Phelps Helps Newsletter

Phelps Helps Newsletter
Holdrege Area Genealogical Society

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

Vol. 5-2
Summer 1996
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!




From: Sara Firehammer, 17108 Mayfair Ct., Granger, Indiana 46530

Would like to share information with anyone researching these Phelps and Harlan County surnames: SKOOG, BERGSTROM, JOHASON, MCNIEL, LENEY, POWELL, LINDSTROM, MAGNUSON, HAINEY.


From: Dennis L. Hansen, 6414 Tokelau St., Cypress, CA 90630-5629

I would like to hear form anyone researching the surnames: LOY, CRAMER, MAJOR, FRESCOLN.


Sally Massey. R.R. 2, Box 96 Holdrege, NE 68949


I want to thank all the members for your cards and kind words you shared during the death of my father Orval Gray. The memorials sent by you will be used to purchase additional census microfilm.

Sandra Slater


by Patti Simpson

Mixing the high-tech of computers with the our genealogy letter writing, microfilm reading, courthouse exploring and graveyard walking, can bring you not only a more organized approach to your genealogy, but it can even take you back farther in your family tree. Computers are not here to replace the genealogy basics, at least not yet anyway, but computers are a powerful tool to help you organize all of your family information and help you "jump on the internet." With computers you also have a very good chance of finding more information about your ancestors.

If you already have a computer, or are thinking about getting one, don't be afraid to ask around and see what computers and software programs other genealogists are using. There are a lot of great computers out there not to mention genealogy software programs, and internet providers that can make your genealogy searching more productive.

Just remember, computers alone will not solve all of the "dead ends" in your family tree, but it sure will help organize the limbs you have and may even sprout a few new branches on your family tree.


Sara Firehammer of Granger, IN has just completed an "Every Name" index of our Phelps Helps Newsletter from Summer of 1992 though 1995. Thank you Sara for the hours you have spent doing this project.

If you are interested in a printed copy, please contact the Holdrege Genealogy Society at the above address.


We are continuing to place labels on the library books. Betty Rae Whitlock and Ada Hinson have completed the United States, Nebraska and Phelps County History Sections and are starting to label the Phelps County Town section and special subject area. Florence Sturgis is starting to make scrapbooks on other county obituaries found in the Holdrege Citizen.

Several work days have been used to organize the school section. We are compiling histories on the 77 Phelps County schools once active in our county.

We have been busy this winter answering numerous research queries from the mail and telephone.

We are participating with the ESU 11 and the Bertrand High School by having Chris Reinke of Smithfield, NE input the library shelf list in the museum computer. This will list the genealogy, history books and other resource material in the library and where they can be located. Later an additional list will be made from this file to start a card file.

Volunteers are always welcome. We work in the library on Tuesday and Thursday afternoon.

New on our Bookshelf:

"Towards the Year 2000"

"For Score and Seven Years - Oxford, NE"

"Nebraska An Illustrated History"

"1993 Commercial Atlas and marketing Guide" By Rand McNally

"Plat Book of Buffalo County, Nebraska" - 1957

"Niobrara Centennial 1856-1956"

"Soil Survey of Phelps County, Nebraska" 1973

"Axtell - The First 100 Years - 1886-1986"

"Loomis Life During our First 100 Years - 1886-1986"

"Wilcox, Nebraska - 1886-1986"

"Souvenir Historical Booklet, Holdrege 1883-1958"

"Holdrege Centennial - Commemorative Cookbook, 1883-1983"



Holdrege Area Genealogy Club would like to nominate Al Achterberg for Outstanding Genealogist.

Al is secretary of the Holdrege Area Genealogy Club and does outstanding work. He has been a member since 1983.

For many years he owned the Achterberg Studio in Holdrege, NE. He specialized in commercial, wedding and news photography. He also worked with old photographs. He developed a procedure that would enhance copies of old faded photographs, giving them more clarity.

In the last few years Al has succeeded in researching his German Ancestry and has shared interesting stories about his family.

We appreciate all you have done for Holdrege Area Genealogy Club.




Holdrege Area Genealogy Club would like to submit Patti Simpson as Outstanding Genealogist.

Patti has been a member of our club for the past four years and is editor of the Holdrege Area Genealogy Club's "Phelps Helps" Newsletter. Patti has many talents, however, combining her computer talents with her love for Genealogy has been a wonderful asset for our club.

"Patti's Home Page" on the Internet includes our club's newsletters and information about "Holdrege Area Genealogy Club". We have received requests for Phelps County information through the Internet. "Patti's Home Page" has helped us learn more about genealogy and the Internet as she has many other Web sites linked on her page.

Patti's hometown is Naponee, NE of which she is very proud. If you are from Naponee, be sure to contact Patti as she is very knowledgeable about this area.

Thank you Patti for all you share with our member's and helping us with our "Phelps Helps " newsletter.


The following is taken from the Holdrege Daily Citizen, 1958


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New Town Named for Master Builder of Railroads West

The 75th anniversary of the founding of Holdrege is also the 75th anniversary of the realization of one man's dream. The dream was that some day there would rear itself upon this broad south central Nebraska prairie a thriving and progressive little city in the midst of a great agricultural empire.

The man who had this dream was George W. Holdrege, master builder of the Burlington railroad lines west of the Missouri river, and the man who gave the city of Holdrege his name.

George Ward Holdrege was born March 26, 1847 in New York City. The family later moved to Irvington, N.Y., on the Hudson river, where George spend most of his early life until he entered Harvard university.

The following account of Mr. Holdrege's life is copied in part from the Citizen of Oct. 9, 1933, on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the city of Holdrege:

At Harvard Holdrege soon found himself a leader among his fellows. As captain of the varsity boat crew he won all races in his sophomore and junior years. In his senior year a series of bank failures took him out of college to face the firm realities of life. West Beckons

The city offered many opportunities, but the west beckoned the young man. He knew of the new railroad to be built in Nebraska, from Plattsmouth to a connection with the Union Pacific at Kearney. It promised what he sought. In July of 1869 construction began at Plattsmouth, and September of that year found young Holdrege on a ferry boat crossing the Missouri river to "count ties" as they were delivered for the new line, and spring saw him plodding on foot through sleet and drifted snow, carrying the pay roll from Ashland to Lincoln, to pay the engineers working from that point.

As the railroad pushed westward that quiet and resourceful young man went with it. In fact he never left it, except for a few periods when the line of promotion took him to the older B & M in Iowa. It was said that "there never was a mile of track laid west of the Missouri that George Holdrege had not been over beforehand, either on foot or on horseback."

Curiously enough, while the Burlington and Missouri River Railroad in Nebraska was being built by CB interests. It was being built under its government charter as a branch of the Union Pacific.

When a new line was projected to go father west, there was a flourishing young town, the county seat of Phelps county, that the railroad was very anxious to reach. The surveyors, however, reported no suitable route. The policy of the railroad was never to establish a new town where it would injure one already started, if at all possible to avoid doing so. So a route must be found, but not one of the nine surveys proved feasible. So there was nothing else to do. If the railroad could not go to Phelps Center, then Phelps Center must come to the railroad, and so a site was selected and Phelps Center was invited to "come one over,"all who came to exchange lot for lot in the new location.


The invitation was accepted, but the unsuspecting man who had developed the idea never dreamed that the town would leave its name behind. After successfully preventing the use of his name for any of the newly established town, it remained for the people of Phelps Center to outwit him. "Holdrege" became an established U.S. post office before its namesake even heard of it.

As the town grew and waxed strong it held Mr. Holdrege's special interest. He induced the railroad company to establish an "experiment station" on unused company ground, where he lost no opportunity to watch experiments in seeds and machinery intended to solve problems for the farmers in dry regions. he induced his company too, to assist in securing government aid in bringing "drought resisting" seeds from Russia and other scantily watered areas, and by some he has been given credit for making Nebraska a "Winter Wheat" section. An industry that held his special interest were the greenhouse. his "officer's car" seldom left Holdrege without a vase of blossoms, and he delighted in telling people where he had found them.

There was no project in the vast territory served by the "Lines West" that did not at some time have his personal attention. Even "Old Dutch Cleanser" is an outgrowth of a soap kettle he found in an out-of-the-way place, where an old gentleman was making a soap of silicon from deposits found on his farm.

Most of all Holdrege devoted himself to the development of the region in which he had located the network of "Lines West of the Missouri." He worked unceasingly to improve agriculture. He promoted experiments in dry farming. He studied and encouraged irrigation, and in 1913 organized a Tri-county Irrigation Company, but it has taken thirty years and a new public outlook to bring this project to fruition. He encouraged county and state fairs and agricultural demonstration trains. He was the first contributor to the Omaha Exposition of 1898. He constantly supported the agricultural work at the university of Nebraska and was an active promoter of the act creating a College of Agriculture in 1909. As an original stockholder of the Lincoln land Company, a subsidiary colonizing agency of the Burlington Railroad, he had an important part in laying out new communities and bringing in suitable settlers to develop the area. Near Sheridan, Wyoming, he gave the Federal government the site for Fort Scott. Railroad history probably has no other figure who devoted so much thought and effort to the compensive development of the communities served as Holdrege id. When Charles E. Perkins sold his Burlington interests to James J. Hill in 1901, Holdrege had to adopt his policies to a new associate. he remained the active administrator of "Lines West" for another twenty years.

No one in Nebraska gave more thought to the planting of trees than Mr. Holdrege. As time went on the B&M became his life, and the people that it served, his people. When grasshoppers and drought created famine he obtained permission to carry free such supplies of food, clothing, fuel and seed grains that were donated for the relief of the settlers. Mr. Holdrege died on Sept. 14, 1926.

`Magic City' Population Reached 400 in 50 Days and 2,800 in 4 Years

Holdrege early acquired the name of "The Magic City of the Plains" or perhaps just "The Magic City." It's mushroom growth from a wide open space on the plains to a town of over 400 inhabitants within 50 days, created considerable excitement. By Christmas day of 1883, when the first railroad train steamed into Holdrege, over 100 buildings, including business houses and residences, had been constructed here.

October of 1883 was a month of tremendous doing for Holdrege. Phelps Center was pulling up stakes and moving to the new town site and from the other direction the first buildings and people were trickling from Sacramento, another early settlement that was soon to fade away.

T.M. Hopwood, editor and publisher of the Nugget, may have coined the name "Magic City of the Plains", at least the first mention of that title was in a newspaper article which appeared in an issue dated Nov. 21, 1883, when the town was just a little over one month old...

Oct. 10 may be rightly called the actual birthday of the city of Holdrege. According to historical accounts it was on this day in 1883 that the first town site was located on the north half of Section 4, Township 5, and the south half of Section 33, Township 6, both in range 18.

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The following was taken from the Nebraska Nugget, March 1, 1887





The Capital City.

Her Business Men; Her Magical

Growth; Her Railroads; Her

Industries, and Our

Prophecy of Her

Great Future.

It is with misgivings that we take the pen to draw a word picture of the queen of all Nebraska counties and the youthful city, whose name is "Magic," lest we fail to do our subject justice, and had we not promised our readers this sketch,we would shrink from the task and let the responsibility fall to more able hands. yet we may way, and not without some degree of pride perhaps, that the grand transformation of the county from a bleak, wild, desert waste to its present luxurious beauty and wealth, has taken place in but a few short years and through an abiding faith in the hearts of the first settlers, that a grad future was in store for a country so beautiful by nature. Only eight years ago the entire population of the county was but 300. No town in the county was thought of. The county seat, Williamsburg, contained but one small building. No more than three post offices could be counted in the entire county and not a half dozen frame houses. no railroad was thought of, and perhaps not a half dozen school houses could be seen. Fuel consisted of buffalo chips, brush, corn stalks, but the men who came were stayers, and all had strong right arms and brave hearts. In 1880 the population had increased to 2,460. Today we number nearly 10,000. Today we county 55 miles of railroad built, and surveys made for fifty miles more, thirty miles of which will be built the coming summer. Today we count 58 school houses in the county. Today we find a city within our boarders containing over 2,000 people, a city with a magnificent school building, with four fine church buildings, and business blocks of which any city might be proud. A city whose business men know no such word as fail. A city which has already become a railroad center, and whose name is known and read of all men lest the outside world, however, should charge us with unwarranted enthusiasm and a selfish, ignoble desire to allure the unwary and despoil him of his wealth for nothing in return, we hasten to give the unmistakable evidence of the greatness the city of Holdrege has already attained to and the future in store for her.

The following pages were taken from the

Nebraska Nugget, March 1, 1887

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Holdrege has four commodious churches on good footing.

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The above picture (in the printed version of this article) represents the Holdrege temple of learning. It is a very fine new structure, and when entirely completed will cost nearly $15,000. It has a capacity for 400 scholars and is divided into six large rooms which are conveniently arranged.

The present corps of teachers give general satisfaction, and all have had large experience.


The school furnishes nine years work in the common branches and a three years high school course.

The latter will prepare its graduates for admission to the State University.

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All are pioneers of the city and wide awake businessmen.

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OUR SOCIETIES consist of

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is one of the institutions that Holdrege is proud of. For three years and more this post office has been trying to grow large enough, but the town kept ahead of it until last fall when R. T. McGrew built a brick building expressly for it on Hayden street. This room is 80x60 feet, and it is a serious question now whether it is large enough or not. Our postmaster, Mr. F. D. Travis, is a bald headed democrat; but notwithstanding all this, he is a man of noble impulses, and no man in the city has more friends than F. D. Travis.

John L. Crossley, his assistant, is a republican, and he don't care who know it, but John was the postmaster before the democrats came into power, and he just made friends with everybody. Even the little children, the big girls and all the democrats would fight for little John Crossley, the assistant postmaster.

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The Nugget was established at Sacramento, in Phelps county, in March, 1879, by B. O. Wilson, under the name of "The Phelps County Pioneer." In 1880 it was moved to Phelps Center, where it passed into the hands of T. M. Hopwood, the present owner, the name changed to the "Nebraska Nugget," and the paper greatly enlarged. In 1883 it was again removed to Holdrege. In July, 1884, the following appeared in the "Great Industries of the West," concerning the Nugget:

"Our sketches of Holdrege would certainly be incomplete did we not devote some space to the bright, newsy and ably edited Nebraska Nugget. Especially should it claim attention from the fact that Mr. T. M. Hopwood, one of the leading men of t his section of the state, is its editor and proprietor. he is owner of the Arlington Hotel mentioned elsewhere, and prominently identified with every movement of a valuable public nature inaugurated in the town. Mr. Hopwood is a graduate of Western College, Iowa, and his editorial charge of the Nugget has not only been profitable to the reading community hereabouts, but of general value to the flourishing condition of the town and vicinity. The Nugget is a fine family paper, and a credit in every way to its editorial and business management."


In the fall of 1886, the Holdrege citizen was established by Erick Johnson, and in January, 1887, was sold to a joint stock company, with Erick Johnson as editor, and Peter Peerson Business Manager. It is a Republican paper of good standing.


Was started in the fall of 1886, by Will N. King. It is the only Democratic paper in the county, and its editor wakes the echoes of the morning - as all democratic editors are wont to do.

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During the year 1886, 976 car loads of freight were shipped out of Holdrege loaded with grain, broom corn, live stock, etc., and during the same period of time, 954 full cars of freight have been received at Holdrege, exclusive of merchandise and railroad material. This was the railroad business of Holdrege in freight alone before the Kansas City branch was completed. -- Indeed the business has now become so extensive that forty men are required to handle it. Fourteen passenger and freight trains arrive and depart daily and this convenience makes Holdrege a rendezvous for commercial travelers and prospectors and they center here from every direction.

Passenger receipts for `86 $ 18,827.80

Freight receipts for `86 $102,262.18

Total $ 121,089.98



The "American Democrat" (this city) announces that: "Beginning within a few days, all Chicago & Denver trains will run through Holdrege. The train (alternating) via Red Cloud and return, will run through Holdrege. The Curtis train will leave here in the morning at 7 a.m., connecting with the Denver Express (now running via Red Cloud) and return at 8 p.m., connecting with the Chicago east bound (now running via Red Cloud). The Edgar run will be made to connect with the present train.

Holdrege, on the advent of this new system, will be second only to Lincoln as a train center for the Burlington system. A large round-house, enlarged years, depots and machine shops will follow, just as sure as the sun rises and sets on fair Holdrege and the grand man whose name it bears.

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Duff's Grocery Store


The above cut (in the printed version of this newsletter) shows the business house we have referred to, but you can only see the out side. The inside is arranged in metropolitan style and a few moments stay in this store makes a person forget himself, and think that he is in a large business house either in Chicago or New York. He has a good assortment of fancy groceries, with a large variety of preserved fruits and canned goods imported direct form Cross & Blackwell, London, England. he has a large stock of toilet articles of every description, and a full line of prescription and proprietary medicines. He keeps Thomas Wilkinson's paint and every gallon is warranted to be made with pure linseed oil, also Masury's paints ground in oil and everybody know that they are the best. He is sole agent for Candell's big can baking powder, and also agent for Shilop's, Beggs', Dewitt's, Chamberlain's, Ballard's, A. V. Bain's, Gilmore & Son's and Beglow's medicines and Meolen stock food. he also manufactures a condition powder which excels all the condition powders in the market. Mr. Duff was first to start a grocery store in Holdrege and was then connected with Mr. Vanderhoof. He has been in the drug business for fourteen years, and came here from Beatrice. He is so well known in this city and in the state that we need not mention any of his excellent business qualifications.


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