Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Headed East toward Omaha (#5)

…continuing with our road trip last July through western Nebraska.  Only 2 more posts including this one and our adventures in Nebraska will come to an end. 

Moving north from Stapleton along US Hwy 83 in Logan County, we stopped to take a few photos of the local residents.  A couple of them appeared curious…staring right back as us.  They probably don’t see that many humans.  Counting all cattle in the state, including those in feedlots, there are an estimated 6,850,000 of them…vs only 1,960,000 of us, and most of the humans are focused in Omaha and Lincoln.

FYI, if you think that ranch life is something that you would enjoy, Logan County currently has 3 ranches up for sale.  They go from a mere 1,786 acres for $4,450,000 on up to 6,113 acres for just $7,000,000.

Just after crossing into Thomas County Nebraska…still headed north…we crossed over the scenic Dismal River.  The legend is that this river got its name with a school teacher tried to ride her horse across the river during the winter and she drowned. 

The Dismal River is only about 80 miles long but it is the state’s wildest and most undeveloped river.  It has been identified by the US Park Service as worthy of designation in the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System.  The water in this river originates from water welling up from springs in the Ogallala Acquifer…that vast underground reservoir that extends all the way down to Northern Texas. 

The Dismal River is flanked by private cattle ranches and has been since the 1880s.  Some of the springs along the river emit water at such a fast rate that they seem to ‘boil’ out of the ground.  Some of the springs are more than 100 feet deep and quick sand is found near some of them.

The town of Thedford Nebraska was our northernmost point on this portion of our drive.  Thedford is a village and the county seat of Thomas County.  Like almost every other town in western Nebraska, this village was established when the railroad came to town.  That happened in 1887 with the arrival of the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad.  Thedford was probably named after Thedford Ontario, Canada.  The town has never had a population of more than 313 (1980) and today it has 219 residents.

I took a photo of the old “Cowpoke Hotel” in Thedford.  While I couldn’t find out anything about the building itself, I did come across a 2002 Nebraska Historic Building Survey that noted structures along the state’s historic highways.  The Cowpoke Hotel was listed as a place worthy of listing as an historic structure.  I also found older photos that showed the old hotel with a couple big shade trees right in front of the building.  The stumps are still there…

Thomas County covers 714 square miles and it has about 725 residents.  It has never had more than 1,773…and that was in 1920.  The county was named for General George H. Thomas.  Thomas (1816 – 1870) was a Union General in the Civil War and was one of the principal commanders in the Western Theater.  Despite his many victories and military successes, he is not widely known today.  To learn more about this Unionist from Virginia, just go to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Henry_Thomas.

When Laurie spotted this statue of two young girls in Thedford, we had to stop and see what it was all about.  On May 10, 1881, 8-year-old Matilda Haumann and her 4-year-old sister Anna, became lost in the Sandhills while returning home from visiting their sister who was helping a neighbor.  Their parents, Carl and Henrietta, reported the girls missing on May 11 and search parties were organized.  Three days later, searchers found Anna 25 miles from her parent’s house.  She was suffering from dehydration and exposure but recovered.  Scores of other searchers joined the effort and on Sunday, May 17th, they found Matilda’s body.  She had walked 75 miles in her effort to find help before collapsing.

This monument to the girl’s bravery and to the challenges faced by new settlers in the Sandhills was dedicated on May 1, 2016.  Six generations of the Haumann family were present for the ceremony…

From Thedford, we headed southeast along NE Hwy 2, also referred to as the Potash Road.  The highway got its name from the potash industry which thrived in the western part of Nebraska prior to World War I.  NW Hwy 2 is considered to be one of the most scenic roads in the state.

We just had to stop and take a couple photos of this great looking herd of horses… A couple of them seemed pretty interested in Laurie too.

The next town we stopped in was Merna Nebraska…about 50 miles from Thedford.  This is the Brenizer Library at 205 North Walnut Street.  It was completed in 1917.  The funds for the library ($6,500) were donated by homesteader James G. Brenizer and the building was designed in the Prairie School and Classical Revival styles.  It’s been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 2007.

This library has been in continuous service since 1917 and only had 8 librarians from 1917 through 2007.  An assembly room on the lower floor is used regularly by the Women’s Club, Legion Auxiliary, American Legion, Campfire Girls and others.  Both Mr. Brenizer and an heir have allowed for additional funding…  

This pleasant looking home is the Benjamin and Mary Kellenbarger House at 451 West Center Street in Merna.  This home is a well preserved example of residential Queen Anne architecture…a style that was popular from about 1880 – 1910.  The home is listed on the National Register.

When the railroad reached Merna in 1886, the railroad’s Lincoln Land Company platted the town and sold lots that same year.  By March of 1890, the town had 200 residents, 2 banks, 2 hotels, 3 general stores and cafes, 3 livery stables, a billiard parlor and a meat market.  The Merna Opera House opened in 1900 and by 1904 the town’s newspaper boasted that “only two sod houses remained in the town proper”.

Today, Merna has an estimated population of 363.  FYI, the town was named in honor of the town’s first postmaster’s daughter.

Just a few miles southeast of Merna, we came to Broken Arrow Nebraska.  This town with roughly 3,500 residents is the county seat of Custer County.  Broken Bow was located and platted in June of 1882.  The name was suggested to the post office department by a local who found a broken bow on an old American Indian camping ground that was located in the area.  No one knows who the owner of the bow was nor any other related facts in that regard…but a fragment still exists. 

Downtown Broken Bow has been designated as a Historic District on the National Register.  The 2-story George W. Smith Building at 845 South “D” Street was built in the Italianate style.  The “District” contains a large collection of late 19th and early to mid-20th century commercial buildings.  As the photo shows, some refurbishing appears to have been recently completed… 

The 2-story Italianate style Union Block Building is the oldest structure in the historic district.  Located at 430 – 444 South Eighth Stree, it was built in 1887.  I love all the detail along the top of this building but it is a shame that the windows on the second level are all boarded up.  It needs a serious bit of restoration…

This is the Neo-Classical style Custer County Courthouse and Jail in Broken Bow.  It was built in 1911 and it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  The courthouse cost $75,000 to build and it was one of the earliest fireproof structures in Nebraska.  The previous courth0use had burned down…

Custer County was formed in 1887.  It covers 2,592 square miles, about double the size of the State of Rhode Island.  The county was named after General George Armstrong Custer…who was killed in the Battle of Little Bighorn.  Much of the county’s early history revolved around the classic struggle between ranchers/cowboys and the farmers who moved into the area.  By 1894, the county had over 250,000 acres under cultivation and 1,000,000 cattle plus 75,000 hogs within its borders.  Unfortunately, that year also brought a severe drought with livestock selling for almost nothing and farms being almost given away.  Today Custer County is second in the USA for the number of beef cattle on the range…  Back in 1920, there were 25,668 residents in the county but today there are only about 10,800.

It was time for lunch and we chose the Bonfire Grill – Restaurant and Pub that is located in the Arrow Hotel.  This Prairie School style hotel was built in 1928.  Originally the hotel had 53 guest rooms and the first floor was occupied by 2 stores, a barber shop, the hotel lobby (shown above), dining room, kitchen and a beauty parlor.  One of the reasons for the hotel’s listing on the National Register is that it played such a significant role in the town’s history…an important building in the rural sandhills area.

We happened to arrive in Broken Bow and the Bonfire Grill right after a power outage knocked out much of the town’s electricity.  Fortunately power was restored shortly after our arrival so we were able to order our meals.  In addition to the small bar and pub with its dining area, in my wanderings through the first floor of the hotel I did see a more formal dining venue.

It was lunchtime so we kept it simple.  Laurie had the Classic Bacon, Lettuce and Tomato Sandwich with mayonnaise. ($12.00) I ordered the Club Sandwich with turkey, bacon, cheese, tomato, lettuce and mayonnaise. ($15.00) Both sandwiches came on marbled rye bread but Laurie opted for white toast. For our sides, we both ordered their ‘Buffalo Chips’.  The sandwiches were very competent with quality ingredients.  To see this restaurant’s menu, just go to https://www.arrowhotel.com/dining-1.

The Arrow Hotel is allegedly haunted…with many reports of paranormal activity.  Staff has reportedly seen a grey-haired man walking around the building at night as well as a ghostly man sitting in the cigar room.  In addition there have been reports of heated arguments in one corner of the building as well as the voices of children laughing and playing…accompanied by cold chills!

Today the Arrow Hotel is listed as a 24-room historic boutique hotel.  FYI, the AAA rate for a King Room for this week was $125.00 plus taxes.  To learn more about the hotel, go to https://www.arrowhotel.com/.

Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them…

Thanks for stopping by for a visit!

Take Care, Big Daddy Dave 

Friday, November 26, 2021

Headed East toward Omaha (4)

…continuing with our July road trip and our exploration of western Nebraska.  Two more posts including this one and we will have returned to our son’s family’s home in Omaha. 

Our next overnight stop was in North Platte Nebraska.  We didn’t explore the city as we’d visited here not too many years ago and we’d hit quite a few high points during that stay.

I’d researched the available restaurants in North Platte and Luigi’s Italian restaurant was very well rated so I decided that we’d give it a try.  This is a popular place to dine in town and we actually had to wait a few minutes to get a table.  North Platte did have some kind of automobile rally or gathering going on while we were in town.  Our table was next to a window and there were hot rods, sports cars, jacked-up trucks and motorcycles screaming up and down South Jeffers Street.  It was quite entertaining if not peaceful...

This photo featuring my better half also shows the interior of Luigi’s.  It was bright and cheerful…and that waiter in the photo is Kaden.  He was very friendly and helpful.  He was looking forward to the end of his shift though because, as he told us, he had a couple of hot cars that he wanted to cruise down the main drag with the others on display.

For our appetizer, we chose the Fried Calamari. ($7.95) The calamari were lightly dusted and served with a fresh marinara basil sauce.  They were tender and tasty…better than most!  We also noted that Luigi’s offered Fried Ravioli…something not seen too often outside of the St. Louis Missouri area. 

Our entrees included a small dinner salad.  The ingredients were fresh and they had my favorite combination of salad dressings.  When available I like to mix both blue cheese and French dressing.

Looking at Luigi’s on-line menu I couldn’t find our entrees listed.  In any case, Laurie ordered one of her favorites, the Lobster Ravioli. ($12.95) It was very good…in the league of the better versions of this dish that she’s had before.

I ordered one of my favorites as well.  This was my Shrimp Fra Diavolo. ($13.95) It was nice and spicy and there were plenty of shrimp too.  I’d made an excellent choice!

Luigi’s Italian Restaurant is located at 502 South Jeffers Street in North Platte Nebraska.  Phone: 308-221-2961.  Luigi’s website is at http://luigisnp.com/menu/.


         ·         If you love railroads and railroad equipment, North Platte is the place to visit.  This city of over 23,000 is home to Union Pacific Railroad’s Baily Yard…the world’s largest railroad classification yard.  Covering 2,850 acres and 8 miles long, it has 200 separate tracks and employees more than 2,600 people.  The Golden Spike Tower and Visitor Center is an 8-story building or tower that overlooks the classification yard and engine facilities. 

         ·         North Platte is also home to the Cody Park Railroad Museum.  It has the only Challenger 3900 series steam locomotive on public display in the world and you can actually climb up into the cab.  In addition, there is a 6900 series diesel locomotive on display…the largest ever made.  Other rail cars are open to visitors and the old Hershey Nebraska depot is also located in the park.

We had lots of time to explore before we were expected at our son’s home in Omaha.  So, as usual I didn’t follow the shortest route or those that are heavily traveled.  We headed north on US Hwy 83 from North Platte.  Along the way we stopped to visit with these great looking horses…

Soon after entering Logan County Nebraska, we came to the towns of Gandy and Stapleton.  I borrowed both of these photos from the Internet.  Gandy, with a population of 31 residents, is situated about 2 miles east of Stapleton.  Gandy’s population has never been higher than 194 residents, and it used to be the county seat for Logan County.  But in 1912, a Union Pacific rail spur bypassed Gandy and arrived in Stapleton. 

In 1920, the county seat was moved from Gandy to Stapleton.  The latter has never been a big town either.  At its peak in 1930, Stapleton had a population of just 431…now its citizen’s only number 299.  Note the low lying tan building at the right of the second photo.  That’s the Logan County Courthouse…smallest county courthouse I’ve ever seen.

Logan County was founded in 1885 and it was named for General John A. Logan, an American Civil War general on the Union side.  He had a very distinguished career and when he died, he was well enough regarded that his body lied in state in the US Capitol rotunda.  Learn more about General Logan at John A. Logan - Wikipedia.


         ·         The total population of Logan County is roughly 760…down from 1,596 in 1920.  The county covers 571 square miles.  

         ·         There are 12 counties in Nebraska with populations of less than 1,000.  There are 5 with fewer residents than Logan County…Hooker, Grant, McPherson, Arthur and Blaine. 

         ·         The county in the USA with the fewest residents is Loving County Texas…population 134.  Kalawao County Hawaii is smaller but it’s not a true county.  It was Hawaii’s former leper colony.

And of course, the Logan County Fair and Rodeo grounds are located close to Stapleton along US Hwy 83.  The first annual Harvest Festival and Frontier Sports event was held here in September of 1912.  It is referred to as “Nebraska’s Biggest Little Rodeo”.  Lots of cowboys and cowgirls in attendance...

The annual Logan County Fair held here features 4-H and open class exhibits as well as horse, livestock and small animal shows.  On fair weekend, there is a parade down Main Street in town with a big pork breakfast on Saturday morning and free barbecue sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce later the same day.

I guess that that cowboy is giving the other fella a ride.  The rodeo and the western way of life is still alive in Logan County.  Their rodeo has continued to grow and expand over the years… This 2-day event in Stapleton features a 2-person ranch team ‘sort’, team roping, miniature pony races, a wild horse race, mutton bustin’, a chicken scramble and ranch rodeo.

FYI, ranch sorting or a ranch team sort is a western equestrian sport that pits a team of two riders on horseback against the clock.  The riders have to work efficiently to cut out the correct cattle from the herd and drive them into the pen while keeping the wrong numbered cattle out.  The team with the best time wins…

The Rodeo and Fairgrounds is also the traditional home for Logan-McPherson High School Rodeo and the Stapleton Junior Rodeo.

To learn more about Logan County’s “Biggest Little Rodeo”, you can go to https://www.facebook.com/LoganCountyAgSociety/.

I thought that it would be appropriate to end this post with a couple more photos of horses relaxing in Nebraska’s grasslands.  The USA has about 9,200,000 horses.  We have around 206,000 in Tennessee…or 1 horse for every 33 people.  But Nebraska has 180,000 horses and a much smaller population…so they have a horse for every 11 people!

We sure took a lot of horse photos on this trip…which made Laurie a very happy wife!

Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them…

Thanks for stopping by for a visit!

Take Care, Big Daddy Dave 

Tuesday, November 23, 2021

Heading East toward Omaha (3)

…continuing with what must seem to be an endless July road trip to those who follow my blogsite.  Still heading east but exploring as we went.

While I did take a photo of this mural in the lobby area, I didn’t think to take a photo of the US Post Office in Ogallala Nebraska where the mural resides.  I should have photographed the building too as it was built in 1937 and it’s listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  I suspect that the post office was built as part of the Works Progress Administration’s efforts to employee people during the Great Depression…but I couldn’t verify it.

This 12 foot by 4 foot oil-on-canvas mural is entitled “Long Horns” and it was painted as part of the United States Treasury Department’s Section of Fine Arts program in 1938.  The artist was Frank Mechau (1904 – 1946).  He was an American muralist whose style earned him considerable respect and attention in the art world.   His career included 3 Guggenheim fellowships, 13 public mural commissions and works featured in dozens of national and international exhibitions.

Another historic place in Ogallala is the Spruce Street Standard Oil Red Crown Service Station at 220 North Spruce Street.  This service station…yes, that’s what we used to call them…was built in 1922 and it was listed on the National Register in 2004.  In addition to those great old gas pumps, you may be able to make out a dark figure, a statue of a man between the gas pumps.  His name is “Hugh, a friendly hometown mechanic.  A plaque at the service center states that Hugh “commemorates a simpler, gentler time, when an attendant would pump your gas, check your oil and wave you on your way with a smile”.

Ogallala is the county seat of Keith County Nebraska.  The town has a population of about 4,500 people, down from 5,638 in 1980.  Keith County covers 1,110 square miles…111 square miles larger than the European nation of Luxembourg.  About 8,000 people live in the county. 

Back when this area was the Nebraska Territory, Ogallala was a stop on the Pony Express and later on the transcontinental railroad.  The town first became famous as a key terminus for cattle drives that traveled all the way from Texas to the Union Pacific railhead located here.  The railroad reached Ogallala in May of 1867.  The town’s name comes from the Oglala Sioux tribe of Native Americans.  The Ogallala Aquifer is named after the city.

The Prairie Theatre isn’t listed on the National Register but I’m always fascinated to see any downtown/small town movie theater that has survived and is still operating.  This theatre is located at 208 North Spruce Street and it was built in 1935.  Currently showing (as of 11/18) were “Eternals” and “Ron’s Gone Wrong”.  As per its website, the theater is up for sale…and as an extra incentive, ghost tours of the building are offered where visitors seek out “Leonard and friends”.  From what I can tell $150,000 could make you the owner of this movie theater!  Their website is found at https://prairietheatre.com/.

If you’ve ever been to Ogallala you may have visited Front Street, which is just east of the downtown area.  For some reason, despite the fact that it was built in 1964, it is listed on the National Register.  It was built as a “Wild West” tourist attraction, capitalizing on the town’s cowboy past.  It appears to be several adjoining buildings but in reality it is one building with applied decorative facades.  The core of Front Street is almost unchanged since it was built and it continues to be a major draw for tourists, complete with shows.  To learn more go http://ogallalafrontstreet.com/.

Our next stop was in Paxton Nebraska, just about 15 miles east of Ogallala.  This old Frontier Gas Station was the first place I spotted.  It’s located right on US Hwy 30, the Lincoln Highway in Paxton.  Too bad that the old gas pumps are missing but someone has spent a lot of effort to keep up the station itself…not to mention that mural commemorating the highway, automobiles and trains.  The station fits right into a 1940s scene along the road. 

Paxton was named for William Paxton, the largest rancher in the area.  However, the town began as a railway siding with a telegraph station, water tower and a small depot with living quarters.  Prior to the siding, Fort Alkali had been established here to protect settlers along the Oregon Trail…and later railway workers.  Why alkali?  It was all about the soil content found in the area.  The town’s name was changed to Paxton in 1885.  By 1895, Paxton consisted of a dozen houses, a general store, drug store, post office, water tower, railway section house, the Globe Hotel and the Bank of Paxton.  Today Paxton has about 490 residents…but it’s never exceeded 568

When I originally planned this trip, I’d spotted this shop along my route and I knew that Laurie would really like it.  Happy wife, happy life!  Anne Marie’s Antiques and Gifts is located in the original Paxton Union Pacific Railroad Depot that dates back to 1897.  I got my railroad fix and Laurie got her shopping fix!  Apparently, Leah Fote, the owner of this old depot has always loved antiques and she’d always dreamt about owning her own antique store.  When the old train depot came up for sale, she gutted it, rebuilt the interior and then moved it to its current location.  The idea was to salvage as much of the original architecture as possible.

As you can see from these two photos, both the merchandising and quality of the merchandise offered exceeds the typical antique/gift store.  Plus the store was so light and airy… Yes, Laurie had a good time shopping here and I earned a couple of credits against future faux pas. 

Here’s a photo of the Paxton Depot from back in the old days.  It sure looks like Leah Fote did a fine job of external restoration!

Leah is apparently quite an entrepreneur!  Sitting to one side of the Depot/Store is this second building that is chock full of antiques.  Another hit for Laurie!   

And it doesn’t stop with just the old depot and adjacent antique adjunct.  Next we have The Grainery.  In the fall of 2016, Leah saved the original town grain elevator.  It was built in 1920.  Leah had the elevator moved across the railroad tracks and relocated to a spot adjacent to Anne Marie’s. 

The Grainery serves ice cream, coffee and other hot drinks, cold drinks and smoothies, lunch and a modest assortment of baked goods.  Laurie had a special coffee.  Love the lounge area!  Of special interest to me was that some of the original elements of the old grain elevator were preserved inside The Grainery.  FYI…The Grainery also sells different blends of coffee both in store and on-line.

To learn more about Anne Marie’s Antiques and Gifts as well as The Grainery, go to www.anne-maries.com.  

…and there is more!  Leah Fote and her husband also owns a 20 acre aronia berry farm right next to her retail operations.  It is called “Good Berry Farms”.  Aronia berries are also known as chokeberries.  These berries are considered to be the highest antioxidant berry of all the fruits.  I did buy a jar of aronia jelly which I have enjoyed with my morning toast.   A variety of aronia products as well as a variety of teas are offered for sale on the Good Berry Farms website.  Check it out at Good Berry Farms - Aronia Berries, Aronia Berry, Chokeberry.

So, if your wondering why would you go out of your way to visit Paxton Nebraska.  My answer is that it's not off the beaten path.  Paxton is right off of Interstate Highway I-80 at exit/mile marker 145...

From Paxton, we headed toward North Platte Nebraska via a rather circuitous route…but that’s the subject of another post to my blogsite. 

Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them…

Thanks for stopping by for a visit!

Take Care, Big Daddy Dave