Monday, May 21, 2018

C&NW Historical Society had a big day in Chadron!

Rick Mills and Phyllis Carlson pause during a busy day – Friday May 18th – as three busloads of eager railroad buffs came to town to immerse themselves in.....railroading!

Rick Mills and Terry Sandstrom
Mills, whose day-job is curator of the Railroad Museum of South Dakota located in Hill City, served as chairman of the three-day Chicago and NorthWestern Historical Society convention held last week in Rapid City.  On Friday, three busloads of conventioneers arrived in Chadron to tour the Nebraska Northwest Railroad facilities – owned and operated for over a century by the C&NW Railway.

In the afternoon, they converged on the Dawes County Museum, where director Phyllis Carlson and a bevy of volunteers hosted the group.

Of particular importance at the museum was a wonderful new exhibition of railroad photographs, artifacts and memorabilia recently donated by Chadron native Terry Sandstrom, now of Wheatland, Wyoming.  Sandstrom, wearing the ball cap in the above photo, is shown visiting with Mills at the museum.

We captured a few photos of the roundhouse and museum events and have posted them in a linked gallery.  While not all images have yet been posted, and many have not yet been identified and need captions, we thought you might like a sneak preview.  You'll find it in our C&NW Gallery.   


Saturday, April 28, 2018

Things Go Better With.........More Information!

by Larry Miller

It apparently all started years ago with a huge bag of bottle caps that were intended to put the finishing touch on the just-filled Coke bottles coming off the line at the old Coca-Cola Bottling Plant in Chadron.

Seems the Dawes County Historical Museum has come by those misguided bottle caps, spurring questions about the old plant. 

"What year was it built," Budge asked.

"I don't know, but I'll bet somebody does," I replied.

That short conversation with Budge Cripps of Whitney, Nebraska – a guy who's been deeply involved with the Dawes County Historical Museum for several years – has sent yours truly off on an information scavenger hunt.

My desk is a mess, there's dirty dishes in the sink, the garage needs cleaning, and I've got a wee bit of a cold......but all is not lost.  I've found yet another diversion from doing the things I should be doing.  It's a new historical puzzlement – searching for clues that might help answer Budge's question.  No answer yet, but a few good leads.

My first thought was to contact high school classmate Tommy Sims.  After all, Tommy's dad bought the plant and moved from Kansas to Chadron in about 1957-58.  A quick call to Tom resulted in an exchange of information over lunch at the Alpine Inn in Hill City (They have really good brownies, by the way – and I expect Coca-Cola, too).  

Tom, shown here with a plaque from the plant, had some great old photos, too; alas, they were not dated.  But our "Columbo" instincts took hold when we saw a photo with baskets of flowers on the floor of the plant, like perhaps....a celebration?  Ah, ha!  A Grand Opening!  Well, maybe.

Most telling was that plaque Tom had wisely spirited from the wall of the plant those many years ago – when it went out of business.  We conjured that was probably about the time Safeway was building a new store along West Third Street in Chadron, reaching back and likely gobbling up some of the land upon which the plant sat.  (I'd forgotten – if I ever knew – that there were actually two different Safeway buildings at that location, subsequent to their earlier store I remember on the west side of First and Main).

Tom says the plaque was probably presented to the plant by the now-defunct Miller-Hydro Company way back when.  And Miller-Hydro, he says, was the manufacturer of the mechanized bottle washer in the plant.  After inspecting that plaque, we surmised that it was likely presented to the plant when it first opened.  If our interpretation of the numbers at the bottom-left of the plaque are accurate, that was probably about the 16th of June 1939.  Perhaps that was the opening date.  And maybe that's when some of Tommy's picture of the plant were taken.

Then, I thought of the late Harry Meyer,  who was known around Chadron as "Mr. Kiwanis" for more than half a century.   Born in Colorado and member of the "Last Man's Club" of World War One veterans, he was a jovial and enterprising guy I got to know in about 1958 at the KCSR radio station.  I got to know Harry pretty well.  He was in the sunset of his years, working at the station as its bookkeeper.

But Harry was also known as a Coke guy.   Or rather, THE Coke guy in Chadron.  He had run the Coca-Cola Bottling Company way back when – but just when the heck was that?  Well, according to the Pictorial History of Dawes County, Harry owned the plant from 1929 to 1953.  The next owner was George Garrison, who had it for nearly five years.

Exploring a few old Chadron city directories, I discovered that Harry and his wife, Gertrude, owned and operated the Chadron Creamery as early as 1936.  And according to ads, they were a manufacturer and distributor of dairy products, candies, Near Beer, and......Coca-Cola.

But where was the Chadron Creamery in those days?  East 2nd Street?  Second and Chadron Avenue?  I'm inclined to think that Harry and "Gert," as he often called her, handled Coca-Cola among the many other products marketed at the creamery – but I'm skeptical they were bottling Coke in those early years.  I suspect it was 1939, when the Miller-Hydro bottle washer and other equipment necessary for filling the uniquely shaped Coke bottles were purchased, probably for a new or renovated structure on the west side of Second and Chadron Avenue.  What do you think?

A picture of Harry at work, and a few other Coca-Cola related photos (courtesy of Tom Sims) are included in our Early Chadron gallery.  There's even one that suggests that "Things Didn't Always Go Better With Coke."

A bit of follow-up in the Chadron newspapers of the 1930's, and cross-checking with local telephone and city directories of that period, should help to answer Budge's question.  Until then, I'm thinking there was a plant, somewhere in Chadron, in 1939.  

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

A chance to keep Deadhorse history alive!

In an effort to update historical information about the Deadhorse community and those who have lived in the community, please send stories, historical information including pictures and any other memories you'd like to share to:
Kim Madsen, 60 Grantham Road, Chadron, NE 69337.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Revisiting the mysterious naming of Chadron

by Larry Miller

Traveling northward on U.S. 385 recently, I stopped near the city dam about five miles south of Chadron to read and admire the Nebraska Historical Marker dubbed "Chadron Creek Trading Post."

Not for the first time, I felt a few pangs of guilt for not knowing more of the specifics regarding the history of my old home town – and the surrounding region.  I reckon many-a-soul spend their youthful years pursuing activities other than history, and so it was with me.

However, I do remember often hearing that Chadron was originally established in 1884 and was known as O'Linn.  And I recall hearing varied stories about Chadron being named for a fur trader by the name of Pierre Chadron.   So much for recollections.

Returning to my South Dakota home, I pulled out two important locally-produced books to which I often refer regarding Chadron history:  Chadron, Nebraska ~ Centennial History ~ 1885 to 1985; and Chadron Quasquicentennial 1885-2010.   I wanted to update my foggy memory about Chadron history, and the books did not disappoint.

Veteran historian Jim Hanson, whose impressive credentials have taken him all over the country, including the Smithsonian Institute and later the Nebraska State Historical Society, authored sections in both publications.  In them, he offered information that corrected and expanded my youthful recollections about Chadron's naming.

It seems that my "Pierre Chadron" was actually the "Louis Chartran" noted in this historical marker up the hill from city dam and Chadron Creek.   And it appears the town was not named directly for Chartran, but for the creek that carried his name – now Chadron Creek.  Hanson's story in the Quasquicentennial book does an excellent job of summarizing the history of "Chadron Before Chadron."

A few other related observations.

There were seven authors listed for the 1985 Chadron history book:  Jim Dewing, Rolland Dewing, Jim Hanson, Don Huls, Les Mann, Con Marshall, and Jon Olson.  I've had the pleasure of knowing five of those gents.  And if it was all men conspiring to put out the 1985 book (I suspect lots of ladies helped, too) things changed only a little bit by 2010 when the Quasquicentennial publication was printed. While it appears good friend Con Marshall – one of the most prolific writers I know – served as chairman, writing and assembling much of the book, ladies dominated the History Book committee.  They were Jennifer Cleveland, Bev Stitt, Rosanne Keepers, Sharon Jones, Marge Stoner, and Barb McDaniel.  While their names are not seen in bylines, they performed a myriad of tasks ranging from proofreading to advertising.

I expect in coming years we'll see more female historians.  Those researching and writing history.  If the list of winners from the recent Western District History Days at Chadron State College is any indication, that time has already have arrived.  In more than 50 years of media work, I've seen an industry dominated by men become the turf of men and women alike.  

And while I'd like to attribute my interest in history to teachers at Chadron High School, Chadron State College, and Iowa State University (they were all men), I can't.  My interest in history was dormant and limited during most of those years – only to be awakened by the splendid writing and superb research conducted by the late Barbara Tuchman (The Guns of August, Stillwell and the American Experience in China, etc.)

But then, of course, there's age.  It seems to me that many of us begin to appreciate history only later in life – just before we ourselves become history.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Danny Woodhead retires from pro football

By Con Marshall

Danny Woodhead, the player who led the way as the Chadron State College football team rose to become among the nation’s best in NCAA Division II, surprised many of his fans last weekend by announcing his retirement from the National Football League.

Ex-CSC football star Danny Woodhead
Just a couple of days earlier, after he was released by the Baltimore Ravens, that story quoted Woodhead as saying, “I can’t wait for my next stop.”

 Apparently he decided in short order that 10 years in the pros were enough.  The retirement stories said he went from undersized and undrafted to a big-time playmaker in the NFL. 

Although listed as just 5-8, 185 when he arrived at Chadron State in the fall of 2004, he came up big in everything he did athletically.  As a senior at North Platte High School when he rushed for 2,037 yards and 31 touchdowns, he was the Nebraska Gatorade Football Player of the Year, offensive captain of both the Omaha World-Herald’s and Lincoln Journal Star’s all-class, all-state football teams and was Huskerland Report’s Player of the Year.

Since he also had averaged the state-best 26 points for the North Platte basketball team that winter, he also was named the Omaha and Lincoln newspapers’ 2003-04 Male Athlete of the Year.

Early in his pro career, Woodhead received a special parking place at the New England Patriots’ training camp after he won the team’s golf tournament.

Undoubtedly if Tom Osborne or Frank Solich had still been coaching at Nebraska, they would have offered Woodhead a scholarship or tried to convince him to walk-on with the Cornhuskers. But when Woodhead was a high school senior, Osborne was in the U.S. House of Representatives and Solich had been fired that fall.  The new NU coaching staff led by Bill Callahan wasn’t interested in such a small running back. Apparently, neither were the other big time teams.

Since both of Woodhead’s parents, Mark and Annette, were Chadron State graduates, and older brother Ben was a senior wide receiver on the CSC team, the Eagles had an inside track in landing him.  Head coach/athletic director Brad Smith cashed in the chips.  While such information is seldom announced, Woodhead was said to be the first athlete to receive a “full-ride” from the college.Woodhead didn’t start the first game his freshman year, but he clinched the starting job in the third game when he rushed for a school-record 306 yards and scored five touchdowns. That was just the beginning of a fantastic career.

He would have three more games with 300-plus yards, set the NCAA II record for most 200-yard or more games (19), score touchdowns in 38 consecutive games and romp at least 50 yards to the end zone 21 times.

He became college football’s all-time leading rusher with 7,962 yards, rolled up 9,480 all-purpose yards and scored 109 touchdowns (tying him for the most in college football annals), helping him win two Harlan Hill Trophies, which go to Division II’s outstanding player.

The Eagles were 12-1 overall, were undefeated in the RMAC and ranked fifth in NCAA II by the American Football Coaches Association at the end of both his junior and senior seasons.

In addition, Woodhead was NCAA Division II’s National Scholar-Athlete his senior season in 2007 and graduated with a 3.72 GPA after majoring in both health and physical education and math.  Two years later, he was voted the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference’s All-Time Outstanding Offensive Player when its All-Century Team was selected.

None of the NFL teams drafted him in the spring of 2008, but in short order the New York Jets signed him as a free agent. He suffered a serious knee injury during a training camp practice that summer.  That’s usually curtains for an undrafted player, but the Jets left him on injured reserve and he made the roster the following season, but eventually he was released. 

The Patriots quickly nabbed him and he played for them the next three years, becoming an important cog in Tom Brady’s offense, often entering the game on third down and either running through a small crack in the line or catching short pass and turning it into a big gain.  He rushed for 547 yards and five touchdowns in 2010 and caught a touchdown pass from Brady in Super Bowl XLVI in 2012.

The next four years he was an all-purpose back for the San Diego (now Los Angeles) Chargers.  He also was an invaluable piece of Philip Rivers’ arsenal.  He caught 76 passes for 605 yards and six touchdowns his first year there in 2013.  After breaking a leg, Woodhead missed all but three games in 2014, but he returned in 2015 for another excellent season, grabbing 80 passes for 755 yards and 16 TDs and also rushing for 336 yards and three more scores. 

Another ACL injury in the second game ended his 2016 season.  The following winter, he signed a three-year, $8.8 million contract with Baltimore, but a hamstring problem put him on injured reserve through the first eight games last fall.  He saw enough action late in the year to catch 33 passes for 200 yards. Still, the Ravens released him while paring their payroll before next month’s draft.

During his farewell message, the media reported that the ever-gracious Woodhead thanked God, his family, his agent, his former coaches, singling them out by name, his former high school, college and NFL teammates and the medical personnel who had helped him along the way.

The Associated Press story ended with, “I’m sure I’ve forgotten a few, but know that I’m thankful for everything everyone has done on my journey.”  Danny and his wife Stacia, his high school sweetheart, have four children and a home in the Omaha area.

More accolades will be coming his way.  Both the Nebraska Football Hall of Fame and the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference long ago let him know they were ready to induct him as soon as his playing days were over. 

- 30 -

Note:  As always, our gratitude to Con Marshall for sharing this timely story!
For another perspective on Danny Woodhead's retirement, take a look at this link:

Friday, March 9, 2018

A bit of history about the University of Nebraska

(NOTE: The latest "Nebraska History This Week" link was unavailable last week, so we offer this piece written for the Lincoln Journal Star by Jim McKee.)

"Financing and building the finest university west of the Missouri River"
Establishing and financing the University of Nebraska began even before its charter was approved in 1869, as many legislators and a few educators questioned its cost and even the need for its existence. Within a few years, however, the value to the state became apparent to the legislature and regents, leading to what was to be known as the university’s golden years.
Through the 20th century, the school’s top ratings rose and fell, often around statewide economic fluctuations. Now, in the first quarter of the 21st century the financing of the university is again being questioned as politics and money seem to dominate discussion of the institution.
The initial funding of NU traces to the 1862 Morrill Act, which granted federal lands to territories and states in order that universities might be established to “channel upward mobility and the democratic ideal of equal opportunity.”
Introduced as Senate File 86, the bill to create the university was sent to the Education Committee headed by Charles Gere, was passed through both houses of the legislature with “not a single negative vote” and signed by Gov. David Butler on Feb. 15, 1869.
The university ultimately received 136,000 acres of federal land with its financing supplemented by a mill levy.
The governor appointed a Board of Regents to oversee the university, including three ex officio members -- which included the governor -- to serve six-year terms. Not until 1877 were the Regents elected.
On June 5, 1869, 105 Lincoln lots were sold for $30,000 to partially pay for the construction of University Hall which, although beset by large overruns, was not originally intended to exceed $100,000 in cost.
Allen Richardson Benton
The regents proceeded to hire the first chancellor and faculty. Because they had no experience or clear idea of what these salaries should be, one source says they decided to pay an equal amount as offered by Harvard University. To that end the regents offered the chancellorship to Rev. Allen Richardson Benton (shown at right) at an annual salary of $5,000. Benton, then president of Mount Union College in Ohio, had been paid $1,200 in Ohio, so it is of little surprise that he accepted. Each regent then proposed a potential faculty member who would receive $2,000 annually and a principal for the Latin School at $1,000. Benton, amazingly, said the offer to him was excessive and at his suggestion, began his tenure at a salary of $4,000.
Although another name was first proferred, Benton received a unanimous vote as the first Chancellor of the University of Nebraska.  Benton, who was not only chancellor but also professor of intellection and moral science, lived on the northwest corner of 12th and H streets.

CSC hosts annual Western District History Days

Students from Chadron and Crawford middle and high schools participated in the annual Western District History Day hosted at Chadron State College Friday, March 2. The theme for the competition was “Conflict and Compromise in History.” The top three students in each category will advance to the state competition Saturday, April 7, in Lincoln.

Thirteen CSC employees, along with 12 community residents, served as judges for the event. Student members of the CSC Social Science Club Cody Madrigal of Omaha, Neb., Katelynn Mendenhall of Terry, Mont., Andrew Smith of Chadron and Skyler Smyres of Crawford, Neb. helped staff members Christine Fullerton and Whitney Hensley organize on-campus logistics. Laure Sinn coordinated check-in and assisted with registration and the awards ceremony.

The judges indicated they reserved the right to not award first place to entries.

Crawford High School student Jada Mader, right, explains her exhibit to Randy Krueger of Alliance, Neb., during Western District History Day at Chadron State College, Friday, March 2, 2018, in the Student Center Ballroom. (Photo by Kelsey R. Brummels/Chadron State College)

Junior (Grades 6-8) Results
Individual Documentary
1, Tyler Kaus, Chadron, “Raze or Renovate: The Conflict to Save the White House.”
Group Documentary
1, Cassidy Nesheim and Jackson Smith, Chadron, “The Rise and Fall of the Berlin Wall.”
Individual Exhibit
1, Tylea Underwood, Crawford, “For the Love of a Horse;” 2, Kristin Rasmussen, Chadron, “Josef Mengele's Experiments;” 3, Maralee Rischling, Chadron, “Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972.”
Group Exhibit
1, Macey Daniels and Jacey Garrett, Chadron, “The Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death;” 2, Riley Ambrose and Ayla Kephart, Chadron, “Ireland - Conflict and Compromise;” 3, Tatum Bailey and Olivia Reed, Chadron, “Nicholas Winton and the Kinder Transport.”
Individual Performance
2, Kylah Vogel, Crawford, “Why, Oh Why, Can’t I?”
Group Performance
3, Claire Fox and Gracie Jones, Chadron, “Modern Dance vs. Ballet - The Fight for Artistic Freedom.”
Individual Interpretive Website
1, Thomas Kaus, Chadron, “Poland: Creating Democracy from Conflict with Compromise;” 2, Brendilou Armstrong, Chadron, “The KKK in the 1920s.”
Group Interpretive Website
1, Bradd Collins and Noah Brown, Chadron, “The French and Indian War;” 2, Michael Sorenson and Dawson Dunbar, Chadron, “Harry Truman and The Decision to Drop the Atomic Bomb;” 3, Garrett Reece and Cody Hall, Chadron, “K - Syndrome: The Fake Disease that Saved Jewish Lives.”

Senior (Grades 9-12) Results
Group Documentary
1, Bryce Oetken, Nicholas Presson and London Gillam, Crawford, “The KKK: An Enigmatic Organization.”
Individual Exhibit
1(tie), Jada Mader, Crawford, “No Mama, I Didn’t Die;” 1(tie), Aysha Roos, Crawford, “The Danish: Refusing to Compromise;” 2, Ainslee Morrison, Crawford, “It Was an Education.”
Individual Performance
2, Alexis Konruff, Crawford, “Randall Forsberg and the Nuclear Freeze Movement.”
Individual Interpretive Website
1 (tie), Sydney Brown, Chadron, “Mars Exploration; A Conflict and Compromise in Budget;” 1 (tie) Hunter Hawk, Chadron, “The Battle for the Last Frontier: Racial Equality in Space;” 3, Jameson Margetts, Chadron, “The Mormon Trail.”
Group Interpretive Website
1, Grace Sorenson and Lauren Collins, Chadron, “Constance Markievicz: The Countess who Created Conflicts and Refused to Compromise;” 2, Lane Frahm and Hayes Frahm, Crawford, “Video Games: Conflicting Images.”

Special Awards
Mari Sandoz Heritage Society Great Plains: Ainslee Morrison, Crawford, “It Was an Education.”
Military Award: Brady Aschwege, Crawford, “Navajo Code Talkers.”
20th Century, Senior: Sydney Brown, Chadron, “Mars Exploration; A Conflict and Compromise in Budget.”
20th Century, Junior: Thomas Kaus, Chadron, “Poland: Creating Democracy from Conflict with Compromise.”
Women: Grace Sorenson and Lauren Collins, Chadron, “Constance Markievicz: The Countess who Created Conflicts and Refused to Compromise.”
WWII, Senior: Aysha Roos, Crawford, “The Danish: Refusing to Compromise.”
WWII, Junior: Kristin Rasmussen, Chadron, “Josef Mengele's Experiments.”

~~ CSC College Relations