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Friday, December 29, 2017

Colonel James H. Pratt

Attached is a YouTube link about Colonel James Pratt who was in the Civil War.  He lived just 3 miles south of  Bennington on State Street more than a century ago.   He had an amazing life and was truly a frontiersman.   Click on the link and enjoy the show.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Bennington Daze 2017

The Bennington Daze celebration was a huge success and the Historical Society offered several old and new activities to our Community.  Here is a rundown on some:

Museum.    Linda Klabunde and Lois Musel set up a marvelous display in our museum.   During the two days, we have nearly 200 visitors who stopped by to examine some of Bennington's history.  This year we offered old historic photographs, walking tours, koozies and some memorabilia left over from the 1992 celebration.  Below are members of the Schneider family posing in front of their grandmother's wedding dress.  

This young man was amazed by the World War 1 uniform from Walt Mangold.  He had to try on a helmet.  

Diorama.   Diane, Mac, Cory and Linda created a diorama representing what Bennington might have looked like in 1892.  It was a huge undertaking, measuring 8 x 8 foot.  It contained models of the businesses and homes that were here at that time; like the railroad, train and depot.  The old grist mill and ice house.  The saloons and businesses.  Folks really enjoyed seeing how much we've changed.

Main Street, Bennington, Nebraska 1892
Historical (Ghost) Tour.   Some of our old noteable residents came back for the celebration.   Eggert Oft, one of the towns founders led a group of interested folks through old downtown before he faded away.  

Eggert walked the folks uptown, pointing out things that had changed in the past 125 years.   Along the way he ran into some other old "spirits" like Bud Holms who was the Depot Manager. 
Gordon Mueller playing Eggert Oft / Corey Olsberg playing Burt Holms

Here they are talking about driving cattle up warehouse street to the livestock pens next to the depot for shipment to Omaha.  No trucks in those days.  Mr. Holms lived upstairs in the depot and told he had to chain his bed to the wall because it would 'wonder' when trains sped through town. 
Diane Warrick playing Mrs Wilcox

Mrs. Wilcox, the editor of the Bennington Herald had some printed posters for Mr. Oft and told the group how the newspaper operated. Annual subscription cost to the paper was $1, whether you could read or not.  

On the way up the street they ran into Edna Mohr who taught school in the Bennington area for over 50 years.  If you think that is something, she taught Sunday School for over 60!  She told that in those days, teachers had to be single.  
Lois Musel playing Edna Mohr

We ran into Bertha Sass at the museum.  Bertha told about her life and WORK raising a family in those early years. 

Linda Klabunde playing Bertha Sass
On the last leg of the walk, the group ran into John Petersen who had the early horseless carriage  and garage business her in town. John showed the group the new Ford Model T.     

Bob Mckelvie playing John Petersen

The tour then ended as Eggert, Burt, Edna, Bertha and John faded back into the past.  We appreciated their stories about Bennington. We also extend our thanks to Ignition Church for the use of their building. 

Scavenger Hunt.   This was a new activity with the 'hunt' made up of questions and goals related to Bennington History.  The questions were developed by Ruth and Bob Zaruba and Linda and Gordon Mueller.  Ruth and Ginger gave out and received the questionnaires.  
Ruth and Ginger
Some businesses gave out articles.  A Civil War reenactment soldier gave out American Flags to Scavenger hunters where they had to read something off the Veteran's Memorial.   The flags were donated by Woodmenlife.  

Nearly 50 folks participated and we'll surely do this again.  We all have a great time.  

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Changing History?

I often check Ebay for old photographs and articles about our local history.  This week I found a Bennington medallion advertised for sale and I bought it.  Here is a little history about it and this year’s Bennington Daze celebration.

Fifty years ago (1967), Bennington celebrated Nebraska’s Centennial and its 80th Birthday (1887-1967).   We celebrated it in style with a Centennial Day’s parade and party during the weekend of July 29. 

The Bennington Woman’s Club put together a pamphlet entitled “History of Bennington Nebraska 1887-1967” that recognized the “Nebraska Centennial year and marks Bennington’s eightieth year of establishment”.   Their work summarized the high points of interest in our Community’s history along with photographs.  It is an excellent source of information.

Some (?) group also had medallions made to celebrate the event.  One side showed a covered wagon with Centennial Days inscribed and the other side proclaimed “Our 80th Year 1887-1967”. 
Bennington, for some unknown reason didn’t specifically celebrate the centennial of its founding in 1987 and instead celebrated the centennial of its incorporation five years later in 1992.  Incorporation happened when the town’s population reached 200.   This may have been the result of a major effort to document our town's history in a book entitled: "Bennington Nebraska 1992-1992" edited by Gary Sathers and Edna Mohr.  They did an excellent job of pulling together old photographs and document family and Community history.

There certainly isn’t anything wrong with celebrating incorporation but it's highly irregular to celebrate "Incorporation" rather than a town’s ‘founder’s day’.   We know of no other community that does that. 

In 2012, an effort was made to recognize Bennington’s 125th Birthday with a Proclamation.   The City Council refused to take up the topic, suggesting it was to confusing.   Mayor Johnson signed the Proclamation without the Council’s support but again, that milestone wasn't recognized during Bennington Daze.   

That same year, Washington celebrated their 125th Birthday.  Their town was dedicated one month earlier than Bennington but didn't incorporate until 1915.  That was 23 years later than Bennington.  Their community grew at a much slower rate.  

This year Bennington celebrates its 125th year since incorporation as Nebraska celebrates our 150 year.    Fifty years ago when Nebraska celebrated its Centennial, Bennington celebrated its 80th Birthday.     80 + 50 = 130 years.   What happened to those 5 years??    

This year I turn 67.  Next year instead of celebrating my birthday, I'm going to  celebrate when I graduated from High School instead.  That will make me 50!  That works for me.

Happy Bennington Daze!   Come join us the weekend of June 9th.   

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Johnson Photos

The Johnson Family donated some century old photos of Bennington to the Society the other day.  Many are new and quite exciting because they provide us more information about our Community a century ago.  Here are a few of them, enjoy:

Witte Hardware Store, Bennington, NE  ca. 1915
 The Witte Hardware store still survives today.  It was built in 1888 and is located on the northwest corner of South 2nd and Stark streets.  The building supported various hardware businesses for nearly 90 years.  Today, the west wing houses our museum.

Bennington Royal Neighbor Drill Team,  1910

The next set of images were shot around Papio Creek activities. The creek furnished power to the grist mill to grind grain to make flour and meal.  During the winters, Ice was harvested and stored in ice houses for use in the summer.  It also provided recreational opportunities.
Boating on the Papio Creek near 156th Street Bridge.  ca 1917

Boating in the flood waters of the Papio Creek  ca. 1917
Prior to the 1930s when the Corp of Engineers deepen and straightened the creek; it was prone to major flooding.  Information along with the photos suggested this might have been C.W. Haden who was boating in flood waters west of town.  His location is in Nancy Neumeyer's field, located south of the soccer fields from Johns/Bohn Park.  Bennington can be seen in the background. 

Ice Skating on the Old Mill Pond at Bennington, NE

The Papio Creek offered folks a place to ice skate.  These ladies are located on the old mill pond.  The old ice house is located in the background.  Ice was cut into blocks and slid up the ice shoot and stored in the ice house until needed during summer.  

Ice skating on the Papio Creek, Bennington, NE

Thursday, March 23, 2017

What Are We Celebrating?

This year is being promoted as Bennington’s Quasquicentennial (125 yr.) anniversary.  Normally, this type of milestone marks the founding of a city.  Once it did for our town but interestingly that was changed by leadership 25 years ago. 

Nebraska celebrated  its Centennial Anniversary in 1967 (1867-1967) which also marked Bennington's 80 birthday.  Bennington honored both events with  a Centennial Days celebration in 1967.  The town's history was accurately portrayed in a booklet developed for the event entitled: "History of Bennington Nebraska, 1887-1967".

For some reason, Community leaders failed  to  follow up with a Centennial (1887-1987) celebration 20 years later.  Instead they chose to celebrate the Centennial (1892-1992) of the town's incorporation (1892) in 1992.  That was when the village's population reached 200, triggering recognition from the  Douglas County Board of Commissioners that Bennington was a town.

Why the change?  Was it planned or a political response to failed planning?  The answer might lay in the fact that Bennington might be the only town in Nebraska that celebrates its incorporation rather than its founding.

Many believe the actual work of  our founding families to create our Community should be the reason we celebrate, not the final paperwork recognizing their accomplishment 5 years later.

That is the reason we celebrate our Nation's Independence on July 4th rather than September 3rd (1783), when the British finally recognized our independence.  We celebrate the human sacrifice in taking our Independence rather than the final paperwork.

While the Community celebrates our Quasquicentennial Anniversary, please remember; Bennington is celebrating its 130 Birthday.  Let's remember the human accomplishment rather than the paperwork.  

What do you think?

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Wallace Farmer, 1913 found

The Wesemann Family has a long-history in the Bennington Community.  The old Wesemann farm house is being remodeled and builders found 4 old copies of the Wallace Farmer Journal; they were all dated 1913.  And its amazing, they  are still in business today!   They  are centered out of Des Moines, Iowa.

Mike Wesemann dropped a copy off for the Historical Society.  The copy is in remarkable good shape, being hidden in a wall for more than 100 years!  It is amazing how some things haven't changed (types of crops) and what things have (equipment and farming practices).

Here is a farmer spraying potatoes behind a team of horses.  Wonder how many acres he sprayed back then in a day compared to what a farmer with modern equipment can do today?

Gasoline engines were huge, heavy and had very little power.  Our small lawn mowers have more power than many of these beasts.  But they were necessary to power equipment.  

Friday, March 3, 2017

Recollections of Otto W. Glandt; 1910 to 1918.

Otto Glandt was a prominent member of the Bennington Community.  He was the son of C.W. Glandt who was an early businessman in Bennington.  His father owned several businesses that included a cement block factory, he built hen crates, sold insurance and farm equipment and built many of the first homes in town.  Otto was born in 1906 in Bennington.  For Bennington's 1992 celebration he authored a 2 page description of his childhood memories of growing up.  They are narrated on the following video along with old photographs of some of those sites (  

Please take a little time to learn about life in Benningtion more than a century ago and view our other videos on YouTube at "bennhistsoc".   If you like it, become a follower.  Thanks.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

A 50 cent meal in Bennington, Nebraska

The following is a narration of a newspaper article of a Omaha World-Herald reporter's account of eating a meal at the Siever's Hotel in Bennington.  It was written in 1926.  Click on the link below to see the presentation.  Thanks

Sunday, January 15, 2017

The School Children's Blizzard of 1888

The blizzard hit in mid-afternoon following a pleasantly warm day. It took folks by surprise. Temperatures dropped to -20 degrees and the terrible wind reduced visibility to zero.  Many of those who were caught away from shelter and tried to make their way home died.  This was especially true for school children, whom the storm is named after.  The storm killed 235 people and many more suffered frostbite.

Henry Paulsen was 11 years old when the blizzard hit Bennington on January 12, 1888.  It only snowed 6 inches; however, the strong winds created drifts 5 to 15 feet high.  He recalled after the storm was over, the only way they could get to the animals was through a door in the upstairs hayloft.  It took over a week to dig out the entrance to the barn.

The following stories about the storm were taken from Wikipedia;

Plainview, Nebraska.  Lois Royce was trapped with 3 students in her school and by 3 pm they ran out of heating fuel.  They attempted to reach her boarding house which was only 80 yards away but became lost in the blowing snow.  All three children froze to death.  She survived but lost both her feet to frostbite. 

Holt County, Nebraska.  Etta Shuttuck lost her way home and sought shelter in a haystack.  She reminded there for 3 days until she was rescued.  Her legs and feet had to be amputated and unfortunately she died of complications. 

Great Plains, South Dakota.  The school children were rescued by two men who tied a rope to the closest house and then headed for the school.  They tied off the other end of the rope, letting the children follow the rope to safety.  

Mira Valley, Nebraska.   Minnie Freeman led 13 students to her home, half a mile away.  She used a rope to keep the children together.  All her students survived.  She was heralded as "Nebraska's Fearless Maid"!

Monday, January 2, 2017

Beginning of High School Basketball In Nebraska

Roy Gordon’s Letters

1914 Benson High School Basketball Team:  Roy Gordon holding ball

I discovered some old letters in the attic of my grandfather, Roy Gordon when he was a senior at Benson High School.  They fill a few gaps in our family history and described the infancy of high school basketball in 1914.  It appears basketball teams were just forming.  Some schools had teams, others didn’t.  Roy was a team member and apparently responsible to contact other area schools to determine if they had teams and if they were willing and able to schedule games.  Transportation was by railroad not by bus or car and communication was by ‘snail mail’ since there were few phones and certainly no smart-phones.   

There were 5 letters.  The first is in granddad’s hand, written to Mr. W.H. Morton, Superintendent of Ashland Public Schools dated January 19, 1914.  

The letter was returned with a note on the bottom; “We have no basketball team” signed W.H. Morton.

My grandfather and his parents, Alex and Lucy Gordon were farmers who lived 1 ½ miles northwest of Bennington.   The Easter Sunday tornadoes of 1913 completely destroyed their home.  It was rebuilt later in 1914.  The letters suggest the family temporarily moved to Benson where Roy attended high school.  (Bennington’s District 59 Public School didn’t offer an eleventh or twelfth grades until 1924.)  Apparently, it was the responsibility of a member of the basketball team, possibly the team captain arranged the game schedule.
Hollyrood Farm prior to the Easter Sunday Tornado of 1913
Hollyrood Farm following the storm.

The remaining four letters were replies.  The first was from Robert Miller, Manager of the Arlington High School Basketball Team.  Mr. Miller suggested the teams played games at each other’s school.  I found it interesting that the opposing school paid expenses.  Those expenses was probably train fare.  

The next letter was from H.H. Reimund, Superintendent of Weeping Water Public Schools dated February 4, 1914.  Weeping Water didn’t have a basketball team either.  

The last two letters were mailed from Gretna, Nebraska by Frank Burns, who appears to have been Secretary of Gretna Public Schools.  He replied on February 26th by postcard.  The first letter sets a game to be played in Gretna on February 13.  The next is a postcard agreeing to a game on March 6; possibly in Benson.