Wednesday, December 20, 2017

The Sutton Register newspaper vanishes - 1942

Multiple newspapers in a town was common in the early days. Sutton lost that distinction 75 years ago this week when Ronald Furse of The Sutton News purchased The Sutton Register from the Brown family.

Last Mail Train in Clay County - 1967

The Burlington railroad played a big part in the siting and the development of Sutton. Mail service and passenger service were crucial to the folks in Sutton. Until 1967.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Letter from Harvard Man Gassed in WWI

We included this item in our column for the December 13th issue of The Clay County News with the note that we'd have the complete article here:

from the column's 1917 section:

"John T. Johnson of Harvard, son of Robert and Sara Johnson wrote his parents from a hospital in Birmingham, England after he, “…got my ration of gas Oct. 31 and the night of Nov. 2nd”. He was slightly affected in the left lung and had a peculiar sensation in his chest but said, “it’s all nicely under control.” He had been in the army for several years at various postings. His company was in Australia in 1915 when the entire crew enlisted in the British Army. They were in the Australian Imperial Forces serving in Egypt, the Dardanelles and in France where he encountered the poisonous gas. (That’s a brief summary of the letter – check the Sutton Museum blog for it all.)"

And the full article from The Harvard Courier newspaper of December 14, 1917:

Friday, December 8, 2017

Lyric Theater went dark, 50 years ago

From The Clay County News, December 14, 1967:

1942 9-State Blackout Test

Nighttime bombers posed a huge threat to Britain and their answer to protect cities was to institute "blackouts" to hide the cities from bomber crews.

Who knew how deep into the interior of the U. S. the threat might reach? The blackout proclamation appeared in The Sutton News, December 10, 1942.

The Test results appeared in The Sutton News a week later on December 17, 1942:

From our Clay County News column of December 13, 2017:

Wartime blackout procedures were based on British practices begun on September 1, 1939 immediately before the outbreak of WWII. These conditions continued until September 1944 when Britain relaxed to a “Dim-out” set of rules. Full lighting was restored in Britain in April 1945 and on April 30th, Big Ben was lit after 5 years and 123 days of darkness.

War impacts the culture. Britain’s blackout inspired a popular song first recorded by Vaughn Monroe. Though a good rendition, I prefer Vera Lynn’s version, both available on of course. Incredible lyrics matched to a great song. Young folks unfamiliar with the song and the melody do need to fix that. The opening stanza:

When the lights go on again all over the world
And the boys are home again all over the world
And rain or snow is all that may fall from the skies above
A kiss won't mean "Goodbye" but "Hello to love"

My preferred rendition:

Vera Lynn, "When the Lights go on Again (All Over the World)

Vaughn Monroe was first to record the song:

Vaughn Monroe, "When the Lights go on Again (All Over the World)

And then there is Vera Lynn's concert in 1990 at age 73. She was born March 17, 1917 and is now 100 years old:

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Donald Burns wounded in Africa - 1942

Donnie Burns of Sutton took a bullet in the arm in action along the Moroccan coast north of Casablanca. He was with a crew of five Coast Guardsmen working the beach when they were hit.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

1942-1950 Sutton Wedding Clippings

The recent Shirley Wach donation included a scrapbook of newspaper clippings of Sutton weddings from about 1942 - 1950.

The note inside the cover indicates it was the work of Christine Fenske and it was "Book IV". Pages are 7 X 10 inches. About 80 of the pages in the book are filled. 

This 7" X 10" scrapbook of Sutton wedding newspaper clippings was part of the Shirley Wach collection received recently.

If there might be a clipping of interest to you, stop by the museum on a Sunday afternoon or drop us a note and we'll check it out for you.

The clippings were pasted into a catalog from the W. M. Welch Scientific Company in Chicago. A few of the trade catalogs are available at for impressive prices and the Smithsonian seems to have a display of them. Several hundred items at the end of the book were not covered by wedding pics and are somewhat interesting in themselves. 

Friday, November 24, 2017

1917 Sutton Red Cross Report

We mentioned this story in the Clay County News column of November 29. Mrs. A. W. (Mayme) Clark reported on items sent from the Sutton Chapter of the Red Cross to France.

This article appeared in the November 30, 1917 issue of The Sutton News. 

WWI Embalmers in the Trenches

Insight into conditions for our predecessors, 100 years ago.

The Harvard embalmer/furniture store owner ran this ad in 1917 calling for support for the Purple Cross Bill, a bill supporting means to recover and preserve the bodies of soldiers on the WWI battlefields.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Honored by the French, but Why?

Excuse the "inside baseball" post here, but it's interesting, I guess, but in any case, certainly curious.

Among the services by our host, BLOGGER, a Google product, are several statistics including information about our audience. There has been a persistent mystery for the past two or three months, at least. 

We seem to have fans in FRANCE!

The metric that BLOGGER presents us is PAGEVIEWS. I'll let them explain that:

A pageview is a count indicating the number of times a Web page has been loaded into a browser. The publishing platform Blogger, used for all Blogspot-hosted sites, counts pageviews using Google’s proprietary algorithms.

This blog runs about 6,000 pageviews a month, a few hundred a day, it varies. And we not only see how much activity we have, but also where it comes from. The image depicts our "audience" for the past month, Oct. 10 - Nov 16. 

The numbers for the past month are:

France               2757
United States    2178
Ukraine              280
Poland                215
Russia                  65
Spain                   52
Germany             38
Brazil                  35
China                  30
India                   25

That's interesting, and we have no idea what to make of it.

Our long-term statistics go back to 2010 in the third year of our existence where our audience has been U. S. - 70,000; Russia - 15,000; France - 9,000; Germany 5,500; Ukraine - 3,500; South Korea - 3200; China - 2,100; Poland 1,600; U.K. - 1,200 and Canada - 1,000.

Those have been reasonably consistent, except for France which was not among the top not too long ago. France has spiked and spiked a lot in just a few months.


And it's not a passing thing. Our stats for today from 4 PM on the 16th through 3 PM today (17th) are:  France - 105, U.S. - 26, Ukraine - 12 and other countries petering out into single digits. 

Our reasons for bringing this up are threefold, at least.

1. Our visitors may find it interesting to learn we're watching and know where you live - at least what country you're in.

2. We are seriously confused about what we are seeing and someone will tell us we're all wet and do not understand BLOGGER statistics.

and 3. Hey you people in France. Hi and welcome. But really, what the heck are you doing here? Is there someone from Sutton now living in a swank apartment in Paris with enough time on their hands to refresh their browser all day? And why? Whatever the reason, even if it is somehow nefarious, we are still flattered, very flattered. 

No big deal, but we'd have to be brain-dead not to be at least a little bit curious.

Like a said at the top, "inside baseball".

Ong Methodist Church 70th anniversary in 1942

Our weekly column in The Clay County News obviously has a focus wider than Sutton. Our sources include past newspapers from Harvard, Clay Center, Edgar, and Fairfield with occasional references to others of the nearly 80+ newspapers that have lived in the county in the past.

We recently referenced the 70th Anniversary of the Ong Methodist Church with a promise that the full clipping would appear on our blog.

So, here 'tis:

Sutton Men in Service - November 1942

Newspapers in 1942 during the first year of World War II ran the list of local man in service each week.

The Army drew its recruits from the draft and voluntary enlistments. The Navy relied on voluntary enlistments. Their effort had a budget.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Program for the 1917 Farmers Institute in Harvard

The Farmers Institute was an annual event in Harvard celebrating agriculture and home economics with a variety of competitions. 

Monday, November 13, 2017

Sutton Opera House Scene

This intriguing photo was among the items from Shirley Wach's donation to the Sutton Museum. The photo is identified as a scene from the Sutton Opera House but is not dated.

Identifying a few of the actors would help to date the picture and would be cool in itself.

Any suggestions?

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Did Sutton Once have a Chinese Laundry?

It is unlikely that anyone has set out to find out if Sutton once had a Chinese laundry. That’s something you have to stumble onto.

And stumble onto it we did.

Check out Figure 1. There on the east side of Saunders Avenue, two doors south of Bender’s, just past the harness shop, is (was) a Chinese laundry. Show of hands. Who knew?

Figure 1. This map from the Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps shows the north end of downtown Sutton in 1889. Cool, isn't it?

And look catty-corner from Bender’s where the four-story Oakland Hotel is depicted in a crude floor plan showing where the kitchen, dining room and stairs were in the building.
Key to the map codes

What are we looking at?

We are looking at maps of downtown Sutton in 1889! The Sanborn Map Publishing Co., Ltd. developed Fire Insurance Maps of towns across the country. The maps were targeted at insurance underwriters who needed to know something about their markets.

These maps are color coded – yellow are wood frame buildings, red are brick and others are identified on the key. The cryptic identification on each building tells how many stories there were, the type of business and other special features of interest of insurance people.

There is a photo of a livery stable on the south wall at Astra Bank. We’ve made guesses where it was. No more guessing. There it is on the south bank of School Creek, just east of Sutton’s famous early Iron Bridge – the Lewis and Jarrett Livery stable. (Leonard Jarrett was the father of librarian Sibyl, and he was a Confederate cavalryman from Virginia.)

Figure 1 shows the north half of the north end of 1889 downtown Sutton to mid-block. Figure 2 picks up at a hardware store and tin shop on the west side and a confectionary and cigar store on the east. That would have been the Carney hardware store and the tin shop would be of interest to the insurance folks – fire is involved.
Figure 2. This is the 1889 map of downtown Sutton just north of the Railroad tracks. 
Smokehouses at meat markets are also marked including a blue one, stone.

Street names as well as block and lot numbers help locate the buildings. Most locations only list the type of business but lumber yards, elevators, livery stables and meeting halls are more fully identified. The red (pink) buildings on the west in lot 1 of block 5 and lot 10 of block 23 shows the Opera House to be upstairs over a grocery store. Neat, huh?

How did we find these?

We didn’t. Credit goes to my cousin Ken Nelson of Manassas, Virginia. Ken grew up on a farm near Clay Center though began life near Sutton. He worked for the Dept. of Ag in Washington, D. C. He is a champion of the Library of Congress. These maps are on the library’s web site.

Follow this link:  Sanborn maps for Sutton
A big shoutout to Sanborn Maps for these priceless looks at
Sutton 128 years ago. 

Or a search for “sanborn fire insurance maps sutton Nebraska” will return several links within You should see “Sutton” in a few of the urls – look around. 

There are seven entries, those for 1884, 1889 and 1897 are online with links. We’re looking at 1889 here. Maps for ’02, ’12 and ’24 are not online. Could you bring back a copy of those next time you’re in D. C.?

Figure 4 shows the south end of downtown. Note the Central Block. Remember the date on the building? 1887. The building was two years old when his map was drawn. The businesses were a hardware store (with tin shop), a grocery and bakery, a gentleman’s store and a saloon with a “Hall” on the 2nd floor. The building is red (brick) and is two-stories. The id near the back of the grocery/bakery seems to read “IR OVEN BST” which sounds like an oven in the basement, another good item for insurance folks.

The abbreviations can be challenging. You’ll find lots of “Dwg” which are houses, residences, “dwellings”. Milly is a millinery shop. You’re on your own for the rest.
Fig. 4 Downtown Sutton - South of the tracks. 
Figures 1, 2 and 4 are on Sheet 1 of the web site. Sheet 2 is a composite of other locations. Be careful, north isn’t always on top.
Figure 6. Site of today's Sutton Museum.

Figure 6 is of interest to the historical society. It depicts the location of our museum. Note that the little creek in mid-block is labeled “School Creek”. And the J. M. Gray Lumber Yard is shown in detail. The office was on Maple across the street from the railroad tracks. Note the “Dwg” on Cedar. That is the current middle museum building, once the Schinzel House. The drawing is a crude floor plan quite unlike today’s structure in the rear.

Figure 7 across from the today’s Post Office with a vacant building where the American Legion now is. The Occidental Hotel stood there within the memory of many mature Sutton residents. It is identified on both the 1884 and 1897 maps suggesting the Occidental Hotel may have had a false start.

In the northeast corner of Figure 7 is “Wind Mill & Well, w. Tank on Trestles” – another piece of information of interest to underwriters.
Figure 7. The American Legion is now in the southeast corner of this map.

Having fun yet?

Figure 8 should spark a discussion. We’re looking just north of School Creek and west of Saunders Avenue. The Federated Church would be at the north edge of the image. Text may be fuzzy here, but check the web site. That is a U. P. R. R. depot with a platform and supposedly railroad tracks heading east into … well, …. into the park???
Figure 8.What the heck is this? This 1889 map seems to be telling us about a Union Pacific Depot just north of School Creek on the west side of Saunders Avenue and more than that, there would be railroad tracks past that depot... Tell me more.
What do we make of this? I found instances in the Harvard maps where a building was marked “to be…” something indicating that the map drawer was indicating a planned building at that location.

Research into Nebraska railroads led to a House of Representative’s document about railroad incorporation filings for the St. Joseph and Grand Island Railroad (today through Glenvil, Fairfield, Edgar, Davenport, etc.) for a spur through Sutton to York.

And, as part of the Jim Griess estate, the Sutton Museum received several pre-1900 Sutton Register newspapers. The October 11, 1888 issue had a small item that read, in part: “Union Pacific Route – The new line between Alma, Wilcox, Minden, Fairfield, Sutton, York, David City, Lincoln and Omaha. Trains No. 11 and 12, mail and express, run solid between Alma and Lincoln…”

I’d have put those trains on the tracks that ran from Fairfield through Clay Center, Verona, Sutton, Lushton and on to McCool, tracks that carried the little grain-mover we called “The Pook-Eye” back in the ‘50’s and ‘60’s, the one that dragged box cars of grain from Lushton and Verona into Sutton to ship out on the Burlington.

But in these Sanborn maps we have a suggestion of railroad tracks and a second Sutton depot where I never suspected there might have been. Where was that track’s bridge over School Creek? And other questions. Or, never mind.

Anyhow, moving on.

Figure 9. Sutton businessmen signed off on these maps.
Figure 9 is the certification signatures for the map. Several “undersigned agents” of Sutton certified these maps as “…correct as far as they can see…” The names are Martin Clark, I. N. Clark, Bemis & Hairgrove attorneys, (unk), Theo Miller, E. W. Woodruff, J. B. Dinsmore, E. P. B??? and Thurlow Weed. That is, these distinguished early Sutton businessmen were fine with a map showing a railroad and depot north of School Creek.

Anyone else surprised? Or is it just me?

Our initial intent for this article was to plow through 1888 newspaper ads and other business information and identify the specific businesses in each downtown store front. Clearly, that would have been (will be?) a much longer article.

So, did Sutton really have a Chinese laundry in 1889? There was also one in Harvard on Oak Street. Maybe laundries were just called “Chinese” because… Or there really were Chinese entrepreneurs following the railroad locating new markets.

And back to the north end of downtown to the Oakland Hotel. We have pictures of that building before it burned in 1902. It was a serious hotel, lots of rooms, a restaurant, a landmark well-known along the Burlington from Lincoln west to Denver. But we lost it.

Consider these downtown buildings, especially the Central Block, listed here at two-years old in 1889 and still standing today, still in productive use and still on the short list of Sutton’s main attractions. Our downtown buildings are our primary distinctive community treasures.

There is positive movement by the city and several concerned citizens to once-and-for-all get behind a plan and action to take small steps to spruce up the downtown, then to stop the deterioration of these treasures, then to do more. Restoration? Revitalization? Prevent the buildings from falling down around our heads and shoulders – call it what you will.

But if you agree that downtown Sutton is worth saving and sprucing up, then consider joining in and supporting this action. Take another look at these Sanborn maps from 1884, 1889 and 1897. Sutton has a history. Sutton has a heritage. Both deserve a future.

And what the heck is it with that U. P. depot and tracks???

Apple Valley Graduation - 2017

The Wolfe School Museum was proud to host the graduation of the 2017 Apple Valley program of the Sutton Schools 4th grade class on October 31, 2017.

The Fourth Graders visit the Wolfe School early in the school year when they are assigned to pioneer families with three to five children in a family. For the next six weeks the class role plays the lives of rural students in the year 1900. Students assume new names and identities for their Apple Valley School.

The students earn points toward graduation from Apple Valley and return to Wolfe School at Halloween for their graduation, in appropriate period pioneer dress, which will also serve as Halloween costumes later in the day.

The Apple Valley program concludes with the presentation of a graduation certificate, in the name of the student's character. 

(In a conversation overheard at graduation, several students were promising to continue to use their Apple Valley names and were speculating about keeping it up into the fifth grade. Wonder if we can follow their plans and efforts.)

"Robert Jefferson" was one of the three Jefferson children in this year's Apple Valley class. 

One of the graduation activities is the to make homemade ice cream. One thing the Sutton Historical Society was unable to do this year was to control the weather as 2017 had the coldest October 31st in years. We moved the ice cream venue to the front steps of the Historic House where warmth was just a few steps away.

In past years, graduation included rural school games in the school yard. It was a bit cold for that this year so inside games were on the agenda.

This "Strike a Pose" game was not something this veteran of rural school recalls. It was a success.

Hosting the opening and closing activities of Apple Valley is one of the highlights of the year for the Sutton Historical Society and is absolutely the Number One activity for the Wolfe School Museum.

It is days like this that provide the impetus for, and the satisfaction of having a community museum. 

Decorative Plates - Wach Collection

Among the hundreds of items in the Shirley Wach treasures recently donated to our museum were several decorative plates:

The Heinz & Dulaigh General Merchandise Store produced this plate for their 1909 calendar. This was likely a store run by
30-year old John Heinz and 33-year old Dwight Dulaigh. However, Dulaigh was a dentist and listed himself as one in the
1910 census. His wife Frances was listed as a "sales woman". Do you suppose she was the Dulaigh in the business?

A nice plate here but we can't tell you much about it. Any idea who produced this? When? What occasion?

This plate comes with a mystery - what was the occasion and who sponsored this one?

There are several plates in this collection. We'll post more later..

This one from the Sutton Methodist Church is undated.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Johnny Bender, Sutton Football Hero

Who is Sutton’s Number One individual sports figure?

About five years ago, we suggested that the 1922 Sutton High basketball team was Sutton’s No. 1 sports story, and no one has questioned that assessment. This month we suggest that Johnny Bender was the top individual sports figure of our community.

Johnny Bender left a broad legacy across the world of sports. He was an outstanding collegiate athlete but his bigger impact was as a coach.

He was a graduate of the Sutton High Class of ’00 and as much as we’d like to detail his high school career, we lack details to tell that story. 
Johnny Reinhold "Johnny" Bender was born in Sutton in 1882 and was in the
Sutton High School Class of 1900.

Let’s move on to college.

Johnny Bender was one of the first Nebraska football stars. The pertinent entry on the all-time list of Nebraska lettermen reads, “Bender, Johnny, 1900-01-02-03-04. Yes, you saw that correctly. Johnny Bender was a 5-year letterman the University of Nebraska football team. He was one of only two players to have that record. John Ringer from Lincoln did it one year earlier, 1899 – 1903. That is a record that will stand for all time, unless the NCAA makes some major rule changes.

Johnny Bender arrived on the Nebraska campus in 1900 along with the new coach, Walter C. “Bummy” Booth who had graduated from Princeton that spring. Booth compiled a 46-8-1 record in his six years at Nebraska, five of those years with Johnny Bender as his star halfback. One Husker recruiting website states that Bender arrived at Nebraska on a scholarship to play quarterback.

That 1900 season was also the first year Nebraska played as The Cornhuskers.

Nebraska was undefeated through the 1902 and 1903 seasons ripping off 24 consecutive wins until a 6-0 loss to Colorado in the third game of the 1904 season. That record stood until the Tom Osborne led Huskers won 26 in a row, ending with the 19-0 loss to Pat Tillman and the Arizona State Wildcats in the second game of 1996.

The 1902 team was not scored on; the 1903 team gave up 5 points to Knox College though Lincoln High did score 6 points on them in an exhibition game. Johnny Bender was the captain of the 1903 team. He held the Nebraska career scoring record when he left the Huskers.

His Wikipedia entry claims that he balked at playing against Minnesota one year until the school made good on his pay demands. Could be.

John Reinhold Bender was born in Sutton on May 14, 1882, the son of Jacob Andrew Bender and Eugenia “Jennie” Reuss. Jacob Bender was from the Russian village of Balzer along the Volga River, his wife was from the nearby village of Moor. Their arrival in Sutton in 1875 was as part of the migration of Germans from Russia after 1872.

The oldest Bender child was Henry who became a Sutton auctioneer. Emilie Bender married Elmer Trabert; Theresia Bender was the wife of Dr. Herman Bening. John Reinhold “Johnny” was the fourth child in the family. Nathaniel Gustave “Gus” followed Johnny and Irmengarde Bender was married to Joseph Hash.

Eugenia Bender died in 1898 within a year after Irmengarde was born. Jacob married Amalia Heinz in 1902; she died in 1912. He then married Pauline Leonhardt in 1913. Jacob died in 1928.

The Bender business was the John Deere Implement dealership
that operated in Sutton for about 125 years. Johnny's father
Jacob built this building in 1906.
Jacob Bender began business with Mr. Zimblemen with the Bender & Zimbleman implement dealership. The partnership ended and the business was soon named Jacob Bender & Son with Gus Bender as the partner. The business operated for about 125 years, later in the hands of the three sons of Gus Bender and Clara Henrietta Landmann, Paul, Fritz and Wally. (Paul Jacob, Frederick Gustave, and Wallace Niel). It was a large John Deere franchise earning performance awards from that company regularly.

But back to Johnny.

Johnny Bender’s first coaching job was at Washington State University where his 1906 team went 6-0 and the next year posted a 7-1 record. He also had the head basketball coaching gig where his team was 12-3, the schools best mark so far, by far. And he was the baseball coach.

His next job was at the Haskell Indian Nations University where his 1908 and 1909 teams were 3-6-1 and 7-2.

Then onto Saint Louis University in 1910 and 1911 where Johnny Bender entered sports folklore.

A St. Louis sportswriter thought that Coach Johnny
Bender looked like the Billiken doll leading to the
Saint Louis U. sports teams becoming the Billikens
and they still are.
There was a doll on the market in those days, designed by a Kansas City art teacher that was called the Billiken. Wikipedia describes the doll as, “…elephant-like with pointed ears, a mischievous smile and a tuft of hair on its pointed head. His arms were short and he was generally sitting with his legs stretched out in front of him. Billiken was known as ‘The God of Things as They Ought to Be.’” The doll was associated with good luck. A St. Louis sports reporter also thought it looked a little like Johnny Bender.

Locals began to refer to the Saint Louis football team as “Bender’s Billikens” and the name stuck. It is still the nickname and mascot of teams at Saint Louis University St. Louis University High School.

The cultural reach of Sutton history stretches far and wide.

Bender’s next move was rare among coaches. He returned to Washington State for the 1912-1914 seasons giving him five seasons with that school divided into two separate appearances. Did any other coach, and school, do such a thing?

Next was a one-year stop at Kansas State and a mediocre 3-4-1 season but Johnny Bender did have two lasting contributions to that institution. He started the annual homecoming event and named his team the “Wildcats”.

We come to a singular event in collegiate coaching history with Bender’s next move, at least, I can’t find another like it. Coach Bender swapped jobs with Tennessee head football coach Zora G. Clevenger between the 1915 and 1916 seasons. Coach Bender was at Tennessee from 1916 through 1920 posting an 6-0-1 record in 1916, 3-3-3 in 1919 and 7-2 in 1920. The school did not field teams in ’17 and ’18 as the nation had a distraction for its young men during those years.

John Bender served in the 360th Infantry during World War I. He was a captain when he filled out his WWI draft registration card listing his wife’s home address in Knox, Indiana and his employment at Ft. Bliss near El Paso, Texas. He attained the rank of major in the army.

Tennessee had a lousy football program in those years. Bender’s team shocked the southeast, including Tennessee fans with an upset of Vanderbilt one year. A book called “Legends of the Tennessee Volunteers” by Marvin West illustrated the weakness of the program by pointing out that Coach Bender resigned at UT because Knoxville High made him a better offer. Maybe. Could be. Anyhow, Robert Neyland arrived in the mid-1920’s fixing things for the Volunteers.

Coach Bender’s contribution to football strategy while at Tennessee was the short punt formation.

And our coach had the Tennessee basketball program in 1917, 1920 and 1921 with a 29-15 record; and was coach of the baseball team in ’17 and ’20.
Sutton's Johnny Bender was the first star running back for
the Cornhuskers and made his name in collegiate coaching.
Johnny Bender’s career in coaching major college football ended at Tennessee. He took a job as a physical education instructor at a small college in Houston where he coached a squad of volunteer football players. He named them the Cougars after his Washington State team. The college newspaper picked up “The Cougar” name. The small college grew into the University of Houston still using that name.

Johnny Bender had married Pearl Josephine Cassell in Knox, Indiana in 1909. They had three children, John Jacob, Margaret Josephine and William Cassell and were living in Houston when John Bender died on July 24, 1928.

He is buried in the Sutton Cemetery where the flagpole was dedicated by Pearl in 1933 in memory of Major Bender.

Pearl Cassell’s name had a personal interest for me. Cassell was my mother’s name. The Cassell surname has at least two separate origins. Ours is Scotland where the Cassels clan is a sept of Clan Kennedy. The German Cassell name originates in the city of Kassel. Spellings in both branches became innovative.

Johnny Bender is buried in the Sutton Cemetery

While we are talking about individual sports figures, we’ll briefly mention one more, not a Sutton story, but an area story.

Clarence Mitchell was born in Franklin, Nebraska on February 22, 1891. He was a baseball pitcher in the major leagues from 1911 to 1932 playing for the Detroit Tigers, Cincinnati Reds, New York Giants, Brooklyn Robins, Philadelphia Phillies and the St. Louis Cardinals. He was a spitball pitcher.

For the youngsters in the crowd, the spitball was an especially effective pitch that was enhanced by placing a foreign substance on the ball affecting the balance of the ball. The most readily available substance was expectorate, yes, spit. The subject still comes up when an umpire detects evidence – there are rules.

The rule against the spitter went into effect in 1920. A number of spitball pitchers, 8 to 17 depending on your reading choices, were allowed to continue to throw their spitter through the end of their careers – they were “grandfathered”. Clarence Mitchell was a left-handed pitcher. He was the “Only Grandfathered Left-Handed Spitball Pitcher” in the major leagues. A singular distinction.

But after Mitchell retired and was running a bar in Aurora, Nebraska, his spitball pitching distinction was not what he capitalized on.

Mitchell was with the Brooklyn Dodgers (aka Robins) in the 1920 World Series against the Cleveland Indians. In Game 5, Clarence Mtichell came up to bat with men on first and second and hit a line drive to Cleveland second baseman Bill Wambsganss who then stepped on second base and then tagged the oncoming runner from first completing the only unassisted triple play in World Series history. A big enough deal, but in Mitchell’s next at-bat, he hit into a double play accounting for five outs in two consecutive at-bats, in a World Series game – a serious record.

Clarence Mitchell’s post-career Aurora bar featured a swizzle stick stamped with the account of his ignominious World Series batting feat.

Oh, yes, game 5 of the 1920 World Series also saw the first World Series grand slam home run AND the first World Series home run by a pitcher – not Clarence Mitchell. And Brooklyn outhit Cleveland in that game but lost 8-1.

Clarence Mitchell is buried in the Aurora Cemetery where his tombstone has to make the short list for "most interesting". 

1918 Maxwell ad from Honey & Kessler

This ad was running in The Sutton Register newspaper in late 1917. The Maxwell was a classy car in its day and gained later fame as the car of choice by Jack Benny on his radio and TV show.

Somehow, mention of Benny's Maxwell was kind of an "in" joke.

1942 LT&T Ad - Keep Long Distance Lines Open

Lincoln Telephone & Telegraph Company ran this ad in 1942 urging customers to defer to long distance calls associated with the war.

Satch's 62nd Birthday

The Clay County News on September 14, 1967 carried this call for a birthday card shower for Satch.

Satch, Alexander Idt, was a fixture in downtown Sutton for decades. He taught us a lot about the human condition and we were all better people for having known  this gentleman, and gentle man. 

Remembering the Pritchard Family

Grave 10 of Plot 09N-12-01 at the Sutton Cemetery has a stone inscribed, “GWLADYS PRITCHARD JONES” with the dates “1883-1928”.

Should you have noticed that stone, I’m guessing that among your first thoughts was something along the lines of, “How did a monument carver make such a typo with his chisel?”

Misspelled? Or was this woman's name actually G(w)ladys?
The volunteer who created the memorial for this person likely took a few minutes before stepping up to correct the mistake. The memorial lists the lady as “Gladys Pritchard Jones”.

I vaguely remember noticing the name four years ago while I was photographing Sutton Cemetery gravestones as a volunteer for at a time when fewer than 25% of the cemetery had been photographed for that robust website. But I was trucking right along with the project and did not investigate that grave inscription.

We uncover many mysteries, big and small, and some get passed over or forgotten while we are working with stories about the Sutton community. But sometimes a situation falls into our laps driving us back to a mystery.

This 20" X 30" framed needlepoint triggered our
interest in the David Pritchard family, early settlers
near Sutton.
Such a situation was in a recent email from the senior curator at the Nebraska State Historical Society who offered to transfer a framed needlepoint to the Sutton Museum. The item came from the estate of Miss Maude Pritchard of Sutton in 1956, given in memory of David and Mary Ann Pritchard of Sutton.

I was familiar with the Pritchard family; they were once near-neighbors. We accepted the curator’s offer, retrieved the item from the state museum and it is now part of our Sutton collection.

The item deserved proper documentation so we immediately delved into the story.

My recollection from about 1950 was that three people lived on the Prichard farm, one mile west on the DLD and a quarter-mile north, west side, and that two of them were blind. I knew I could check with the Answer Ladies who sit at the back table on our Pancake Saturdays. Sallie Barbee straightened me out – there were only two people there and both were blind. She remembers her family stopping to check on the Pritchard’s.

Sallie believes her family did errands for the Prichard’s. I think we, and others probably did too.

Brother and sister Bertram and Maude Pritchard were the two blind residents. Bertram died in 1950, Maude in 1955, fitting the 1956 date for the gift of the needlepoint to the museum in Lincoln.

David and Mary Ann (Davies) Pritchard immigrated from Wales in 1888 with five children: John David, age 17; Maude was 13; Bertram, 8; William Davies Pritchard was about 8 and may have been Bertram’s twin and the baby of the family was Gwladys, age 5.

The family left census records, marriage records and other traces where they sometimes identified their origin as Wales and other times as England. They likely saw Wales as part of England, or at least a lesser part of the United Kingdom.

Although the younger daughter was sometimes called Gladys, formal documents, her 1908 Lancaster County marriage license and her tombstone included the “w” in Gwladys. What kind of a name is that? What kind of a word?

Have you ever looked at a map of Wales?

The Welsh do some particularly peculiar things when assembling letters into words.

The Pritchard family came from Breconshire in Wales. The -shire suffix refers to an area that corresponds to our counties. But it’s squishy. The Brits have occasionally merged counties, changed boundaries and changed names of counties as recently as 1965 and 1974. And they have different kinds of counties. It’s complicated.

But back to Welsh names.

Penkelly Castle near the boyhood home of David Pritchard.
David was born in Penkelly also called Pencelli. Mary Ann was born in Beaufort, which is near where Sir Thomas John Woodward grew up before he changed his name to Tom Jones, perhaps the only Welshman many know of.

The Pritchard offspring were born in the tiny village of Bedwellty.

The village of Bedwellty in Monmouthshire, Wales. Ever been to a pub in the UK?
You'd love it. There is nothing like it in the U.S. They are not bars, or snack shops,
or restaurants, or coffee shops or donut shops but they do all of those things better
and all in one place, early morning to late at night. 
These are not unusual names, but in the surrounding area you find Ebbw Vale, Cwnbran, Ynysybwl, Mynydd Eglwysilan, Troedrhiwfuwch and the shire’s largest town, Ystradgynlais. It is our good fortune that the Welsh were not predominate in settling the New World.

More to our point, there are towns called Capel Gwynfe, Gelin gwm Uchaf, Gwernesney and Gwyddgrug and a mountain called Gwaun Rhudd. Now the Pritchard girl’s name of Gwladys makes more sense.
The Welsh have more fun than most when collecting letters to create their words. Perhaps the Welsh
language is nothing more than a huge joke they play on the rest of the world.
But where did the name come from?

Saint Gwladys ferch Brychan was the queen of the saint-king Gwynllyw Milwr. Saint Gwladys died in the year 500, or maybe 523. Her feast day is the 29th of March.

So, the name Gwladys Pritchard Jones in the Sutton Cemetery is no misprint.

John, Maude and Bertram never married and lived out their lives on the N ½ of the SE ¼ of Section 33-8-5.  Leonard Johnson farmed and purchased the 80. It was part of the 400+ acres that were sold at auction by the Douglas family a few years ago.

The Pritchard farm, show here belonging to Mary, was a mile west of the park corner
and the second 80 to the north.. The C. Johnson farm to the north was that of Charley
Johnson, my great, grandfather. That quarter passed to his son Albert and in turn to
his son Leonard. F. Johnson was Charley's son Fred; that farm later to Clarence Johnson
and is still in the Johnson family, farmed by the Jasnochs. 
William Davies Pritchard left Sutton and was married to Katherine Frantz in Denver in May 1918. Later that year he filed his WWI draft registration and noted that he had a physically disqualifying condition, stating “has lost one eye”. As Bertram and Maude were later blind, the family may have had some genetically connected eye disorder. William died in 1964. He is the only family member not buried in Sutton Cemetery.

Daughter Gwladys married Harry Jones in Lincoln on the last day of 1908. She died in 1928. Neither William or Gwladys had children.

We’ve told about the demographics of Sutton often during the lifetime of the historical society, telling of Germans, Germans from Russia, Swedes and Danes, the Irish and even a few Scots. Many of the U. S. residents who settled in this area were from “back East” – Iowa, Illinois, Pennsylvania, New York, etc. but with deeper roots from England. I’m not sure we’ve mentioned the Welsh before.

When we speak of the United Kingdom, the U.K., we usually think of England, Ireland (at least Northern Ireland), Scotland and ... finally Wales. The history of Wales was closely blended into the history of England early to the point that they tend to lack a distinctive story.

Well, we hope that the story of the Pritchard family adds a tiny sliver of proud Welsh history to the Sutton story.

We do not know of a second Welsh family in Sutton's story, but the Pritchard family
does connect the name of a Sutton Welsh girl with a Queen, and a Saint.
Another thing the Pritchard story does is illustrate how a single artifact or a single piece of information often offers a clue to a little piece of Sutton history. That clue may have been laying around for a long time. Old newspapers, an item on a census from 100 years ago, scrapbooks, letters and other attic treasures, or even an unusual spelling on a tombstone can lead to new knowledge and understanding of our vague or forgotten collective memory.

Our museum has become the depository for literally hundreds of Sutton artifacts and clues that could unravel vague and forgotten memories. Les Bauer’s collection of WWII photos, journal entries and letters that we wrote about last month is an example. Paintings by the Ebert sisters and their art students likely are clues to people and events. Military uniforms, old photos, family histories, the Sutton depot cart, our incubator and other artifacts have interesting and important stories to tell, if someone just takes a bit of time and effort to delve in. It takes little more than a healthy dose of curiosity.

We’ve made this pitch several times. The success of the Sutton Museum will very soon hang on our success in attracting a new people to step forward and join us, the sooner the better. We’re calling on your curiosity this time.

There are many things about the Sutton story that are not known today, in mid-2017, but they are knowable. It just takes someone with a bit of curiosity and resourcefulness. It need not take much time or heavy lifting. Most of the research for the story of the Pritchard family was done online and in a few hours (not counting some real interesting distractions that popped up in the process.) The always-handy Sutton High Alumni Directory told us that Maude was the only Pritchard grad, Class of 1893.

The online resources were (free), Google searches (free) Google Earth (free), (subscription needed, but there are similar and adequate free sites), census records (available on plus other sites, some free – and that’s about it.

Essentially the only information we found that relied on collective memories was that Bertram and Maude were blind and that the family had lived on that 80. Otherwise, the information was sitting there waiting to be found.

The Pritchard family of seven immigrated in 1888 leaving family and friends in Wales. We don’t know how long or often they corresponded with those people. The family lived out their lives, only two of them ever leaving Sutton, had no offspring to remember them. They died and were slowly forgotten.

The Pritchard name survives in a major family plot in the Cemetery, on plat maps and land records, in one line in the school directory and possibly a few mentions in old newspapers. Probably the only physical item from the Pritchard family is the framed needlework now in the Sutton Museum. And there is this article, the product of a few hours research.

How difficult is it to conduct this kind of research? It can be difficult, the first time. It can be tricky the second and third time, but the time and effort from beginner to journeyman doesn’t take long.

Want to have some fun and satisfy your curiosity? Just say “Hi!”

This article first appeared in the September 2017 issue of Sutton Life Magazine.