Phelps Helps Newsletter Spring 1999

Phelps Helps Newsletter
Holdrege Area Genealogical Society

To Subscribe, Write:
The Holdrege Area Genealogy Club
P.O. Box 164
Holdrege, Phelps County, Nebraska

Vol. 8-1
Spring 1999
The Holdrege Area Genealogy Club
meets at the Phelps County Historical Museum
on the first Monday of the month at 2:00 PM.
The public is welcome!

Phelps Helps Newsletters

Your membership is very important to us and we hope you will keep us informed on how we can help further your research. To continue your membership, send your $10 membership dues to Holdrege Area Genealogy Club, P.O. Box 169, Holdrege, NE 68949.

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Shelly Schroder
Researching these surnames: SCHRODER
Iola M. Louthan
Researching these surnames: WAHL; LOUTHAN
Edna Slater
Researching these names: RAMICH, SAUL,COLEMAN, SEAL, HENDRICK

Sylina S. Williams
Researching these names: GASAWAY
Judy Hogate Jacobs
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Holdrege Area Genealogy Club have now completed purchasing all the 1880 Nebraska Soundex microfilm and have purchased an additional twelve films of the Nebraska 1900 Soundex films. Purchasing these films is a big endeavor for our club as there will be over 100 films to purchase for the 1900 Nebraska census at a cost of $18 each. Donations are welcome.

Some of you may be wondering, What is Soundex microfilm? Beginning in with the 1880 federal Census, the federal government created Soundex (or Phonetic) indexes based on the sound of the surname rather than the spelling. The Soundex listing provide individuals names, ages and birth location information from the original census and also census page number where the
original data is located. The Soundex is a statewide index that enables the researcher to find individuals with the same names listed together.

There are other genealogy records on microfilm besides censuses such as military pensions and regiment histories of the Revolutionary, Civil and Spanish war and passenger lists. Our library is a member of the Heritage Quest which enables our member's to rent any of these films. The microfilm catalogs are located in the museum library.
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* NEW *

*NEW* Phelps County Marriage Book, 1878 - 1923, Volume 1, Compiled by Dick and Marjorie Dyas and Published by Holdrege Area Genealogy Club is now on sale. Included are entries of bride, groom, marriage date, parents name if found, book and page number of marriage record to help locate the marriage record on microfilm at our museum or at the Courthouse. Price $15.00 plus $4 shipping and Handling. Add .75 for tax if resident of Nebraska.

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Genealogy is more than a collection of names of your ancestors. The names will mean nothing to you unless you dig a little deeper in the past and are able to find out:
1. The kind of clothes they wore.
2. The church they attended.
3. The machinery they used.
4. The kind of books they read.
5. The kind of foods they ate and how they
prepared it.
7. How they coped with illness.
8. Did wars and politics affected their lives?

You can find out many of these answers searching for information in the Phelps County Genealogy Library at the museum. The information is there, your search will be well worth the effort and you will find much satisfaction and appreciation of your family history.

All you need is a name of a relative and the time they were living to get you started. You can do your own search or the library staff will assist you. You can call for information at the museum or contact Sandra Slater at 995-6712.

Come to the monthly meetings, subscribe to the "Phelps Helps" newsletter and you will learn things that may change your life forever.

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~ By Lorena Smith ~

In the "olden" days of seventy years ago you either "rubbered" on the telephone line, or subscribed to the popular newspaper existing in nearly every little town. Notice how every visit to your neighbor, or church service, or club activity was presented as news "locals" in the following excerpts from the Holdrege Progress in the 1920's.

Bertrand: 1920 - Mrs. O. l Johnson returned home Sunday Evening from Jewell, Kansas . She had been called by illness of her mother Mrs. Smith. Mrs. Margaret Brenstrom, aged 75, passed away Monday evening at her home south of Bertrand. She had been bedfast for the past month. Mr. & Mrs, Earl Sherman motored to Omaha Monday on a business trip. Atlanta: 1929 - Mr. & Mrs. Walter Leach and family were Sunday diner guests at Aaron Schlem's near Holdrege.

The Epworth League will have a Watch Night Party New Year's Eve at the Bert Geer Home. Mr. & Mrs. Glenn Young and Donald, Neil visited in the Allan Lunberry home. Loomis: The Mascot High School basketball team played here at the March 1929 Loomis high school, Mascot won the game. Misses Elsie Erickson and Elizabeth Swartz left Friday for school at Crete. Misses Helen Peck, Louise Carlson, Maurine Nelson, and Maurice Nelson left this week for Kearney
where they will attend Teachers College. Mrs. Reno Bergman underwent an operation at the Lord Lister Hospital in Omaha on Saturday. Franklin: September 1929 Five thousand fans met at Franklin last Sunday---not to attend church, but to see automobile races. The sheriff of the county was killed when his race car turned over, and another went through the fences and a Holdrege sport on the sidelines said the races were a success.
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~ A Little Humor From the Internet ~

I went searching for an ancestor. I cannot find him still. He moved around from place to place and did not leave a will.
He married where a courthouse burned. He minded all his fences. He avoided any man who came to take the U.S. Census.
He always kept his luggage packed, this man who had no fame. And every 20 years or so, this rascal changed his name.
His parents came from Europe. They could be on some list of passengers to the USA, but somehow they got missed.
And no one else anywhere is searching for this man. So, I play geneasolitaire to find him if I can.
I'm told he's buried in a plot, with tombstone he was blessed but the weather took engraving and some vandal took the rest.
He died before the county clerks decided to keep records, No family bible has emerged in spite of all my efforts.
To top it off this ancestor, who caused me many groans. Just gave me one more pain, betrothed a girl named JONES.

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The information below was found in
our records room at the museum.
We hope it will be of help to our readers.


The first Congregational organization in Phelps County was brought about by Samuel Eveland, a theological student from Chicago, sent into Phelps County by the American Board of Home Missions. He arrived in Phelps Center in June of 1883 and with his coat over his shoulder, walked to Whitewater P.O. kept by S. M. Millard on mile south of what is now Bertrand, Nebraska.

In this locality were several families from Iowa, Wisconsin, and Illinois with no church organization. Rev. Eveland stayed in the community for a short time holding meetings in the homes. From the interest thus created, a Congregational organization formed on September 23 1883 in the Millard schoolhouse with the assistance of Rev. W. H. Forbis, first Congregational Pastor of Holdrege, and State Superintendent C. W. Merrill. Out of these efforts came the organization of the Urbana Church with the Pierce, Griffith, and Thomas families as members. The Whitewater organization was disbanded and the members took part in organizing the Bertrand Congregation in September of 1885. Rev. C. H. Huestis, the first pastor, was called and a church building erected.

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This early list of Congregational church was located in the a Bertrand church book. It appears to be an original list of members that were probably from the Urbana, located 10 miles west of Holdrege, NE; Whitewater (near Bertrand) and Bertrand itself, which started in 1885.

September 2, 1883: Richard Griffeth; W. L. Thomas; L. M. Millard; W. H. Pedley: Rosa Millard; Sarah Griffeth; Margaret Thomas; Mary A. Thomas; Cynthia Pedley: Amanda A. Little. October 18th 1883: Samuel Givins: Mary Ann Givins. January 20, 1884: John Pierce; Mary Pierce September 5 1885: T. L.Knapp; Emma O. Knapp; Willis O. Axtel; Carrie A. Axtel; Samuel Given; Mary Ann Given; Mr. Charles Little; William Pedley; Mrs. W. H. Pedley. May 30 1886: Rev. C. H. Huestis; Mrs. C. H. Huestis June 13, 1886: Rosa Pedley; Ora Little November 6, 1886: Mr. A. Murrey; Mrs. H. Murray January 1, 1887: Mrs. Carrie E.Shrick February 6, 1887: Gabriel Doyle February 13, 1887: Mr. William Gerdts; Mrs. Fannie Gerdts March 6, 1887: Mr. H. W. Carver; Mrs. J. G. Ballard; Miss Minnie Maybe; Mr. E. H. Pound; Mrs. Minnie Hilten; Mrs. Sarah Wickwire; Bertie Khapp; Lilia Pedley; Mary Little; Lizzie Maybe; June 12, 1887 - Mrs. Lucy Bell Bruce; Miss Orena Florance Bruce August 14, 1887 - William A. Shreck; John E. Hedlund; Alice Hedlund.

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(From Bertrand Herald Newspaper, date unknown)

The first post office in this vicinity was Whitewater, located on the homestead of S. M. Millard, a mile and a quarter southeast of where Bertrand, Nebraska stands today. He came here from Whitewater, Wis. in 1879 driving through with his family. As the surrounding claims were taken up and settlers increased, Mr. Millard established religious worship and a Sunday School, gathering the people at his place on Sunday morning, where a few boxes, boards, nail-kegs, etc. served as seats during such services and study. He was instrumental in getting a school started at an early date, the school house being located on the corner of his land. There were several children in his family, and the family name that at time was Mill-ard, with the accent on the first syllable. The older son, Martin, who entered the ministry, studied later at different universities and finally became a popular lecturer--Dr. Martin Mill-ard with the accent on the first syllable.

The Millard family moved from here to Oklahoma more then 30 years ago. The father died several years ago. The nucleus of a religious organization which they brought together on their homestead grew stronger as population increased, different ministers coming at intervals from all localities to look after the work. It passed under the control of Congregational Home Missions and later was organized into the First Congregational Church of Bertrand.

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Robert Pierce, well-known and beloved retired minister of the Congregational Church died last Thursday at the home of his son east of Holdrege, the result of an accident sustained that morning.

Mr. Pierce, who was 77 years old the third of this month, mistook the door leading into the cellar for one to the upper part of the house and fell to the bottom of the steps. His son-in-law went to his assistance but the old gentleman seemed not to have suffered greatly from the fall and required but little assistance to ascend to his bedroom. He complained very little of his suffering and his relatives had little reason to suppose that his hurt was serious. Shortly after retiring he passed peacefully away, presumably from the shock sustained when he fell.

Robert Pierce the son of Deacon William and Ann Pierce was born September 16, 1842, in Rhysy Cay, Flintshire, North Wales. The home was one noted for its religious atmosphere and all the children became noted for their interest for religious work. Robert, in his childhood received several prizes for memorizing scriptures and for essays on religious subjects.

On February 12, 1862, his father and fifteen others were drowned in a mine disaster. The father leaving a widow and seven children, the care of the family devolved largely upon Robert. This made it necessary for him to change his life plans. He had planned to fit himself for foreign missionary work. He was married to Miss Sarah Edwards, February 12, 1868. To this union nine children were born, two dying in infancy. The other seven are Rev. W. R. Pierce, Pastor of the Congregational Church at Petersburg, Nebraska, Miss Marie Pierce, a teacher in the A. M. A. schools who died in 1903, Mrs. Wilmont, Hudson, Colorado, Mrs. Anna McQueen, Holdrege, Nebraska, Mrs. Sadie Cannon, Sacramento, Nebraska, Mr. John Pierce, Loomis, Nebraska and Mattie Meddlar who died a year ago.

In 1869, they moved to America, settling in Oskosh, Wisconsin. there Mr. Pierce became a lay preacher. They moved to Braidwood, Ill.,in 1874. From there they moved to Columbus City, Iowa, in 1878. Here Mr. Pierce was ordained in the Congregational Ministry June 11, 1884, the last Sunday he spent in Iowa.

In 1884, the family removed to Nebraska settling on a homestead ten miles west of Holdrege, He organized a Welsh Sunday School and church and for two years preached in the Welsh language. He preached his first English sermon after he was 42 years of age. The church held its meetings in the homes of the members until the school district built a sod school house in 1891.

When the village of Bertrand was started he delivered the first sermon in the village in the unfinished elevator of Wirt & Barber. Later, a Sunday School and church was organized. He traveled from his homestead to Bertrand each Sunday afternoon preaching in the evening and returning home nine miles in a lumber wagon. Later Rev. Hustis was called and when he was relieved of the work at Bertrand, he gave his attention to Loomis. He continued his work there until a church was established.

He preached in the school houses at Keystone, Rock Falls, and also south west of Loomis.

The church was active during his ministry at Urbana. They had at one time the largest Senior and Junior Christian Endeavor Society in the county and also at the time the largest Sunday School among the Congregational churches of the county. During his ministry of 24 years more than 200 united with the Urbana church.

In the dry years of 1890 and 1894, he took a very active part in providing food and clothing for the destitute.

Failing health compelled him to cease his activity and move to Holdrege in 1908 where he has since lived. His earthly career was ended at the home of his daughter, Mrs. Cannan Thursday evening, Oct. 23, 1919.

Besides his aged & loving wife and the five mentioned above, he left 27 grand children and two great grand children.

The funeral was held Monday afternoon from the Congregational church at Holdrege. In charge was Rev. William Richards of David City, a former pastor of that denomination of Holdrege, who was assisted by Rev. J.R. McKeith of Wilcox and Rev. James Douglass of Holdrege. Internment was made at Prairie Home Cemetery.

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Old residents like to discuss dates and interesting facts connected with the early history of Nebraska, and it often happens that they do not entirely agree. F. M Scott writes in the Beaver City Times-Tribune the following sketch: " In reading the Times-Tribune of recent date, I note that N. M. Ayers writes an article entitled, "The Late Frost of 1880." I came to this country in the fall of 1879. I homesteaded 1 mile west and 6 1/2 miles north of Oxford, NE and have resided here ever since. I will have to take exceptions to Mr. Ayers in regard to the date of the first frost and freeze of 1880. We had a drought early in the spring, but later in the summer we had plenty of rain. On October 15, it commenced raining in the morning and rained and snowed all day and this was our first frost and freeze that year. I had a acre of old ground rented of Mr. Watson for garden, and well remember of picking green tomatoes out of the snow on that day, as it was my wife's birthday.

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JANUARY 17, 1895

J. A. Dunlavy commenced putting up ice last Tuesday. He has a force of from fifteen to twenty men and boys to work and is progressing rapidly. The ice is first cut into cakes, cut in two and men with saws and ice picks complete the job and float the ice up the ice chute, where by means of horsepower the ice is run up the chute into the ice house at such a rapid rate that it takes a force of eight men to handle and package it away. Mr. Dunlavy has built a large icehouse by the pond and will fill it full of ice, besides supplying Messrs. Buck and Scranton with ice, Mr Dunlavy expects to get almost 1,800 tons of ice from this cutting.

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Ara Sanders has provided this information on James M. Skiles. The story below was told to her by Floyd "Pete" Skiles. For additional information on the Skiles family, write Ara at 13956 Sande Lane, Grass Valley, CA 95945.

"This story about James M. Skiles was written by an older cousin of mine who he loved to listen to the old tales and went with his father to visit the older Uncles."


"Jim" was an old Calvary man and homesteaded four miles west of Holdrege. After the war was over, he came west and had some money, so he homesteaded a quarter-section of land. I guess as far as anybody knows, he built the first good frame house that was ever built in Phelps County. He put a new 4 room frame house on that homestead. He was in Sheridan's Calvary outfit and spent 6 years with them. He entered with a four year enlistment and his re-enlistment turned up in the middle of the war so he enlisted for the duration of the war in the Seventh Calvary. He was pretty well acquainted with George Custer who was killed on the Big Horn up in Montana in 1776 in the Sioux war. I don't remember his wife's name outside of "Aunt Stincy". She was a nice old lady. He came home from the war and was a finished Gambler. He really learned the gambling business and he said when he came home from the war that he had given six years of his life to his country and the citizens of the United States and they owed him eleven. If they didn't think he did, he would just play poker with them and convince them they did owe his a living. He was a pretty fast gambler, smooth with cards and that's the way he made his living in life. He lived to be an old man. To me he was a nice old guy. I remember going to see him with the folks when he lived there in Holdrege, Nebraska, when he moved off the farm. I used to like to sit on his knee or sit on the side of the chair and he would tell me big blood and thunder stories, you know about the Civil War and one thing or another. I really thought he was some old boy and I guess he was really, when you come right down to it.

He said the county had just been newly organized and the Sheriff wanted to go back east so he just resigned his office and went. This old Uncle Jim, the Calvary man, was pretty well known around there and had a reputation and figured they would appoint him to fill the vacancy for the County Sheriff until they had their regular election.


A couple fellows came through the country with 15 or 20 head of horses with them and they were trading and buying and selling horses. Moses, Jim's brother, had seen some circular, either in the post office or around the courthouse when he (Moses) was barbering on weekends at Phelps Center, the county seat. He said the county seat was about seven miles north of Holdrege and about four or five miles west. Moses Skiles was suspicions of these fellows as he shaved and cut their hair. He went and told "Uncle Jim", he believed these fellows were the couple they were advertising for way down southeast of Kansas. So "Uncle Jim" made a few inquiries around and found out they had taken quarters, where the sheriff had moved away from. His buildings were empty and they had just moved into a half dugout and then had sod laid on top. There was a little corral out there and they had just moved in for a spell. Jim, investigated the thing and that night went out and waited. That morning when the sun came up, "Uncle Jim" was up on the roof of the dugout with a double barreled shotgun full of buckshot. When these guys came out of the house and started down toward where the horses picketed. He told them to take their guns and belts off and throw them down. He said, "I have a couple of loads of buckshot here and I'd just as soon use them on you fellows as anyone else I know of". So they dropped their guns and Jim arrested them and took them with him. He hand cuffed them and walked them into the store about three miles away. They didn't have any jail except for a kind of building they were using for the courthouse and the closest jail was about 50 miles away.

"Uncle Jim" says, "Well, heck I'll just take them home with me and keep them until the Sheriff comes after them or tells me what to do with them." He did and when he got them home, he found out they played poker. He found out they had five or six hundred dollars so he played poker with them until he got all their money. He would shackle their two legs together in bed at night when they laid down to sleep and hand cuffed one arm on each one of them around the bedpost and they would rest up for awhile, have something to eat and go back to playing poker again. He got all their money, guns, belts and saddles. When the sheriff came up, there was nothing left except the men. They told him the saddles were stolen so he took them as stolen property so Jim did lose the saddles. The story got out about him beating those fellows out of their money in a poker game while they were his prisoners. A fellow around Williamsburg, ran for sheriff against "Uncle Jim" and he only received three votes. "I guess those people from Phelps county decided they didn't want a sheriff who sat around playing poker with the prisoners when he had them in Jail."

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(25 Dec 1839 - 7 May 1919)

James M. Skiles came to Phelps County, Nebraska in 1879 from Schuyler County, Ill. He married Cynthia Tracy the 20 Apr 1865 in Illinois and together they raised nine children. He is one of many Civil War Veterans who came to Nebraska to homestead. He and his wife and other family members are buried at Prairie Home Cemetery in Holdrege, NE.

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Hawkeye School District 40
Phelps County Nebraska

This school began on February 16, 1884. School children attended this school, who lived in sections 23-26 and 35-36 of Industry Township. In February of 1889, Joseph R. Fulk was the teacher in this school. His pay was $30 for the first two months he taught and $35 for the next three months. The Teacher's Summary and Term Report states that the school was wood frame and in good condition having 14 boys and 13 girls attending.

Atlanta, Nebraska
February 20th 1889

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Miss Mina Hopwood
Holdrege, Nebr.


I was not aware that the County Superintendent required a term summary and report, until my second term had already closed so I concluded to send them both at once.

There was no vacation during the five months so it was really one time anyway, but I ask no excuse for my ignorance.

The school is in a prosperous, growing condition but the Board and patrons do not take the interest they should. No one visited the school long enough to observe anything during the five months that I taught. I don't like that.

Swinton's series of text books are used in the school except the physiology, Hutchinson's physiology is used.

I begin a four month's term, March 4, in District No. 51.

Yours Respectfully,
Joseph R. Fulk

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~Harlan County Nebraska~
The Phelps Helps Newsletter highlights Harlan County Nebraska in this section. With many of our subscribers interested in and from Harlan County, and since Harlan County is a connecting county to Phelps County, the Phelps Helps will publish history information on Harlan County.


The boundaries of Harlan County were defined in the year of 1871. Up to that time were embraced in Lincoln County, Nebraska.

In August 1870, a party of 40 men with wagons came out from the east part of the State to view what was then the undisputed domain of the Indians, also the buffalo, dear, antelope, wolf and other wild animals. Along the party were J. W. foster, F. A. Bryon, Victor Vivquin, so well know in the state and of Napoleon town sight fame in the early days of this county, John Olson, Frank Hofnagle, V. Toepffer, S. Watton, Harry Melchert, Nelson Peterson, Gastav Hanson, John B. Mitchell, Lewis Larson, Schottle, Joseph and Lewis Hubner, George F. Jones, ______ Carmon, Squire Gullet, Frank Sullivan _____Fisher, A. A. Andrews,_____ Johnson, Erech Sedin and Andrew Rubin. On August 31, 1870, near where the mill is southeast of Orleans, the party cast lots, by wagons, for choice of claims, and first choice fell to the occupants of Sullivan and Gullet's wagon, and they selected Elm Swamp West of Melrose but subsequently abandoned these and took claims elsewhere.


J. W. Foster won the second choice but gave it up to Hofnagle's party, he having determined to locate on the claim now occupied by him south of Alma.

Vivquin and a few others of the party secretly selected the old town site of Napoleon, consisting of 320 acres. The proper steps were not taken to secure this land under the town site act, so I Homesteaded half and Cary prompted the other, and in due course of time procured our patents therefore. This disposes of the first town of Harlan County.

In September 1870, Foster elected on his claim the first house in the county, here he left his property and returned to Nebraska City, from which place upon his return, he hauled into the county the first load of lumber and building materials. By the way, on and near Foster's claim is were Johnson's army, sent to subdue the Mormons, camped for some time. Ten Years ago
the whole bottom was covered with the debris of soldiers. After prospecting the country, most of the party returned and erected the old stockade on or near Melrose town site, where they spent the winter of 1870-1871.

Among the first permanent settlers in the county were Frank Hofnagle, Andrew Rubin, John Olson, Nelson Peterson, Woodworth, Gullet, Sullivan, George James, Johnson, Larson, Charlie Johnson, Erich Sedin, Henry Christensen and Lewis Hubner.

In the winter James Duncan, Esq. and wife came to the stockade. Mrs. Duncan was the first white woman in the county.


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~Harlan County Queries~

I am trying to find any information I can about Tom Carroll who may have been Sherriff of Harlan County in 1915. Can you help? Thank you.

Joe Sharpe
phone 901-372-1824

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