comfortable through the coldest Scandinavian winter.

Barns have been important for a long time.

Allow me to tell a couple of personal barn stories.

The farm I grew up on had two barns, the Horse Barn and the Cow Barn.

The Horse Barn had individual stalls for up to ten animals plus a feed bin, a lean-to machine shed and a huge haymow. It was a red barn with the remnants of harnesses hanging on the walls testifying to its early role on the farm. It was built at some undetermined date around 1900; it proudly served several generations right up to Mothers’ Day of 2014 when a tornado destroyed it taking bits and pieces and a century of memories off to the Northeast.

One of those memories was passed along by my father.

John Peterson was a Swedish bachelor farm hand who worked for my Grandfather while Dad was growing up. Johns was Swedish old school in that the hired help did not go into the house where the Lady lived. John lived in the southwest stall of the Horse Barn. That may not have been all that uncommon.

Another story about John was when he left to return to Sweden as World War I approached. He was 30 years old and feared he would be conscripted into the U.S. Army. While crossing the Atlantic he realized that the Swedish government would have an even tighter hold on his services. He negotiated employment with the ship’s captain and seems to have spent the war as a sailor.

At the close of the war, John disembarked in Eastern Canada, walked west, took a left turn somewhere around Manitoba and returned to his stall in Fred Johnson’s barn.

Or so I was told. It could be an embellished story, or parts possibly fabricated. Don’t know. But the fellow stayed in America living out his final days in the Harvard home. He is buried in the Harvard Cemetery, John B. Peterson (1887-1987).

The Cow Barn was a lesser building, smaller, unpainted and partially hidden behind the Horse Barn. Dad and I bonded during twice daily milkings of four to six cows while listening to KFAB on an ancient radio wedged between the floor joists of the haymow.

Local folklore about this octagonal barn near Clay Center claimed that its
story included roles as a roller-skating rink, a dance hall and as a meeting
hall for a local chapter of the Ku Klux Klan.
There was a rigid tax system payable to the permanent occupants of the Cow Barn in the form of a couple of ounces of fresh, warm milk in a cast iron skillet along the back wall. Any failure to make the payment resulted in noisy, frantic scurrying that would not subside until those cats were fed, from each and every cow.

Most who lived on farms can relate similar barn stories. I am particularly fortunate in that both sides of my family had such stories. My Mother’s family had a locally famous barn.

The Cassell farm straddled Big Sandy Creek for the mile north of Highway 74 west of Ong – the Jim and Virginia Moore farm. David Cassell, my grandfather and uncles built a new barn on the farm sometime, likely in the mid-teens. Those uncles were between six and 23 years old in 1915. That barn worked its way into many conversations at family gatherings.

The story I need to relate here comes mainly from my Mother, the ninth and last of the Cassell clan who was three in 1915.

While the barn was still “new” the boys hosted Saturday night dances in their barn, in the haymow. Mom recalled peeking out from behind her mother’s skirt as the yard was filled with teams and buggies. The Cassell boys were musicians so I speculate they provided the dance music.

When the dance wound down, late into the night, the girls would all come into the house and sleep on the floors throughout that house where the Moore’s live today. The boys slept in the barn. On Sunday morning the teams were hitched to the buggies and everyone headed home – an early vintage Clay County date. Does that sound like fun?

It was never clear how often this happened but we understand it continued for a number of years.

Barns were more than a place for cows and horses.

Others could relate their own stories of barns, barns that were generally very similar.

But like many things, there was a mainstream barn culture and an alternative rogue culture that went against the grain. There were Round Barns.

Roger Welsch wrote an article, “Nebraska’s Round Barns” for the Spring 1970 issue of Nebraska History Magazine. He identified 36 round barns in the state most south of the Platte between Hastings and Lincoln. Four round barns were in Clay County, one in Webster and two each in Nuckolls, Fillmore and York counties. That is, eleven of those 36 were in Clay or surrounding counties.

The University of Illinois Experimental Farm in Champaign championed the round barn design. Three round barns were
built before 1913 lending the schools support to the niche of round barn advocates across the Midwest.
Barn No. 3 was a mile south of Fairfield. There was an article in the newspaper a couple of years ago stating that this barn was to be razed. I haven’t been by it recently, perhaps it’s gone. It was, in fact, actually round, with a 27 foot radius. Mr. Welsch’s definition of “round” included not only circular but also any polyhedral construction of more than five equilateral sides.

Again, everything is on the internet. I found a site that lists all of Mr. Welsch’s barns from this book – it was posted in late June, after the first draft of this article.

The University of Illinois at Champaign figures in the story. Some of the managers at the Experimental Farm were Round Barn Zealots around 1900. One of those guys had built 8 round barns in Indiana before 1902. He caused three round barns to be built at the school between 1907 and 1913.

Round barns were contentious.

Round barn aficionados, and believe me, they did exist, tended to be extremely serious about the topic just like the Illinois fellow. They were in the minority. The majority thought these guys were “out there.”

Fans of the round barns pointed out the efficiency of the footprint, they found handling livestock easier and dairy farmers found the shape conducive to their use. Several round barns were built around a silo putting the feed source for livestock right in the middle of things. That feature was appreciated even by skeptics.

One argument called on the “shape” of animals to defend round barns. Some study found that cattle and horses in a confined space naturally tend to leave their heads somewhat stationary while their hind quarters spread out moving back and forth. That is, horses and cattle aren’t rectangular, they are pie shaped. The point was that heading horses or dairy cows or toward the center of the round barn was natural. Ain’t science wonderful?

Nebraska round barns were concentrated south of the Platte and especially between Hastings and Lincoln. This map
was included with Roger Welsch's article in Nebraska History Magazine, Spring 1970.
Mr. Welsch’s Barn No. 13 was (is?) three miles east of Edgar and was built in 1910 with one of those central silos which was removed in 1920. Why?

No. 23 was a mile west and two miles south of Clay Center, built about 1915. Welsch describes it as one of the most striking barns in the state, 8 sides each 20 feet long, a central silo 20 feet in diameter. He spent four years researching his book and got technical, especially about roofs. He really liked barn roofs. This barn had a “gambrel” roof – you’ll have to read it yourself – the book is in the museum.

Barn No. 34 was two miles northeast of Sutton. When Mr. Welsch visited it in 1967 he was told it was to be torn down soon. The barn was another octagonal structure with 17 ½ foot sides and a gable roof. He described the frame as “balloon” and again you’ll have to read the book – I’m long winded enough here.

The two Fillmore County round barns were two miles east of Shickley and only 100 feet apart. One barn was six miles west and one south of York and was six-sided. A 15-sided barn was nine miles southeast of Nelson. The sides were 14 feet long and it had a central silo.

15-sided it says. So what do you call a 15-sided polygon? Yes, round is a good approximation. But mathematicians won’t let you get away with that. The internet knows all. Several websites are devoted to polygons, for a math and just a Gee-Whiz perspective.

A 15-sided polygon is a “pendedecagon” though when no one is watching, the mathematicians will call it a 15-gon.


But barns, of conventional design or real cool round ones have largely faded from usefulness and become nostalgic reminders of a past when farms were diverse and livestock a crucial part of every farm. Barns dominated for centuries in the long-established parts of our civilized world, but in our area with less than a century and a half of history the story of our barns is little more than a short story.

The Starke Brothers' barn east of Red Cloud may have been the largest round barn in the nation with a diameter of 130 feet and 32 foot high walls. The central silo was 28 feet across. The roof design was called "gambrel" with a center dormer providing access to the loft on the third floor. The bottom level was for animals, the middle was a machine shed. A potato cellar was under the ramp to the main floor. 



The Story of the Sutton House Project



There are a lot of aspects to recording the story of a community. We claim to be collecting and preserving the artifacts and information about the history of Sutton and we’ve accumulated stuff and information, mostly with the help of Sutton area residents.

Our latest run of items has been scrapbooks. We’ve received several with an emphasis on old postcards. Those go along with furnishings, paintings, photos, old documents and photos, school annuals and much more that the generous citizens of the area have given to the museum. The information comes from donated books, articles and papers about the area but largely from Sunday afternoon conversations around the table at the Historic House or a brief visit at the grocery store or someplace else in town.

It is very important to the success of the museum that the community be involved. Everybody knows something about our past and it seems a bit selfish to sit on it and never share. You were taught to share once, weren’t you?

Now we are looking for a specific kind of information to record about the Sutton Story and you can help.

We recently started “The Sutton House Project” on our website: suttonhistoricalsociety.blogspot.com done mainly in response to a common question we’re asked that goes along the lines of, “I just bought this house in town. Do you know when it was built and who built it? Who’s lived in it?”

We generally don’t have an answer. But if you know some part of the story of one of Sutton’s houses, we’d like to hear about it. You tell us once, we capture and preserve that tidbit of information and it will be available for anyone or everyone for a long time to come.

Then there are the “names” of houses. Street names and house numbers were not an original thing in Sutton and people developed the habit of referring to a house by a name. It’s usually the name of a family that lived in the house at some time but there are other sources of names. The “Maltby Hosue” was where the Ebert Sisters lived. The name came from a later time when the house was a Bed and Breakfast using that name. True, it is within the 80 acres homesteaded by John Maltby. But so is about ¼ of the town.

For recent arrivals, as in the past 25 years, or like me, grew up in Sutton but was gone for 44 years, most of these names don’t mean much. For instance, where is the “Clark House?” There were at least three: the home where I. N. Clark lived, his brother’s house and his son’s house. The Plettner family has owned the house built by the son (Bertie Clark) for several years.

But my cynical response is that the real Clark House wasn’t a home at all. We have an old photo with a business, the first business on Saunders Avenue clearly labeled in huge letters on the side, “CLARK HOUSE.” It was the hardware store of I. N. Clark and the pharmacy of his brother Martin V. B. Clark in 1872! Later it was a hotel, offices, stores and torn down more than a century ago. Jim Griess included a picture of that early Clark House from its hotel period in his book.

The practice of naming our houses never really caught on in much of the U.S. William Jennings Bryan’s Lincoln home is called Fairview; Omaha has its General Dodge House but those are exceptions. The practice is more common Back East. My ump-teenth great-grandparent’s house in New Paulz, New York is still called the Bevier-Elting house. (An interesting finding in a recent afternoon conversation at the Historic House is that that couple is likely also Sallie Barbee’s ump-teenth great-grandparents.)

We did use to name our farms and you’ll see a few on old plat maps especially in the south part of the county.

Houses with names are common on the East Coast but not nearly as much as in Europe. Francis Mayes introduced us to Bramasole in her book, “Under the Tuscan Sun.” That was the name of the house she purchased on the steep, eastern slope of the Cortona, Italy hill where the sun goes down over the hill in early afternoon. Bramasole in Italian means “yearn for the sun.” What poetic name fits your house?

At least two Sutton houses began their stories serving as one-room rural school houses. Would I be called an Unrepentant Romantic if I began to think of names for those homes that might capture their special stories? Yeah, probably. Photos of those two houses slipped into last month’s article.

So there were at least two motives to look into the histories of the houses in Sutton: the background of the building, the builder, past residents and the ambiguous and sometimes misleading names that have become attached to the houses.

But we don’t generally have those answers.

Enter: Crowdsourcing. What’s that? It’s a ten-year old word now in the dictionary that means, “The process of obtaining services, ideas or content by soliciting contributions from a large group of people.” It is based on the radical notion that a big bunch of people knows more than a small bunch of people.

So rather than the handful of people in the Sutton Historical Society try to write the history of the houses in Sutton, how about a bigger bunch of us do it?

The method we chose to crowdsource the stories of Sutton houses works like this.

First: we’ve posted pictures of several of Sutton’s houses on our website – about 75 so far, and counting.

Second: we ask a simple question, “What do you know about this house?”

Third: we provide instructions of how to answer and a single place where you can see what others have said and respond to them, or more likely, start that conversation yourself.

The historical society published a calendar in 2008 featuring distinctive houses of Sutton – 23 of them, two per page but our Historic House was Miss January all by herself. The captions to those houses are in the respective houses in this project to start us off.

Guess what? People are posting comments about the houses and starting real “conversations.” Check out 608 S. Way Avenue and 603 W. Cedar Street for starters.

The process is simple. Go to suttonhistoricalsociety.blogspot.com and locate the “Pages” section in the right column. Click on the second item, “Sutton House Project.” This takes you to a page cleverly titled “Sutton House Project” where we describe the project. Scroll down to the directory of houses under the line “Links to individual houses:”

The directory is sorted alphabetically by street names and numerically by house numbers. Your house likely isn’t here – there are fewer than 80 as I write this bit a few more go up every now and then.

Click on an address and arrive at the page for one specific house. There is a photo, an excerpt of the instructions and hopefully, a few comments at the bottom. Click on the line “Post a comment” or “No comments” to leave your own note.

There is a requirement to “log in” so the host website knows that you’re real. A gmail account is an easy way but you can comment as “anonymous” or via other log in procedures. There may be a silly question to answer. The reason for this check is to preclude rogue software from commenting. You may have seen comments on blogs describing how someone’s sister makes $63,000 a month in her with her computer. That’s likely an automated post a simple check could have stopped.

I mentioned earlier that there were at least two motives for initiating this project, anticipating questions about the background of a house and secondly to see what names people may be using to identify or reference Sutton houses. Another motive is more subtle. The big frustration about spending a lot of time maintaining and growing the Sutton Museum is that so few people are involved indicating just how poorly we’ve managed to let others in on the entertainment value of being involved in such an enterprise. It seems to be big hurdle for people to stop on a Sunday afternoon to see what we’re doing and to visit a bit.

So here you can become involved without getting out of your chair, and at any time you want. And maybe we can have some fun with it. Thank you in advance. Now, have at it.




Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Apple Valley 2015 kick-off

Sutton fourth graders have a six-week study block called Apple Valley in which they simulate study in a country school. For the past few years, the first and last activities of Apple Valley have been held in the Sutton Museum's Wolf School Museum.

The class visited our school on Friday, September 18th to receive their new names for the study block and learn a little bit about their new "families."


Sutton 4th graders getting their new names and family for their Apple Valley study block

The Sutton Museum is proud to host these two visits and be a part of giving fourth graders a hands-on look and feel of a rural school. And we are happy to speak to the class about the one-room schools and pass along a few of our favorite stories.

The class will be back in six weeks when we will host their Apple Valley graduation ceremonies.

Apple Valley is the highlight of the year for the Wolf School Museum.

I have a "ritual" of lingering in the school after the kids have left when it takes very little imagination to feel that it is a happy day for the school too.


Popular Girl Contest

This was a promotion by a Harvard merchant 100 years ago - contest ended October 9, 1915. 


Did not find out who won.


Ad in the Harvard Courier in September, 1915

Monday, September 21, 2015

Competition County Fairs - 1915

Not sure what was going on in 1915 but Clay County and Fillmore County managed to hold their fairs at the same time. Does not seem to be a good idea from where I sit 100 years later...











Friday, August 21, 2015

Harry Thaw in Sutton August, 1915


I had a little fun with this item in the 100-years ago section of my column in The Clay County News in the August 19, 2015 issue this week.



The Harry Thaw item in the August 20, 1915 issue of The Sutton News - front page, middle.

I include a photo with each of my columns and after over 6 years and 300 columns, my inventory of usable photos is nearly drained. So this 1915 Atlantic City photo of an accused murder recently released from prison is "appropriate" only after a certain amount of research, time and effort.

If I can find a connection between Sutton and this picture, think of what else might be in store for the unsuspecting readers of The Clay County News.



Mr. Harry K. Thaw, second from left with his bodyguards in the Atlantic City surf on July 17, 1915 the day after he was released from prison on $35,000 bail and four weeks before he was spotted on the library corner in downtown Sutton – the county’s tiny connection to a bizarre New York scandal 100 years ago.


Below is my account of this item in that paper from 100 years ago. Yes, I really did use up this much space in the local weekly newspaper to tell this story.


This week’s photo was found on the website murderpedia.org and deviates sharply from our usual pattern. Let’s have some fun.

The Sutton News reported 100 years ago that on Friday evening, August 13th locals noticed a car on the corner by the Sutton library. The group was heading west toward Denver and were uncertain which road to take out of town.

The locals thought they recognized one of the occupants and C. J. Bauer and Art Kelly worked an introduction to Mr. Harry K. Thaw. The article reads as though all readers would know who Mr. Thaw was. I didn’t.

After a bit of research we learn that Mr. Thaw was a wealthy Pittsburgh fellow who’d killed well-known architect (Madison Square Garden, etc.) Stanford White in the Madison Square Garden Theater in 1906 after a long feud centered on Thaw’s wife who had been seduced at age 16 by Mr. White – or deflowered as described in some articles and likely savagely raped as some accounts indicated.

The young lady was Evelyn Nesbit, chorus girl, model, actress and early Gibson Girl. There were a couple of murder trials, insanity pleas, a prison escape and a serious mess for several years. Thaw had just been released from prison the day before our photo was taken with his “sanity” still in question. His appearance in Sutton was just four weeks after the photo was taken.

Miss Nesbit appeared in several early movies from 1907 through 1922. The story of the White/Nesbit/Thaw love triangle was told in a 1955 movie called “The Girl in the Red Velvet Swing” starring Ray Milland, Joan Collins and Farley Granger – good enough (or crummy enough) for a 6.4 rating at imdb.com and available for rent for $2.99 at Amazon Prime.

The final paragraph of the Sutton News article read, “One of the party made the remark that we of the middle west had never expected to see Mr. That “so far out.” Mr. Thaw said that he certainly was glad to be “out”, which we can readily believe, judging by the efforts he made to get ‘out’”

Thus prompting our effort to find even more of “the rest of the story”, which you will find on the Sutton Museum blog along with a few more photos captured from several pertinent websites including murderpedia.org

It’s unlikely Evelyn was with Harry that night in Sutton – there had been bickering about the amount she was to be paid to testify favorably at his trials and they divorced in 1915.

A search for “Harry Kendall Thaw” will lead you to a fun diversion or to a serious distraction if you happen to be trying to write a newspaper column at the time. Harry Thaw died in 1947.

So, did you know about Harry Kendall Thaw? I thought not. And here is the rest of the story:

or at least links to it...

First and foremost, as in any 21st Century research effort, there is the Wikipedia entry:       The Wikipedia Story

And then there is the story as told on wikipedia knockoffs as in this case, murderpedia.org:      http://murderpedia.org/male.T/t/thaw-harry-photos.htm



Do I have your attention?

Every story needs a woman. In this case, quite a story, good enough for the BBC.


BBC: Evelyn Nesbit: the First Supermodel


And the Smithsonian:


Smithsonian channel bit on Stanford White's commissioned photo shoot of Evelyn.



Would you like a few more pictures? Here's the Google outcome of a "Stanford White and Evelyn Nesbit and Harry Thaw":


More Pictures, some more pictures and then some more pictures

Stanford White's great, granddaughter wrote this book about the architect. The book discussion piece from C-SPAN makes the book enticing on many levels - the White/Nesbit/Thaw story itself, Stanford White as THE architect for the Robber Barons of the Gilded Age, the impact on a family of their patriarch killed under such scandalous circumstances, etc., etc.

Discussion of Stanford White biography - 37 minutes


So this is what happens when one takes a little item in a Sutton, Nebraska newspaper from 100 years ago and starts to unravel the story in the item. Was this "Sutton related"? Only if you want it to be, then sure. So many stories, so little time.

Yes, Harry K. Thaw was spotted in Sutton on August 13, 1915.

------

P.S. After cogitating on this topic a couple of days, the identity of those in Harry Thaw's "party" intrigued. 

Mr. Thaw was very rich. They were traveling in a 1915 vintage vehicle. Mr. Thaw was very famous and had just been released from prison where he'd been sent, sane or no, for a heinous crime. Mr. Thaw had been photographed (see above) just a few weeks earlier with three bodyguards. Mr. and Mrs. Thaw were at least estranged and their 1915 divorce either recently happened or was soon to happen.

So, with whom would the man have been traveling half way across the country?

Probably not his wife. The vehicle was likely an automobile with a capacity of four, five or six. Who would Mr. Thaw have accompany him on a cross country trip?

It would seem that if Mr. Thaw saw fit to have three bodyguards on the day after his release from prison as the caption to the photo above states, then that crew was likely in his employment for some time. This was a wealthy man who did have an entourage with him in Sutton on August 13th and was photographed with an entourage in Atlantic City on July 17th.

So can't we reasonably posit that the four men photographed in Atlantic City on July 17th were, in fact, the "party" spotted in a vehicle on the library corner in Sutton on the night of August 13th.

I'll place that likelihood at well over 50%, more in the neighborhood of 75 to 90%.

Jerry - August 23, 2015