Tuesday, June 20, 2017

The Class of 1942's 50-year Reunion

This photo appeared in The Clay County News after the alumni banquet in 1992

This was the 50th reunion for the Class of 1942.



1917 - 4th of July Contributing Businesses

We have here a list of businesses who contributed to Sutton's 1917 4th of July Celebration - at least a partial list of the businesses 100 years ago.






Monday, June 19, 2017

1917 auto headlight frenzy to comply with state law.

A 1917 ad in The Sutton News offered headlights to comply with a new Nebraska law restricting auto headlights to casting light no higher than 42 inches above the ground. Several companies hit the market with new lenses.



Turn Your Ford into a Tractor - 1917

This ad appeared in The Sutton News in 1917. Had not seen any previous reference to the "Sutton Pullford Co." nor do I remember anything about slapping tractor tires on a car to act like it is a tractor. I suspect neither the product or the company had a long life.



Thursday, June 15, 2017

1922 Sutton Basketball Team - World-Herald article in 1967

The 1922 Sutton High Class A State Basketball Champs received coverage in a World-Herald article by Conde Sargent in 1967.

Our earlier post about this team is at   Sutton's Top All-Time Sports Story




You Should Tell Your Story

You really should write down your story.

We’ve told the story of two of Sutton’s expats in the past two articles. Both of those men did things that were written about in newspapers, magazines and Wikipedia. They were somewhat famous people, but even the not so famous live lives worth remembering.

The population of Sutton has fluctuated around 1,500 for most of its existence. So, how many people would that be – it must be at least six to ten thousand. And each lived a life filled with stories. And that includes you.

The Germans from Russia organization several years ago urged members to write down the immigration stories of their parents, grandparents and other family members. We have a few of those in our museum. Completing these projects are time-critical, even urgent as only a few people know the stories and the stories will disappear as people do.

Sutton pioneer John Maltby kept a diary including during his voyage from Boston to the Australian gold fields, traveling rivers in India and pioneering in Nebraska. The diary is among 13 boxes of his materials at the state historical society. Browsing Maltby’s diary gave me a pleasant afternoon a few years ago.

Or someone’s story can be much more benign.

My father, Clarence Johnson, began his journal at the start of 1935. I resolved
many disagreements, misunderstandings and conflicting memories.
My father began keeping a journal on January 1, 1935 and wrote in it typically on Sundays. It settled
 many discussions around the supper table. If my parents disagreed about when or if something happened Dad would announce, “It’s in the book”, go to the appropriate volume and return either triumphant or quietly to confirm Mom remembered better. About 50-50.

It’s kind of cool to read what your dad wrote the day you were born.

Are you afraid you don’t have anything interesting to say? So what? Your grandparents had their toddler days, likely school days, they met and courted, fell in love and were married, made a life for themselves, made a living, raised kids and grew old. You knew them late in life. Do you have any curiosity about how they lived their earlier lives? Doesn’t it stand to reason that your grandkids and other younger people will have that same curiosity about all those things you did?

If you haven’t written down your own story, consider doing it. Really consider doing it.

So, what do you say and how do you say it?

Well, you can start at the beginning. I’ll illustrate.

I was born on June 23, 1943 to Mildred (Cassell) and Clarence Johnson.

OK, a start. Do I know anything else about that day?

“I was born in the midst of World War II when many common items were rationed. Every person had a ration book that allowed purchase of sugar, flour, coffee, meat, gasoline, tires, etc. I was born at 4:45 am at the Hastings hospital. My Dad drove back to Sutton later that day, stopping in Clay Center to pick up the new ration book that I was now entitled to, a book of stamps authorizing my parents to buy more items than they could the day before.”

You likely have lots of family pictures, perhaps labled
but maybe not. A little effort on your part to label and
preserve photos will earn the appreciation of your
offspring, and can add a chuckle to your day.
Isn’t that a story worth preserving? It’s personal, but it does provide a bit of background. You certainly have similar stories.

You’ll want to mention your grandparents and other relatives. You don’t have to go an entire genealogy thing; that’s another project. But you should record what you know about those people.

For instance:

My grandfather David Cassell died two years before I was born. My mother told me that on Sunday morning he would shave, take a bath and smoke a cigar, and that was the only occasion he did any of those three things.

We only have a few pictures of the man and that little piece of information is what I think of when I see those pictures.

My other grandfather died when I was six. My most vivid memory of him was the day he ran over my toy truck I’d left in the driveway. I didn’t learn the meaning of “distraught” until years later, but when I did, I knew that’s how Fred Johnson felt that day. (He got me a new truck.)

Your story will be better focused and easier to write if you identify your audience first. You will be one member of that audience yourself. Memories are fragile. Once you start recalling little details, more will come back, but not always.

I kept a good journal and took a lot of pictures on a lengthy trip to Europe 14 years ago. Using that journal and the pictures as a reminder, I can reconstruct many of those days, a thing I know would not happen without those clues.

Your relatives are a part of your story, don't leave
them out. This is my uncle Mike Cassell who
worked in the Sutton Lumber Yard for... ever.
But you should share your story. I write for my grandkids. They don’t know it, and I don’t require them to care. But aiming at them provides my focus.

Your story will likely include your school days. I attended country school from K-5th grade. That is a memory that a diminishing population has. Our Wolfe School museum is the ultimate show-and-tell for that purpose, but our personal memories fill out that story. Again, for instance:

Our country school had a storm cellar dug into a hillside on the school grounds. It was intended as a safe place for pupils in case of a tornado. The cellar was crawling with snakes. The young teacher had asked the school board (including my father) to clear it but it wasn’t happening. One spring afternoon she cancelled classes and led a bunch of boys, and girls, in a snake-slaughtering episode, ending with 42 (as I recall) snakes stretched out on the driveway. K-8 kids don’t do much of that anymore.

That story seems worth saving.

My contemporaries on the farm grew up while farming was in transition (isn’t it always?). We saw the last of stacking hay, shelling corn, threshing and other tasks soon to be altered, automated or obsolete.

My most painful memory of growing up on the farm was fixing fence. No matter how many tasks you worked to completion, there was always fence to fix. It was infuriating to move back to Nebraska 12 years ago and see large herds of cattle confined by a strand of horsehair-sized electrified wire. I spent my youth repairing and rebuilding “miles” of four-strand barbed wire stapled to closely-spaced buried creosote posts, railroad tie corner posts and carefully designed gates. Where is the justice?

Your story, the story of your life is worth remembering and saving for others. Think of the tales we tell at family reunions, to friends over dinner or at the bar, in letters…  Scratch that, we don’t write letters anymore. Emails, tweets and texts are not conducive for what I’m talking about. All the more reason…
My grandparents took this family photo in the fall of 1911 - yes, the horses were important family members for early farmers.
My grandparents raised at least seven of their nine children in this house on the west side of Section 3 in Logan Township,
until recently occupied by Jim and Virginia Moore until it was badly damaged in a fire. I claim that my mother is in this
photo as that is my grandmother just to the right of the four-horse team and she would give birth to her ninth child, my mother
in May 1912.

You may have left Sutton for a time, for college, a job, even a vacation when you had experiences worth remembering and telling about. Or you left home for another reason.

There is sensation I experience when I’m outside in that hour before dawn on a cool morning with no wind and birds singing. A memory sweeps in and I’m standing at attention in the breakfast line outside a chow hall at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas. It’s 5:00 am, the birds are singing, no one speaks (absolutely no one speaks!) as we take repeated single steps into the chow hall. I was only in basic training for five weeks but that scene in imbedded and recalled when I find myself outside, before dawn on a still day with birds singing.

Do you have anything like that, a thing that triggers a memory? A song or a smell or an object may do that for you. Tell that story and allow people to see that part of you.

When you tell your story, a lot of it will be centered on your family. Tell your kids and grandkids about meeting your spouse, what was it that led to your marriage, how you lived as a new family, how the kids changed that, and the grandkids. Let your family take center stage for their portion of your life. You will trigger their own deep memories.

You should be willing to bare a bit of yourself. Brag about your successes; own up to your failures. What are you most proud of; what do you wish you’d done differently; what advice to you have for your reader (again, grandkids make a good target audience).

I’ve focused on the “writing” of a memoir here. There are alternatives. Make a video or at least an audio recording. Your computer likely has a camera (or you can plug one in). Sit back and tell your story. Choose a comfortable pattern. Fifteen or 20 minute segments on one or two subject at each setting isn’t a strain.

Technology allows you to put preserve your files several ways. You could share your memories via email or on at a common location (Google Docs). Lots of ways.

Many years ago, I sent each of my cousins a two-hour VHS tape (that’s how long ago) where I’d described my version of our genealogy story as I had it at the time. Should update that – the information and the format.

We very often hear people say that they wish they’d asked their grandparents more questions before it was too late. The onus may not have been on you to ask questions, but on grandma to offer the answers unprompted.

If so, then the onus is on you to offer the answers about your life before your grandkids know they have questions. And furthermore, how are they going to know what a cool character you were if you don't tell them.

Did my great-grandfather understand that? James Demetris Rowlison kept a journal while with the 82nd Indiana Infantry throughout the Civil War. We have six months of that journal.

My great, grandfather's civil war journal is now reaching his sixth generation of grateful descendants. 








Herbert Johnson - Sutton's Cartoonist

Renown cartoonist Herbert Johnson

was born in Sutton on October, 30, 1878 


Herbert Johnson (1878-1946)


It is trite to say the amount of information on the internet has ballooned. It is more accurate to say it is still ballooning.

The people at youtube claim that the amount of new videos uploaded is approaching 500 hours every minute. If you are disappointed that you might be missing some good videos, chill out. You can’t keep up.

Government agencies continue to make their archives available online. Genealogists really appreciate that.

Clubs, associations and just about any organization is creating or expanding their online presence.

Herbert Johnson's cartoons usually featured his depiction of the "Common People". 
If you did some research just a few months ago, you may want to look again. We learned that last month when several articles about Sutton’s Walter Wellman showed up that we had not seen before. An obscure magazine posted three articles Wellman had written about his exploration giving us in Sutton a much better picture of the life of that Sutton native.

It’s happened again. We had earlier learned a little bit about Herbert Johnson. We knew he came from Sutton, was a cartoonist for student publications at the University and later drew numerous political cartoons during the 1930’s. We even have a book with 90 of those cartoons. He drew more cartoons for the covers of Saturday Evening Post and Country Gentleman magazines.

But we knew nothing about most of his life. Until now.

Among the items that we found about Herbert Johnson was an issue of “The Scroll”, a publication of the Phi Delta Theta international social fraternity. The publication had asked our fellow to write a sketch of his life. This account was written about 1914 covering his early life, before notoriety may have dimmed this portion of his life. We’ll take advantage of it here.

Our hero was a rather distinguished looking fellow.
Herbert Raymond Johnson was born in Sutton on October 30, 1878. The family appears in the 1880 census where J. W. Johnson, age 29 identified himself as a broker, we can guess real estate. Herbert’s mother was Mary A. (nee Bagley) and he had an older brother Joseph W. age 3. We learn later that Joseph was also his father’s name. A seventeen-year old brother of Joseph was living with them.

In his sketch, Herbert Johnson quotes William Allen White when he said he enjoyed “the inestimable privilege” of being born in a small town.

We get a taste of man from the boy:

I have always been temperamentally opposed to the tyranny of vested interests, and at the ripe age of nine, feeling that my personal liberties were being unduly curtailed by the stand-pat policies of the family government adhered to by my parents, I insurged, and ran away from home, hitting the trail for the Black Hills.
He returned after a few days “to submit to the domestic steam roller.”

The family moved to Lincoln when Herbert was 13. He attended public schools for two years and then got a job as a clerk and bookkeeper in a general store in western Nebraska.

Another two years later he was on vacation in Denver when he visited the office of Mr. Wilmarth, the cartoonist for the Denver Republican. He did a few sketches and was offered to job as assistant for $20 per week.

He had never had any formal art training but had always been able to draw pictures “better than anything else except ride horse.”

He went to the Kansas City Journal where he was in charge of the art and engraving departments. An article at the time identified him as the youngest art manager in the country.

In 1899 Hebert Johnson returned to Lincoln and the University where he earned his way managing a college weekly. This piece of information surfaced some time ago on one of the University websites. And, of course he still neglected to take any art classes.

He was back living with his family in the 1900 census with three younger brothers, all would have been born in Sutton. Herbert listed his occupation as “cartoonist”.

His health failed so he went to California to work in the Yosemite Valley shoveling snow off trails, cutting timber, fixing roads and general labor.

In 1901 he wandered into Tucson where he became circulation manager for the Arizona Daily Citizen, screwed up and was fired. However, the only reporter on the paper quit and he was hired to take that job.

Herbert Johnson drew covers for the Saturday Evening
Post and Country Gentleman magazines, among others.
He then went to New York City and submitted five drawings to Life Magazine, one was accepted for $45 but little more came of that experience. Then onto Philadelphia where his career took off. He was in charge of the Sunday art department of the North American newspaper and became their regular cartoonist in 1908.

At this point in his life at age 29 he was drawing cartoons and illustrations for the Saturday Evening Post, Country Gentleman, Life, Colliers, LaFollette’s, etc.

He had finally arrived.

By 1910 he was married to Helen Letitia Fowler Turner and they had an infant daughter named Heberta.

His father Joseph Johnson worked for the State of Nebraska as Railway Commissioner and as Food Commissioner.

The 1920 census found the family in Philadelphia where Herbert listed his occupation as cartoonist. Herberta was ten and had an eight-year old sister Katherine. The household included Herbert’s widowed mother-in-law and a 31-year old servant, who was identified in the practice of the time as “Mu”, mulatto.

Herbert’s political cartoons during the 1920’s were in solid support of the Republican Party and the administrations of Warren Harding, Calvin Coolidge and Herbert Hoover.

The Johnson family met the 1930 census enumerator out in the northeast suburbs of Philadelphia in Montgomery County where Herbert valued his home at $100,000. Not bad in 1930. Though his 1940 census estimate of the home value is a tad more. It definitely is some number of millions, the first digit is blurred. The transcriber interpreted a value of $9,000,000.
This article appeared in The Sutton Register on June 29, 1939, part of an exchange between John Heinz in Sutton and
Herbert Johnson. He did remember his early (before age 13) years in Sutton including the "Blue Clay" swimming hole.

The election of Franklin Roosevelt and the New Deal policies of the Democratic Party predictably led Johnson to a new style of cartooning with a new harshness and edge. He did not like Roosevelt. He did not like anything about the New Deal. His opposition crossed the line into quixotic.

Our collection of 90 cartoons from this era came to us from a grandson of Mr. Johnson in Berks County, Pennsylvania. His wife had seen a post on our blog several years ago. In it we mentioned that the book of cartoons was listed on amazon but was out of print. We received an email offering us one of the volumes, we took it…
This early 1936 cartoon reflects Johnson's hope that Republican voters would
return to his party to defeat President Roosevelt and the New Deal.
Didn't happen.

We more recently received an enticing offer from a dealer in memorabilia. He had a book of 384 original cartoons by Herbert Johnson. His photos of the book indicated it was a scrapbook with four cartoons pasted onto each page. We asked for more information and learned that his asking price was $25,000. It was not that enticing.

We passed.

Herbert Raymond Johnson died on October 13, 1946 after 53 days in the Abington Memorial Hospital in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania as he neared his 68th birthday.

This is another in our series of research efforts and articles about natives of Sutton who have left this area and achieved fame elsewhere. We’ve seen here that Herbert Johnson did not forget where he was born and raised and that he enjoyed “the inestimable privilege” of being born in a small town. We need to return the favor and remember him with a certain level of pride that he was once a part of our town.

Herbert Johnson at the easel in his studio, likely in his Montgomery County home outside of Philadelphia.




Monday, June 12, 2017

Sutton's Big Centennial Pageant


This ad in The Clay County News in June, 1967 announced the towns BIG centennial pageant celebrating the 100th birthday of the State of Nebraska.



1917 Sutton Alumni Reception


This story about the 1917 alumni reception at Sutton High appeared in The Sutton News on Friday, June 8, 1917.

Sutton's first graduating class came in 1886 and two members of that class attended this reception.




And, thanks to Gwenda Mau's invaluable alumni directory, here is the list of the members of the Sutton High School Class of 1917:




Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Lich Drug Fountain Pen Ad

This 1917 ad touted Parker Fountain Pens at the Lich Drug Store in Sutton.

Has anyone within the range of this post used a fountain pen within the past month? the past year? ever?

Check out http://www.parkerpen.com/en-US to order your new Parker fountain pen - pens in their prestige lines typically run from $200 - $500. It won't take much effort to find some a bit pricier.

The Carter Silver Paladium goes for a cool $17,800. Would you risk actually using one of those. Certainly wouldn't put it my pocket and walk out the door. 



1942 Rural School Teachers Supported the Sugar Rationing Program

This article appeared in county newspapers on May 1, 1942. Rural school teachers were assigned responsibility to register everyone in their rural districts for the sugar rationing program. 

We have not seen how people were registered for rationing of other scarce resources - gasoline, tires, coffee, etc. Perhaps sugar registration data was usable for those other products. 



Cartoonist Herbert Johnson - Sutton Born

Our subject for today, Cartoonist Herbert Johnson, born in Sutton, Nebraska, October 30, 1878.

It is trite to say that the amount of information on the internet has ballooned. It is more accurate to say it is still ballooning.

The people at youtube claim that the amount of new videos uploaded is approaching 500 hours every minute. If you are disappointed that you might be missing some good videos, chill out. You can’t keep up.

Government agencies continue to make their archives available online. Genealogists really appreciate that.

Clubs, associations and just about any organization is creating or expanding their online presence.

If you did some research just a few months ago, you may want to look again. We learned that last month when several articles about Sutton’s Walter Wellman showed up that we had not seen before. An obscure magazine posted three articles Wellman had written about his exploration giving us in Sutton a much better picture of the life of that Sutton native.

One of many magazine covers by Herbert Johnson
It’s happened again. We had earlier learned a little bit about Herbert Johnson. We knew he came from Sutton, was a cartoonist for student publications at the University and later drew numerous political cartoons during the 1930’s. We even have a book with 90 of those cartoons. He drew more cartoons for the covers of Saturday Evening Post and Country Gentleman magazines.

But we knew nothing about most of his life. Until now.

Among the items that we found about Herbert Johnson was an issue of “The Scroll”, a publication of the Phi Delta Theta international social fraternity. The publication had asked our fellow to write a sketch of his life. This account was written about 1914 covering his early life, before notoriety may have dimmed this portion of his life. We’ll take advantage of it here.

Herbert Raymond Johnson was born in Sutton on October 30, 1878. The family appears in the 1880 census where J. W. Johnson, age 29 identified himself as a broker, we can guess real estate. Herbert’s mother was Mary A. (nee Bagley) and he had an older brother Joseph W. age 3. We learn later that Joseph was also his father’s name. A seventeen-year old brother of Joseph was living with them.

In his sketch, Herbert Johnson quotes William Allen White when he said he enjoyed “the inestimable privilege” of being born in a small town.

We get a taste of man from the boy:

I have always been temperamentally opposed to the tyranny of vested interests, and at the ripe age of nine, feeling that my personal liberties were being unduly curtailed by the stand-pat policies of the family government adhered to by my parents, I insurged, and ran away from home, hitting the trail for the Black Hills.

He returned after a few days “to submit to the domestic steam roller.”

The family moved to Lincoln when Herbert was 13. He attended public schools for two years and then got a job as a clerk and bookkeeper in a general store in western Nebraska.

Another two years later he was on vacation in Denver when he visited the office of Mr. Wilmarth, the cartoonist for the Denver Republican. He did a few sketches and was offered to job as assistant for $20 per week.

He had never had any formal art training but had always been able to draw pictures “better than anything else except ride horse.”

He went to the Kansas City Journal where he was in charge of the art and engraving departments. An article at the time identified him as the youngest art manager in the country.

In 1899 Hebert Johnson returned to Lincoln and the University where he earned his way managing a college weekly. This piece of information surfaced some time ago on one of the University websites. And, of course he still neglected to take any art classes.

He was back living with his family in the 1900 census with three younger brothers, all would have been born in Sutton. Herbert listed his occupation as “cartoonist”.

His health failed so he went to California to work in the Yosemite Valley shoveling snow off trails, cutting timber, fixing roads and general labor. (I didn't understand that, either.)

In 1901 he wandered into Tucson where he became circulation manager for the Arizona Daily Citizen, screwed up and was fired. However, the only reporter on the paper quit and he was hired back to take that job.
Cartoonist develop favorite characters that recur in their
work. Herbert Johnson used this image as "Common People."

He then went to New York City and submitted five drawings to Life Magazine, one was accepted for $45 but little more came of that experience. Then onto Philadelphia where his career took off. He was in charge of the Sunday art department of the North American newspaper and became their regular cartoonist in 1908.

At this point in his life at age 29 he was drawing cartoons and illustrations for the Saturday Evening Post, Country Gentleman, Life, Colliers, LaFollette’s, etc.

He had finally arrived.

By 1910 he was married to Helen Letitia Fowler Turner and they had an infant daughter named Heberta.

His father Joseph Johnson worked for the State of Nebraska as Railway Commissioner and as Food Commissioner.

The 1920 census found the family in Philadelphia where Herbert listed his occupation as cartoonist. Herberta was ten and had an eight-year old sister Katherine. The household included Herbert’s widowed mother-in-law and a 31-year old servant, who was identified in the practice of the time as “Mu”, mulatto.

He was distinguished-looking - worth 2 portraits.
Herbert’s political cartoons during the 1920’s were in solid support of the Republican Party and the administrations of Warren Harding, Calvin Coolidge and Herbert Hoover.

The Johnson family met the 1930 census enumerator out in the northeast suburbs of Philadelphia in Montgomery County where Herbert valued his home at $100,000. Not bad in 1930. Though his 1940 census estimate of the home value is a tad more. It definitely is some number of millions, the first digit is blurred. The census transcriber interpreted a value of $9,000,000.

The election of Franklin Roosevelt and the New Deal policies of the Democratic Party predictably led Johnson to a new style of cartooning with a new harshness and edge. He did not like Roosevelt. He did not like anything about the New Deal. His opposition crossed the line into quixotic.

Our collection of 90 cartoons from this era came to us from a grandson of Mr. Johnson in Berks County, Pennsylvania. His wife had seen a post on our blog several years ago. In it we mentioned that the book of cartoons was listed on amazon but was out of print. We received an email offering us one of the volumes, we took it…
One of the political cartoons Herbert Johnson published mostly during the 1930's. This is one of the 90 cartoons in a book that we have on display in the Sutton Museum. The book was sent to us by the wife of one of Herbert's grandsons. Thanks to them.
We more recently received an enticing offer from a dealer in memorabilia. He had a book of 384 original cartoons by Herbert Johnson. His photos of the book indicated it was a scrapbook with four cartoons pasted onto each page. We asked for more information and learned that his asking price was $25,000. It was not that enticing.

We passed.
Herbert Johnson's letter to John Heinz published in
The Sutton Register on June 29, 1939.

Prior to our most recent finds about Herbert Johnson, we were hesitant to feature his story and loaded up our accounts with caveats. There were instances where his birthplace was listed as Sutton, Nebraska but there wasn't any local evidence of that. (Not sure how we missed the 1-year old Herbert in the 1880 census.)

We found our first convincing evidence of Herbert Johnson's connection to Sutton in the June 29, 1939 issue of The Sutton Register which carried a letter from John Heinz of Sutton who had written to Herbert Johnson complimenting him on one of his cartoons. Johnson's response included a account of his brief visit to Sutton while "passing through". He related a few of his experiences of growing up (through age 13) in Sutton.

Unrelated, but really interesting was his reference, "I learned to swim in that old swimming hole west of town which we used to call "Blue Clay". He didn't know why it was called that, no one we've talked to so far knew of such a place. I'll edit this post to describe the Blue Clay Swimming Hole as soon as someone helps me out.

Herbert Raymond Johnson died on October 13, 1946 after 53 days in the Abington Memorial Hospital in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania as he neared his 68th birthday.

This is another in our series of research efforts and articles about natives of Sutton who have left this area and achieved fame elsewhere. We’ve seen here that Herbert Johnson did not forget where he was born and raised and that he enjoyed “the inestimable privilege” of being born in a small town. We need to return the favor and remember him with a certain level of pride that he was once a part of our town.

This post is based on an article that first appeared in the April, 2017 issue of Sutton Life Magazine. Learn more about this publication by contacting mustangmediasales@gmail.com or calling Jarod Griess at 402-984-4203. 

Herbert Johnson at his easel in his studio - comfortable supportive chair, light from the left, excellent outdoors view - all the
right features to a work-conducive environment. But, did he work in coat, tie and good dress shoes? Maybe.




Sunday, April 30, 2017

War Bond Quotas by County - 1942


War is expensive and you need money right away - no waiting for April 15th. So, War Bonds. Boy Scouts were part of the local sales forces.


Sutton City Officals - 1917

So who were the movers and shakers in Sutton in 1917. Here's your answer:



Pres. Wilson's wartime message to farmers

This message from President Woodrow Wilson to the nation's farmers appeared in the local paper on May 4, 1917.



1917 ads - Ashley Garage and manure spreader


Roy Ashely's garage was on the east side of the south end of Sutton in the space that had, among other businesses, Smith Bros. Allis Chalmers; Keesler Plumbing; Chris Lieb's Filling Station Restoration and currently, Mustang Media, Inc. 






A good manufacturer and retail businessman takes pride in always standing behind their product. With this exception:



Friday, April 14, 2017

Sutton's Arctic Explorer


and so much more...

An expatriate, or expat is a person living in a country other than that of their citizenship. There may be a word for someone who has lived in a town, but has since left, but I don’t know that word. So, we’ve spoken several times of Sutton’s Expats. And that’s what we’ll call them.

Who was Sutton’s most famous, or most interesting expat?

Candidates would include Johnny Bender, Madeleine Leininger, Herbert Johnson and a few others. We’re going to make the case for Walter Wellman here, a fellow we’ve mentioned a few times and have told visitors about him often. But we recently found that much material has recently appeared online about Mr. Wellman which expands his story well beyond what we knew.
 
Walter Wellman (1858-1934), founder of Sutton's first newspaper, Arctic explorer
and renowned journalist. Our candidate for Sutton's most famous expat, and someone
you may never have heard of.
Walter Wellman was born in Mentor, Ohio on November 3, 1858 to Minerva Sibillia (Graves) Wellman, second wife of Alonzo Wellman. Alonzo Wellman was a Civil War Vet, initially with the 105th Ohio Infantry and later as ship’s carpenter with the Mississippi River Squadron.

The Wellman family lived briefly on a farm in Branch County, Michigan after the war before moving west to a claim in York County, Nebraska where they lived first in a dugout and later in a sod house. One of our new sources is a publication in the University of Iowa’s online library called, “Walter Wellman, Washington correspondent of The Chicago Record-Herald.” We’ve also tapped into contemporary newspaper articles and other websites.

This U of Iowa source adds to our understanding of Wellman’s time in Sutton. Early Sutton histories in the Andreas History of Nebraska and in the county history written for the 1876 Centennial told us only that he’d started Sutton’s first newspaper.

It seems Wellman was a clerk in a country store in York County at the age of 12 where he also ran the post office. At 13, he was apprenticed to a local printing office. And at 14, with a stake of $75, he published his first issue of The Sutton Times on Friday, June 20, 1873, Sutton’s first newspaper. Fearing his youth would jeopardize his credibility, Wellman claimed to be 18 years old.

Our early histories described the paper as a “five-column quarto” with nine columns of advertising and eleven of local reading matter. The advertising represented 23 different businesses and professions. It soon expanded to an eight-column folio with eight columns of advertising (44 advertisers). The publishers were listed over time, as Wellman, Wellman & Brakeman, Wellman & White, Wellman Bros. and Frank E. Wellman (Walter’s brother).

Our pitch to visitors to the Sutton Museum often includes the story that the Gray lumber yard was the second lumber yard in Sutton, because another fellow’s wagon of lumber arrived from Lincoln the day before the Gray wagon made it. We’d missed a similar story about the first newspapers. Walter Wellman’s initial issue edged out The Clay County Herald by Sechler & Cowan first published the next day on Saturday the 21st.

Wellman sold his paper and moved back to Ohio about 1878 working as a printer in Cleveland, editing the Canton (Ohio) Daily Repository and then with his brother founded “The Penny Paper” in Cincinnati.

The Wikipedia entry for the Cincinnati Post describes how Walter and Frank Wellman’s paper became the Cincinnati Post and later grew into the Scripps chain of papers, the first modern newspaper chain. The Wellmans sold out to the Scripps brothers after Walter’s early attempt at investigative journalism exposed policy racketeering and police issues. His subjects tried framing him for blackmail and he fled to Kentucky to evade extradition.

Walter Wellman then went to Chicago as a writer for the Chicago Herald. Somewhere in this period Frank and Walter started a daily paper in Akron and Walter married a Canton lass, Laura McCann in December, 1879. They can be found in the 1880 census in Canton, he, listed as “Editor of Newspaper.”

Wellman became a renowned journalist as depicted in the book from the U of Iowa library. Testimonials from dozens of newspapers tell of his scoops and important work. But that’s not why we’re here. Let’s go exploring.
 
Wellman was sure that the future of air travel was the hot air balloon. This craft was his second Arctic expedition airship at its hanger at Spitzbergen in the Svalbard archipelago in northern Norway. Has anyone else from Sutton been to Spitzbergen?
Walter Wellman’s first expedition came in 1892 when the Chicago Herald sent him to the West Indies to find the exact spot where Christopher Columbus first landed in America. His team located the spot and marked it with a monument. The Royal Geographical Society and others endorsed that spot as Columbus’ landing site. Yes, that trip came on the 400th anniversary of the first Columbus voyage.

Two years later, Wellman made his first assault on the Arctic which failed as his ship was crushed in the ice and sank near 81 degree latitude near Spitzbergen. The crew managed to explore uncharted areas and return safely.

The next Arctic expedition was far more ambitious. We only recently found numerous accounts of this adventure. The most thorough account appears at the Digital History Project where three of Wellman’s magazine articles are re-printed, articles that appeared in McClure’s magazine in February, March and April of 1900. You can find the first article at: http://www.digitalhistoryproject.com/2012/05/walter-wellman-arctic-expedition-race.html and the subsequent two by following links in the right column of that blog.

The Wellman Polar Expedition of 1898-9 began in June, 1898 at Archangel, Russia where the members of the expedition, four Americans and five Norwegians embarked by ship into the Arctic.

The expedition was a huge logistic problem. A friend met them at Archangel after coming 2,000 miles over mountains, tundra, rivers and steppes to deliver 83 dogs for the expedition. A herd of reindeer was part of that story.

Their route took them to the island cluster called Franz Josef Lands and through the ice to the ice pack. It took two attempts to get far enough north to continue.
 
Wellman's expedition of 1898-9 had four
American members and five Norwegians
plus 83 dogs, two camps and a huge
logistics challenge.
They established a base camp where most of the men would spend the winter. They then headed further north where they built an advance camp where supplies and most of the dogs would winter waiting for the push north in the spring. Two of the Norwegians were selected to stay with the supplies and care for the sled dogs. The dog food supply came mostly from fifteen walruses that were killed, dressed and stored at the camp.

The other men returned to the base camp and hunkered down.

In the spring, well, early in mid-February Wellman and his crew headed back to the advance camp. The sun was still weeks away from rising from the long Arctic winter as they trudged along in the dark through ankle to knee deep snow using only a compass for directions. It is a challenge to use a magnetic compass at such high latitude as the magnetic north pole and the real pole are some ways apart. You do have to know what you’re doing there.

Wellman writes that he knew something was wrong as they approached the advance camp. One bedraggled fellow came out of the underground camp announced that his partner, Bernt Bentzen had died, two months earlier.

Norwegian Bernt Bentzen died at the advance
camp during the winter of 1898-9 and was buried
when the main party returned in the spring.
They found the body still in his sleeping bag in the shelter. As Bentzen was failing he asked that he not be buried where bears and foxes could dig him up. So, his partner spent two months with the body.

There was an alcove in the wall of the shelter where they burned walrus fat and driftwood to make coffee and cook food. The fire made no impact on the temperature in the shelter which stayed well below zero the whole time. Wellman wrote that he thought it was colder inside the shelter than outside. Bentzen’s body was frozen and well preserved.

The team found a suitable site and buried their companion under rocks, lots of rocks with some confidence that the grave was secure.

The plan had been for the two from the advance camp to return to the base camp while the others pressed north but under the circumstances all headed north.

The expedition had two objectives. They wanted to get to the North Pole, or at least closer than anyone before them. And they hoped to find evidence of the fate of a lost two-person expedition the year before.

They did not find the lost men but became confident that they would get close to the pole, until things fell apart.

First, Walter Wellman fell into a small crevice badly bruising his leg. He didn’t think it was serious and they continued.

A couple of nights later they were awakened by the sound of an ice-quake – the pack ice was shifting. A crack opened under their tents. They jumped out of their tents into the pitch-black night. More cracks opened and crushed back together with many of the dogs and much of their supplies lost.

None of the men were lost but the expedition was over. They headed back. Wellman’s leg worsened and he rode back in a sled. Their support boat met them returning the eight remaining men to civilization.
 
Walter Wellman looked like a man who had spent a year and a half living in
primitive shelters in subzero temperatures at the end of his 1898-9 expedition.
He had.
Two of the members of the expedition returned to the Franz Josef Lands and spent the balance of the summer discovering new islands and mountains, correcting existing maps and filling in blank spaces on the Arctic map adding to the scientific contributions of the expedition.

Wellman then gave up on conventional Arctic exploration, but not on the idea entirely.
This flash photo of Walter Wellman was taken on Christmas Day in a hut
at Franz Josef Land while most of the expedition members were spending
the winter of 1898-9 before striking out in very early spring 1899.

We’d learned about and wrote about his fascination with air travel. Wellman was convinced that the future of air travel lay in hot air balloons. He maintained that position well after the Wright brothers and others had pretty well established the viability of fixed-wing aircraft.

Wellman’s Chicago newspaper gave him $250,000 in 1906 to try to get to the North Pole in a hot air balloon. He made two balloons improving the design and two serious attempts to fly them north, both unsuccessful going 60 miles in the best effort.

By 1910 he’d given up on the North Pole but with another improved airship set out with a crew of five, and a cat, to prove his concept of trans-Atlantic passenger and mail service, again by hot air balloon.

Kiddo the Cat was the official mascot of the airship America in Wellman's
1910 attempt to cross the Atlantic Ocean. Kiddo's numerous internet
appearances could well approach some kind of a feline record.
The side story which we’ve told again and again concerns that cat, Kiddo. Kiddo did not take to air travel at all raising a ruckus at takeoff. Wellman had a two-way radio onboard and a support boat following them off the New Jersey coast. The crew decided to do something about the cat and made the first ever air-to-ground radio contact with the command to their support crew, “Roy, come and get this goddam cat!” They were unable to transfer the cat and Kiddo continued with them.

This time they traveled for 38 hours setting a distance record but were unable to control the craft properly with engines failing off Cape Hatteras. The crew, and the cat were rescued by a British mail ship, the Trent, which became Kiddo’s new name.

Kiddo (Trent) was put on display at Gimbel's Department Store in New York City after being rescued by the Trent. He then lived out his life at the home of Wellman's daughter Edith.

You can find more details of the airship portion of Walter Wellman’s story on the Sutton Museum blog, searching for “Walter Wellman.” These articles will be the basis for a more complete accounting of the Story of Walter Wellman, Sutton’s Arctic Explorer later.

This booklet contains three magazine articles by
Walter Wellman describing his 1898-9 expedition.
Wellman was the political correspondent in Washington, D.C. for the Chicago newspaper for many years. He spent his last years in New York City dying of liver cancer in 1934.

The liberty ship Walter Wellman was launched on September 29, 1944 in Houston, Texas.

Walter Wellman was a remarkable fellow and a dominate candidate for Sutton’s most famous expat. He showed particular talent and vision in his early teens with large ideas. His ideas generally exceeded his, or anyone’s capability to carry out at the time. But these accounts of his exploits all point out the things he learned and the expanses of maps he filled in.

His career as a journalist is outlined in a couple of our new sources. It’s clear that he was a leader among those describing and analyzing the national political scene. We did not delve into that later aspect of his life. It’s possible that will be even more enlightening than his exploration phase. Watch this space.

A thorough story about Wellman and the airship America appears at this site. 


The story of Kiddo the Cat can be found at several locations on the internet. We present some here - you may find more.





America (Airship) reference in Wikipedia    YES, friends and neighbors, a cat with a Sutton connection made it to Wikipedia. How about that.


 and there are likely more...

The End

The end of the airship America as it was seen from the deck of the Trent during the rescue of the crew, and Kiddo. You can
see the life raft hanging below the airship as the America crew abandoned the balloon.


This article first appeared in the March 2017 issue of Sutton Live Magazine. For more information about that publication contact Jarod Griess at Sutton Life Magazine, P. O. Box 454, Sutton, NE 68979, or at mustangmediasales@gmail.com or at 402-984-4203. Or contact Lisa Griess, or Katie Griess or Lavina Griess - that's the way we roll in Sutton, Nebraska.