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Monday, December 31, 2012

Wishing you all a Happy New Year!
I'm going to try and add articles everyother week.
 Hope you enjoy them!

Mr. and Mrs. Claus Sass, parents to John Sass.

 This is my husband Larry's Great Grand parents. They lived at 180th and Ida St. before  moving to Bennington on the corner of Bennington Rd. and Molly St.
 Friends of ours ( Don and Carol Morland) bought and remodled the house in the mid 70's. Don had saved all the doors and their hardware to reuse at a later date. He never did. Years later on my 50th birthday he asked me if I wanted that old door that I loved at his shop, of course I said yes. That was when he told me where it had come from. I didn't know that Claus and Bertha had owned that house. I was trilled.
Now it is hanging as the front door at my house and I LOVE IT!
The house was built in 1912 and this is the orginal door. The center glass is new everthing else is orginal. The window represents our farm which was established in 1898 The photo is the first areial photo of the place taken in 1948 and the S&K are for Sass and Klabunde families.  I have to say that this was about the best gift I have ever gotten,.

Pitchin' Hay!

Mr.Hoier and Mr. Gaines, share a special conection.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Hello again, this is Linda updating the newspaper articles.
 Sorry It's been a while but Nov and Dec  are the busiest months for me at work.  Now that the Holidays are almost over I'll add to this more often.
Hope everyone had a Wondrous Christmas, and here's hopes for a prosperous New Year!


Bennington Library opens! Not sure when this was, so I any one knows please feel free to add the date.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Mystery Items: Old Toys

Old Time Toys
Christmas always brings back fond memories of growing up.  I had a great grandfather who loved to tell me stories, made me simple toys and showed me tricks.  Above are three of my favorite that I spent hours playing with.   They are still fun and I simply had to make again this year and pass them along too.  Do you know what they are?  The answer before Christmas!  

ANSWER!  The item on the left is called a "Hooey Stick" or a "Gee-Haw" stick.  Using the small dowel you rub back and forth along the bumps and this causes the propeller to spin.  The user can command the propeller to go clockwise or counter-clockwise by saying "Hooey"  or "Gee-Haw."  Gee-Haw were vocal commands given to teams of horses to go left or right.  Look up on the internet what you do to manipulate the direction.  Can you figure it out yourself?

The string with a button is called a "whirligig."   Its basically a horizontal "yo-yo."  You put the string ends over your index fingers and twirl the button in a circle to whined the string and then in a smooth move pull your hands apart and cause the button to spin.  By flexing and relaxing the tension on the string you can keep the button spinning like a table saw. 

The last is a loop of string.  In the old days, string tricks were very popular.  There are over 750 you can do.  Check the web and learn a few.  Crow's feet is one of my favorites.   Now go have fun and don't worry about batteries.  


Thursday, December 6, 2012

Elk City: a Fascinating History

My cousin brought me a copy of an old newspaper article (Omaha, World-Herald Magazine, June 26, 1949) about Frank Gelston who ran the General Store in Elk City.  It is a fascinating story, I hope you find it as interesting as I did.  Here are some excerpts written nearly 65 years ago:

“Elk City’s General Store isn’t a modern serve-yourself super-market.  But then, few customers rush in and demand immediate service.  Most pause a while to chat with or seek the counsel of congeal 86 year old Frank Gelston, owner and operator since 1892.  In spite of his years, Mr. Gelston, with the help of Mrs. Gelston, still keeps the store open six days a week.  “We don’t open on Sunday anymore,” he said.  “Life’s too short to work that hard.”

Almost anything a small town resident might need can be found within the 38 by 48 foot frame building.  Dry goods, clothing, groceries, fresh meat, school equipment, medical supplies, hardware, and cold soda pop are all stocked.  “Tastes of the buying public have changed since I took over the store in 1892,” the white-haired Mr. Gelston said.  “I used to buy flour and feed by the carload lot –three a year.  Now I seldom sell a 50 pound sack of flour.  It goes out mostly in five and 10 pound cartons.”
A six-by-eight-foot booth in south-east corner of the store houses Elk City’s postoffice.  Mr. Gelston was postmaster from 1898 until he was retired in 1940.  Prior to that he was assistant postmaster for six years.” 

“Frank Gelston was born at Clarks, Neb., October 5, 1863, and moved with his parents, Mr. and Mrs. George W. Gelston to Elk City in the spring of ’66.’  Tall, lean, and straight, he declared that long lives run in the family.  When he first moved to the community, the town was called Elkhorn City but later, because mail was confused with Union Pacific’s Elkhorn Station, 22 miles west of Omaha, trainmen asked the Post Office Department to change Elkhorn City’s name.”

“In 1866, Elk City was a stagecoach station on the military trail between Omaha and Fremont and points west.  The town had a large hotel and the present store.  Wagon trains moved west would stop overnight, Mr. Gelston said, and many times, troops en route west to quell an Indian uprising would camp near the town.   Each fall Indian tribes traveled through.”….”During this period of the town’s history it was not uncommon to see 12 or 14 four-horse teams hobbled by the livery stable, he recalled.”

“His mother worked at the hotel and his father drove a stage between Omaha and Fremont.  Since Elk City was on the stage line, they became acquainted and were married there.  They moved to Clarks to take over a stage station, where Frank was born.  He is the oldest of eight children, six of whom are still living.  Although he doesn’t recall the incident, he remembers his mother’s telling of a Sioux Indian uprising north of Clarks while the family lived there.  

In March, 1892, he married Mary Gains, who had moved to Elk City from Illinois.”  “When he first took over the store, he would travel to Omaha in a wagon to pick up supplies.  If night overtook him, he would stay in Benson overnight.  It was during one of these trips that he met Joe McGuire, Benson postmaster.  Still in use at the Elk City Post Office is the mail case which he bought from Mr. McGuire 45 years ago.  The case has 16 boxes with combination locks and 28 racks where patrons must ask a clerk for their mail.  The post office serves 25 customers, and since no railroad runs through the town, mail is brought in by rural carriers from Valley and Bennington.   

Leaning against the counter, recalling the past 86 years, Mr. Gelston listened to the drone of an automobile approaching on State Highway No. 8.  “When the U.P. and C. & N. W. railroads missed Elk City,” he said, “the town’s chance to grow was killed.”

Monday, November 26, 2012


YEEPEE! It took a couple of hours, mostly figuring out my scanner, but I DID IT. So send me your pictures, your articles, whatever, I'm on a ROLL!

My Mother-in-law, A 1940 Beauty!

Hurt farmer

Good Neighbors!

The rest of Freds story

Bennington news

Hello everyone, I'm Linda Klabunde. Wife of Larry and daughter-in-law of Elmer and Lenora (Sass) Klabunde. Both of their families have lived in the Bennington area since around 1887 (more or less).
When we were going tho Lenoras things we ran across a dozen scrap books with newspaper articles dating back to the 1930's. Gordon and I thought you might like seeing some of these. So if you like what you see and your family should happen to have any articles or photos (with names please) shoot me and e-mail andI'd be happy to scan them and add them to our history.
Thank you and I hope you enjoy reading these.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Bennington Celebrates 125 Years!

The Bennington Historical Society celebrated the 125th Anniversary of Bennington's founding on November 18 at the Library Community Room in Bennington.  Bennington's town site was dedicated November 15th, 1887.  The celebration included an open house that featured historical displays, artifacts, refreshments and a presentation.  Approximately 40 attended.  

Guests and refreshments at Bennington's 125th Celebration
Guests were treated to displays featuring a presentation of founding family names, artifacts from the Bunz family, old photographs of town, artifacts found at the Bennington Roller Mill site, and maps showing ownership of lands and City lots.  

Society Members:  Julie Dunn, Diane Warrick, and Linda Mueller
Society Members; Clarence Laaker, Jan and Bob McKelvie, Ginger McGurk and Linda Klabunde

A power point presentation entitled; "What and Who was Here Before Bennington?" was given at 1:30 and 2:15.  The presentation featured a summary of the Great Plains landscape, the forces which shaped its settlement by humans and how the local area became one of the most important travel corridors for Westward expansion.
Bennington is located within 10 miles of river boat traffic which traveled up the Missouri River as far west as Montana; the Mormon trail where pioneers traveling by  wagon trail came through this area and the Union Pacific Railroad which laid its tracks just 10 miles to the south of us that completed the Transcontinental Railroad in 1869.
Gordon Mueller presenting
"Who and What was here Before Bennington?"
A good time was had by all.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Quest Speaker from the Durham Museum

Carrie Wieners, curator of The Durham Museum in Omaha, visited the Society on October 18, 2012.  She came and briefed members on the proper methods of preservation and storage of historical items.  We discussed in depth the need for accurate record keeping in terms of retrieval, research, and the legal responsibility.

Carrie Wieners and Society member Lois Musel
 examining a century old German uniform
Society members brought items from home and received advise from Carrie on the best ways to preserve and store them.  They included glassware, pottery, china, paper items, textiles, leather and metal goods.  It was an interesting evening and everyone agreed to have similar speakers attend.   

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Washington, Nebraska celebrates its 125th birthday!

Washington, Nebraska celebrated its 125th birthday last weekend.  The town had an ice cream and home-made pie social, tour of the historic business sites, displays and activities for the kids.  It was a fun time and I had a piece of rhubarb-strawberry pie that was to DIE FOR!   
Model of Washington's Business District

Not many people realize that Washington and Bennington are "Twin Sister Cities."  That's right; in 1887 the Chicago Northwestern Railroad laid track through the Papio Creek Valley.  They started at Arlington, and laid track south to Irvington and during the process created two new railroad towns: Washington and Bennington.  

There seems to be some confusion in Bennington regarding when our 125th birthday is.  The sign on the City Office reads 'Established 1892' and the City celebrated the Centennial or our incorporation (1892) in 1992.  What happened to Bennington's real birthday?

The truth is that the Bennington Town Site was dedicated November 15th, 1887.  Construction on the business district started shortly afterwards.  By those standards, Washington should have waited until 2015 to celebrate its Centennial let alone its Quasquicentennial.  You see, Washington grew much slower and didn't incorporate until 1915.  That means they should have waited until 2040 to celebrate their 125th!  

Thank God they didn't because I would have missed that pie and a great time!  Happy Birthday Washington!!!!!!

Dig into our local history and find the real truth!


Thursday, September 13, 2012

Mystery Item

Clarence Laaker brought this item to the last Historical Society Meeting for show and tell.  The questions is; What is it?  It has a handle on one end, a wire cage tube that extends down the side and spade and foot on the other end.   Someone suggested it was an early golf ball picker-upper.  Could they be right?  What do you think?  Answer in 2 weeks.

ANSWER:   A potato planter.  Potatoes were planted in tilled soil so it was easier to plant and for the potatoes themselves to grow.  The seed potatoes were stacked in the wire tube. Each had to have at least one good "eye" to sprout.  The planter was pushed into the loose soil and further inserted by stepping on the foot lever.  Once inserted, the handle was cranked down which dropped and inserted one potato in the ground.   Extract and move on.  The marvels of modern agriculture!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Bennington during the War Years: 1941-1945

The Society has started posting displays in the window of Bob McKievers building.  Swing by and check them out.  Here is part of one:

Bennington use to be a self sufficient town.  There were a large number of downtown businesses and folks had a little reason to run into Omaha or Benson for anything.  Actually, travel during the war was discouraged because of the war effort and gas rationing. 

Darrell Logeman came across an old box of Clover Leaf Grocery Store receipts and gave them to us.  That store was operated by Roy Gordon and his daughter Jeanette.  The box was like a time capsule, showing businesses, services and costs of things 7 decades ago.  A lot of things have changed:   For instance you only had to dial 4 numbers to make a phone call.  Today, we have to dial 10, but then again, everyone has a cell phone.  A dollar went a long ways in those days compared to today.  A candy bar or soda cost a nickel rather than a dollar and a gallon of rationed gas cost $0.20.   Here are some of those receipts and examples:

Special Tax Stamp –“Retail Dealer in Uncolored Oleomargarine  In the old days people used real creamery butter.  Just prior to the war oleomargarine was introduced as a substitute for butter.  It was something “new” and even the IRS got a piece of the action by taxing its specific sale.  It resembled lard when sold but came with a yellow coloring agent that when blended made it look more butter.  White oleomargarine was sold well into the 1960’s due to the efforts of the dairy industry in some states.  They probably thought the inconvenience of having the buyer color the margarine helped butter sales.

The Idea Gas Station.  That gas station was owned by Chet Witte and was located (15417 S. 2nd Street) on the south east corner of Warehouse, Stark and Main Street.  We complain about gas prices now but in those days the issue was simply getting gas ration stamps that allowed you to purchase it.  Receipts suggest 5 gallons of gasoline was purchased each week at the cost of $1.00.  
In those days, station owners also made deliver of fuel oil and gasoline to residences and farms.  The old fuel oil tanks typically held 300 gallons.  One receipt showed a delivery of 260 gallons cost a little over $21.  That is 8 cents a gallon!
C.W.Hadan had a plumbing, heating and electrical business at 15313 S. 2nd Street called “Modern Utilities.”  It’s probably safe to speculate that Bill helped every home owner and business in this City.  His business was eventually bought by John M. Grant who operated the store with his wife “Snooky” into the 1970’s.  John charged $3.00 for a business call during the war. 
The street up by Cubby’s is named in honor of Bill’s contribution to this community.  His original building still stands but has been converted into an apartment building.
Chicago and North Western Railways Co.  The majority of shipping and much personal travel was done by train.  The depot was a busy place.  What you couldn’t find in town could be ordered and shipped in by train.  One receipt showed that nearly 500 pounds of fence wire was bought and delivered to the Bennington Depot.  The delivery cost was 70 cents per hundred weight. 
Neumeyer Farm Equipment Co.  Hans Neumeyer’s had a Case implement and parts dealership located in what was previously the old Petersen Garage.   It was found at 15415 S. 2nd Street and no longer survives.  A new building was built by Miles and Nelson that house apartments now.  You can see the Case Implement sign over the gentleman’s shoulder.
The Case Implement Dealership sign can be seen in the background.
Clearvue Dairy.  A lot of farmers supplemented their income by milking.  Nearly everyone had a few milk cows that produced milk for the family and surplus milk, cream and butter was sold in town.  Several herds expanded into full fledge dairy operations.  Having a milk herd was a lot of work; demanding the cows be milked both in the morning and evening 7 days a week.  We believe this dairy was located a little more than a mile west of Bennington and it was owned and operated by Otto Leppert.  Otto sold (wholesale) his milk for $0.64 a gallon.
Hauling milk in cans to town.
Farmers Union CO-OP. Merc. CO.  The Farmers CO-OP was located on the east side of the bank building (15322 S. 2nd Street).  They sold agricultural supplies and equipment. They also had a lot on Warehouse Street where they received and stored coal, kerosene, gasoline and other bulk materials from the railroad.    A great number of homes and businesses at that time were heated with coal and fuel oil.  We learned that a ton (2,000 lbs) of delivered coal cost $12.75.
Bennington's Farmer's Union
Clover Farm Store   The Clover Farm (Bennington) Food-Center was a nationally operated franchise.  Bennington’s was located on the southwest corner of Stark and Main Street.  It was operated by Roy Gordon.  After the war the franchise was changed to IGA (Independent Grociers Association).  Farmers would commonly trade produce for groceries or sell produce for cash.  In September, Fred Werner sold 379 lbs of melons to the store for $13.26.  That’s three and half cents a pound.

Nebraska Power Company was the predecessor to Omaha Public Power District.   Clover Farm Store had a large freezer plant.  This was at a time when individual freezers were both expensive and rare.  Most residence rented a box at the store to keep their frozen foods.  Power demand was high.  In June, the bill was $4.91!                                              
Bennington Transfer.  Hans Neumeyer owned a trucking company in town that was located at 15520 Warehouse Street; across from the Library.  The original building still stands.  The transfer company hauled milk and would make scheduled trips to Omaha picking up goods for local businesses.  This receipt suggests they picked up meat and paper goods for the store. 
Bennington Transfer making another delivery.

Have old pictures or artifacts you’re willing to share?  Give the Historical Society a call:  402-614-7509 or come to our meetings.  
Photographs, courtesy of Marvin Tiedje and others.


Monday, July 23, 2012

Omaha Exposition of 1898

Lois (Mohr) Musel brought a souvenir that one of her family members had gotten at the Omaha Exposition of 1898.  The 'cranberry goblet has "Exp. 98" etched into it and "John Mohr."  Another Society member brought a similar goblet she had bought off e-bay that had "Walt Mangold" inscribed on it.  Walt was a Post Master here in town.  The cups are over a century old and mark a very important celebration that put this part of the country on the map.

Check it out!
"Exp. 98"

"John Mohr"

The Trans-Mississippi and International Exposition was a world's fair held in Omaha, Nebraska from June 1 to November 1 of 1898. Its goal was to showcase the development of the entire West, stretching from the Mississippi River to the Pacific Coast. The Indian Congress was held concurrently. Over 2.6 million people came to Omaha to view the 4,062 exhibits during the four months of the Exposition. President William McKinley and William Jennings Bryan were among the dignitaries who attended at the invitation of Gurdon Wattles, the event's leader. 100,000 people assembled on the plaza to hear them speak. The Expo stretched over a 180-acre (0.73 km2) tract in North Omaha and featured a 2,000 feet (610 m)-long lagoon encircled by 21 classical buildings that featured fine and modern products from around the world.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Traveling Photographers in Bennington, Nebraska

Railroad towns at the turn of the century represented the main travel corridor through the country.  Travel by horse and buggy or even by early cars was anything but fast or luxerious.  The railroad allowed businesses to access and expand into areas that otherwise couldn't support their survices full-time.  

Normally, a building owner or existing business in town would rent out a room or space on a part time bases.  These businesses would travel the railroad curcuit and be available on a scheduled day of the month or possibly the week. 

For instance, a century ago a dentist and photographer serviced Bennington residents this way.   The Dentist might be in Irvington on Monday, Bennington on Tuesday, in Washington on Wednesday and so on.  If you had a tooth ace you either just waited until he arrived in town or you rode your horse or buggy to where he was. 

Initially photographers either set up studios in large cities or travelled the country side by wagon trying to find business.  The railroad provided much easier, more dependable travel and increased their cliental.  There simply wasn't enough demand in a small town and even in Omaha in those early years it might have been hard to make a businesses of it. 

Stories suggest a photographer frequented Bennington periodically but we never have seen any evidence; that is until now.  Violet Christersen was going through some of her old photographs and ran across these.  She doesn't know who the young man and girl are but noticed where the photos were taken; here in Bennington.  We now know that Marian and Henington were at least two photographers who visited Bennington.   
Old Photographs taken in Bennington, Nebraska

Thanks Violet for sharing!! 

Monday, June 18, 2012

Bennington Daze Celebration 2012

Bennington celebrated its 125th anniversary this year.  The town site was dedicated and named in 1887.  Bennington Daze was held on June 15, 16 and 17 featuring a free barbecue, street dance, parade, baseball games, 5 km run, book sale and many other activities.   The parade was held Saturday at 1 pm.  The Bennington Historical Society participated with flying colors.  The Society had originally planned to sell our tour guides and historic calendars from a late 1800 farm wagon parked near the parade route but late morning showers drove us up under the protection of the porch.  

CoeLeta Logemann and Jan McKelvie at the Bennington Historical Society table during Bennington Daze
 The Society sold 2013 historic calendars, walking tours and handed out information about the Society.  CoeLeta Logemann, Jan McKelvie, Linda and and Gordon Mueller manned the table.

Diane Warrick did all our sign design work and her and Linda created two maps that are on display in the front windows of Bob McKelvie's building on Main Street.  (This is one of the original structures built in 1888.)  One map feature the business lots and the other is a platt map showing ownership of surrounding farm land in 1898.  We are looking for anyone that has information and photographs of ownership (1888 to present) of businesses in Bennington.


This was the Society's first year anniversary and our first participation in the parade.  Our logo adorned a 1918 Ford Pickup owned and driven by Bob McKelvie.  Lois Musel, her daughter Andrea and her children rode along passing out treats to spectators.  They simply had too much fun!
Turn of the Century Transportation-Bennington Historic Society
1918 Ford and Bain Farm Wagon
1918 Ford Pickup (John Deere box) The Bennington Historical Society Entry, Bennington Daze, 2012

We also presented a slide show entitled "A Walk Through History" which featured 'then and now' photographs of Bennington businesses.  It was originally planned to be shown outside on Stark Street where free movies were shown decades ago.  Again, unpredictable weather forced us to have it indoors.  The American Legion graciously opened their doors for us.  Gordon Mueller gave the talk and approximately 40 attended.  If you would like to have the show presented to a local organization, contact us.   

Come join the fun.  Remember the Historical Calendars are now available and can be found in local businesses.  Buy one and consider giving one as a gift.  Take care. 

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Bennington Historical Calendar

This year Bennington is celebrating it's 125th Anniversary.  In recognition of this important event, the Bennington Historical Society and local businesses have created a 2013 Historical Calendar.  We are very proud of this calendar, it features historical photographs of Bennington taken more than a century ago. 

Bennington Historical Society's 2013 Calendar on Sale NOW!
 They are on sale at good stores in town for $10 or they can be mailed; simply send us your address and $13 to cover postage. 

The Calendar will make a wonderful keepsake, gift or learning aid for your family; what was here 100 years ago?   Proceeds go to support the Historical Society and its projects.   Thanks. 

Saturday, March 10, 2012


The Society has started a 'show and tell' session during meetings; members share old photographs or artifacts.  This month our post is a "tool"; testing our visitor's knowledge of old antiques and photographs.  Some of these we know, and some we might be asking for help on.  The following item we know, do you?

ITEM:   This button and ribbon granted the wearer entry into a very popular recreational spot here in Bennington more than a century ago?  Also this year (1908) marked the beginning of an Annual celebration in town.   Can you name the recreational spot and celebration?

Clue:  The spot was named after an important founder and the celebration named after our primary industry. 

Answers:  Bunz Park and the Bennington Harvest Festival.   Bunz Park was located on the south side of the tracks.  It was one of the most popular parks in eastern Nebraska because of access.  Bennington's Depot and the train was right at the park's entrance.  People could plan an outing or festivity, ride the train and it was an easy walk to the park.  As this medalion shows, it was a popular venue even for large companies in Omaha.  Swift's was one, if the the largest packing house in Omaha at that time. 

In 1908, Bennington began its Annual Harvest Festival which was a three day event held in August.  It was like going to the State Fair, but only closer. 

Mystery Item


Tuesday, February 21, 2012

An Older Post Office

I discovered another early frontier settlement and post office while going through some old maps called 'Blakesly'.  I found it on a 1884 map which represents a period when Bennington was only someone's dream.

It was located just south and a little west of the present site of
Bennington on old Military Highway.  Old Military was the first government road in Nebraska which was surveyed in 1857.  Prior to that it was a wagon trail commonly known as the "Mormon Trail." Military Road was named after its purposed user; the Military since it connected Fort Omaha with Fort Kearney in the West. 

Military Road started in Omaha, ran through Benson, Irvington and then to Elk City before dropping to the Elkhorn-Platte Valley and proceeding to Fremont.  Blakesly was referred to as a 'hamlet' in one reference which suggests it had several buildings.  It was located about half way between two larger settlements; Elk City and Irvington.

No additional information could be found at this time concerning the extent of the settlement but it is likely it had a general store, a blacksmith shop along with the Post Office.   Immediately to the
East was one of the earliest farms in the area, the Summerhill Farm and the rural school, District 26.  Quite possibly, this was all one scattered community.

Blakelsly and Hayes were literally early 'rest stops' where travelers could stop, get repairs, provisions and take care of their horses.  

Douglas County (1884)

Another mysteries, secretes and 'ghost towns' are in our neighborhood?  Know of any?  If so, let us know. 

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Pig Pen and Breakfast

You might think the association here is bacon but its not; its fuel.  One of our projects is to interview long-time residents on their childhood.  What was life like growing up in this area 70 to 80 years ago?  It is amazing how different it was; especially the things we take for granted today.

For instance, this morning I got up in a warm house and went out to the kitchen in my t-shirt, boxers and bare feet.   I flipped on the lights (still dark out) and turned on the coffee maker.  I slipped some instant oatmeal in the microwave and I had breakfast in a couple of minutes.  The outside temperature was a cool 17 degrees. 

The morning routine was quire different for some of our older residents when they grew up.  In those days, they woke up in a cold house, more often than not it was actually freezing inside.  Their rooms were normally upstairs where there wasn't any heat at all and downstairs the fire in the coal stove would have died long before dawn.

The first heat in the house was often from the cook stove in the kitchen.  A fire had to be built in the stove for it to get hot enough to cook on and the water in the water tank to thaw the ice and to get warm for washing.   No electric stove, no furnace, no gas water heater, seldom did they have electric lights.  Most often the fire was built with paper and wood and then fed with corn cobs which was the primary fuel in the country. 

Two of the ladies I've interviewed told me that one of their many chores while growing up on the farm was to collect corn cobs from the pig pen.  They both screwed up their noses then telling me this was their least favorite chore on the farm. 

You see, not much was wasted in those days.  Wood wasn't as plentiful as it is today and coal was expensive.  Slightly more than a century ago this was simply prairie, and endless see of grass; there were no trees here.  That generation planted those trees. 

Farmers picked corn by hand and the job of shelling it was laborious.  Farm animals were fed eared corn instead of going to the trouble or expense of shelling it.  They ate the kernels and left the cob.  It didn't end up very clean but it was valuable fuel. 

These girls had to pick up and sack these cobs along with others that were used for the kitchen stove.   Cobs were normally kept in a cob bin on the porch.  One lady said her mother told her not to pick up a large handful, because of the possibility of carrying mice into the house. 

I know some people that would consider what these girls had to do child cruelty but honestly, they turned out to be quite lovely and charming ladys.   That is another story! 

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Hayes Post Office (1878-1888)

The Hayes Post Office was one of the first established post offices in the immediate Bennington area with mail still being delivered by mail carriers on horseback.  It was described in the 1967 “History of Bennington Centennial Days Book.   The 1967 text reported:
“About 1874, a tiny community called Hayes was established approximately two miles north of what is now the present site of Bennington.  The community consisted of a post office, a general store and a blacksmith shop.  Mail was delivered to the Hayes post office by pony and people in the surrounding area went to Hayes to get their mail.  The community of Hayes was presumably named after President Hayes and eventually vanished after the establishment of Bennington.”
It was briefly mentioned in the 1992 Centennial Book.  Hans and Catherine Johannsen were reported to walk to the Hayes Post Office for their mail (Bennington Centennial Book, 1992).  Their address was Washington County, Nebraska.  
Melvin Tiedje recalled his Grandmother Tiedge showing him a picture of the Hayes Post Office and pointing out where it laid; on the north side of the present intersection of  156th Street and Dutch Hall Road.   The Tiedje farmstead was located just east of the site on the Douglas County side.  He remembers her showing him a small photograph of the post office which showed a sod hut with a man and flagpole in front. That photo disappeard and we have been upable to locate any other photos of the Post Office.
We’ve recently received copies of Post Office documents describing the location and tenure of Hayes’s Post Office.   The documents are internal forms sent to the Post Office Department’s Topographer’s Office describing the physical location and surrounding landmarks of local post offices and providing hand drawn maps on the back.   The maps were crudely drawn, some not to scale and in varying degrees of accuracy.   They provided legal locations which confirmed earlier descriptions and accounts.

It’s believed Hayes was primarily a stage station that started around 1874 to service wagon traffic traveling just north of the present site of Bennington.  An Overland Wagon Road ran near the Douglas and Washington County line between the present site of Highway 133 and Elkhorn City which today is known as Elk City.   Other wagon roads ran north to Kennard, Blair, Bell Creek which was renamed “Arlington” when the railroad came.  This was before Bennington and Washington existed and the nearest services prior to creating of Hayes were found in Florence, Benson, Irvington, Blair, Elkhorn City, and Elkhorn.  This could be nearly a full day’s ride roundtrip.  Hayes was a logical location for a new stage and freight stop. 
One of the Post Office documents is a request from Postmaster Randolf Peters to James N. Lyner, First Assistant Postmaster General for the creation of a new post office at Hayes.  The request was dated February 20, 1878.   The post office’s location was;
 to be situated on the S.W quarter of Section 34, Township 17, Range 11, in the county of Washington, State of Nebraska.  It will be on or near route No. 34043, being the route from Omaha, Neb to Elkhorn City, on which the mail is now carried 3 times per week.”
That places Hayes near or at the present intersection of 156th Street and Old Dutch Hall Road.  One map suggests that buildings were situated on both sides of the wagon trail, but the post office was definitely located on the north side; in Washington County.  Documents show that Randolf Peters remained the Haye’s Postmaster at least until 1885. 
Hayes Post Office, Washington County, Nebrasks

The area witnessed remarkable growth during that decade.  Lands were surveyed and roads straightened and improved and farms fenced.  The Fremont and Missouri Valley Railroad was building a railroad line from Omaha to Fremont which resulted in the establishment of Bennington, Washington and renaming of Arlington which was originally called “Bell Creek.”   Bennington and Arlington had Post Offices by 1888.  Tracks were being rapidly laid and train service reached the area in 1889 resulting in the mail being delivered by train, rather than by stage or horseback.
Anticipating the arrival of train service, the Hayes Postmaster (signature not legible) formally requested the creation of a new post office named “Washington” in the newly created village bearing that name on January 20, 1888.  That request was granted and postal services were moved from Hayes to the newly constructed depot on the south side of town.  The Post Office better served a village of 50 rather than one of possibly 5 people.  The move was slightly more than 2 miles.   Later, a separate Post Office building was constructed in Washington.
The Hayes Post Office operated from 1878 to 1888 a period of ten year.  It played an important role in the early development of our community.  It was the only link for early settlers to write and receive letters from loved ones back in Europe and in other parts of the country.  The railroad radically changed this country; it increased communication, made travel easier and sped the development of this part of eastern Nebraska.  The need for Hayes disappeared as the railroad towns of Bennington, Washington and Arlington further grew and became important local commerce sites.   Modern technology in the form of the railroad caused the demise of both the Hayes Post Office and its successor, the Washington Post Office.  The memories and sod shanties have long past dissolved into the prairie soil.   
Today, postal services are once again being forced to transform to emerging technology.  This time it’s the INTERNET and smart phones.  There is no need to write letters, you simply call friend and family and with a touch of a button, you can pay your bills and mail electronically.   What will come next?   
Gordon Mueller