NEGenWeb Project
Resource Center, On-Line Library




later was subdivided and that portion in which Mr. Greene settled became Box Butte county. He took up land twelve miles southwest of the present site of Hemingford, his nearest neighbor being four miles distant. Mr. Greene freighted his first supplies from Camp Clark, fifty miles away, having to cross the river on one of the early toll bridges, and the goods he bought had already been freighted in from Sidney, at the railroad fifty miles further south. Among the things Mr. Greene purchased were the barrels to haul water for his stock and household use, which was obtained at a spring nine miles away. Mr. Greene built the well known sod house of the high plains for his first home and established himself as a bachelor. Subsequently when money was easier and the railroad had been built through this section, he erected a fine modern home, but for twenty-eight years he remained unmarried, sometimes employing a man and his wife on the farm but much of the time he maintained his home alone. Mr. Greene was not discouraged by the years of drought, grasshoppers and crop failures and "stuck it out," so that today he is one of the oldest settlers of the section. From time to time as he made money from his cattle and farm produce he invested the capital in more land until today he is one of the largest landed proprietors in Box Butte county, owning nearly twenty-five hundred acres of the best land in this vicinity, all of which is well improved and much is under intensive cultivation.
   On September 22, 1914, Mr. Greene married Miss Mildred Best, who was born at Springfield, Missouri, the daughter of James N. and Eva (Haseltine) Best, the former a native of South Bend, Indiana, while the mother was born in Richland Center, Wisconsin. Mrs. Greene was the oldest of four children. She is a graduate of the Bertrand high school, the Holdrege junior Normal school, and took two years work in vocal and piano music at Fremont Normal and became a teacher, a vocation she followed for twelve years before her marriage, the time being about evenly divided between county and village schools. Since her marriage she has taken an active part in all communal affairs and during the World War was an active worker, being president of the Nonpariel Neighbors, a club doing Red Cross work. Three children have come to the Greene home, Harriet Louisa, aged five; Thomas Hascal, past two; and baby Mildred Ruth, six months old. In the spring of 1919, Mr. Greene decided to give up the active management of his land and came into Hemingford to make his home where he and his wife enjoy the social advantages of a town and later give the children the benefits of the educational advantages afforded there. They have a beautiful home in the town, where they hold open house to their many old friends of the country and also for the people of Hemingford who know and like them well. Mr. Greene is so well fixed with worldly goods that he can afford to take life easy, enjoy the fruits of his labors and looking back across the years feel that he has earned a well deserved period for enjoyment and relaxation. His wife is a member of the Congregational church of which they are liberal supporters.

    HENRY M. THORNTON, who is at the head of a large business enterprise at Gering, is one of the county's substantial men and representative citizens. He came to Scottsbluff county in early manhood, and has long been concerned in the development that has brought so marked a change in this section of the state, for, with principles of the sturdiest kind of honesty, he has invariably demonstrated local interest and a practical public spirit. Mr. Thornton is known all over the county and for four years served as county clerk.
   Henry M. Thornton was born in Kane county, Illinois, February 29, 1864. His parents were Edward and Jane (Stewart) Thornton, the former of whom was born in New Hampshire and the latter in New Brunswick, both going to Illinois in youth, in which state they married. Of the three survivors of their seven children, Henry M. is the eldest, the others being his two sisters, Margaret, the wife of O. W. Gardner, and Grace, a resident of Salt Lake City. The mother of the above children was a member of the Methodist Episcopal church. The father, the late Edward Thornton, came to Nebraska in 1886 and for a season the family lived in a tent. Later he built a two and a half story log cabin, which for years was considered the finest house in the county. Buying a team of horses and a few head of cattle and homesteading, he became a substantial resident of the county in the course of time. He became prominent in Republican politics and was postmaster at Gering for a number of years. He was also one of the early and actively interested Masons in this section.
   Henry M. Thornton attended the public schools as a boy and later a business college at Dixon, Illinois. In connection with his father, he conducted a creamery business in Illinois, prior to the family exodus to Nebraska. After locating here he preëmpted a body of land, bor-



rowing $300 to prove up on it, and after paying $300 interest, sold the entire place for $100. Following this venture in business he went into partnership with his father and together they farmed and raised stock, but after about five years on the farm, he went into a bank, where he worked his way up to be cashier and finally president. After retiring from the banking business in 1914, Mr. Thornton founded his present large hardware and furniture concern, and has developed one of the leading business houses in this line in the county. To properly handle and display his immense stock, he erected a two-story brick building which has dimensions of fifty by one hundred feet, which is favorably situated in the best business district at Gering, and trade is attracted from all over the county. He is at the head of the business but is ably assisted by his two sons, Douglas and Kenneth E.
   In 1897 Mr. Thornton was united in marriage to Miss Alice J. Johnson, a native daughter of Nebraska. Her father, D. D. Johnson, for a number of years was in the livery business at Salt Lake, Utah, and was a well-known horseman. He came to Scottsbluff county in pioneer days, took up a homestead, and has been somewhat prominent in politics. He now lives retired at Scottsbluff. Mr. and Mrs. Thornton have four children: Douglas A. and Kenneth E., who are graduates of the high school at Gering and former students of the state university at Lincoln, are twins, and both belong to Sigma Alpha Epsilon college fraternity; Janet, who is in her junior year at the state university, and Beth, who attends school at Gering. Mrs. Thornton and her daughters are members of the Methodist Episcopal church. Mr. Thornton is a Mason of advanced degree and a Shriner, belonging to Tangier Temple at Omaha. For several years he served as master of his own lodge. Both he and wife belong to the order of the Eastern Star.
   Political questions have interested Mr. Thornton to some extent all his life and formerly he was quite active in Republican circles but did not often accept public office, although particularly well qualified for the same. For four years he was county clerk and his administration was satisfactory in the highest degree. Although he devotes the most of his time to the management of his business in Gering, he keeps a careful overseeing eye on his 1000 acres of irrigated land, which he has found a profitable investment.

    SIDNEY A. D. GRIMES, one of the popular and successful auctioneers of Box Butte county is a partner of F. W. Melick in a produce business and feed yard in Hemingford.
   Mr. Grimes is an Iowan, born near Russell, October 10, 1876, the son of Henry T. and Mary C. (Cain) Grimes, the former a native of West Virginia, while the mother was born in Iowa. Sidney was the second child in a family of six children, consisting of five boys and one girl. Three of his brothers are dead. Henry Crimes was a farmer in Iowa and the children were reared on the farm, attended the public school near their home where they laid foundations for good, practical educations. Sidney began to help at home when he was big enough and soon learned the practical side of farm business so that while yet a small boy he hired out to a neighbor to plant corn, using an old Keystone planter. He recalls with a whimsical smile that the field they were to plant was a round hill the top of which had never been broke, so he started at the outside of the field and went round and round till the sod was reached then turned back the same way unwinding, and only planted two rows in a day as they were so long. For this, his first independent business enterprise, he received twenty-five cents a day. Sidney was sent to the district school nearest his home in the country during the winter terms and after his preliminary education was completed graduated from the Missouri Auction school at Trenton, Missouri, in 1908. In the meantime he had been established as a practical farmer in Iowa, where he became one of the substantial representatives of the agriculturists of his section as he was wide awake to all modern methods and improvements, adopting those which he saw would be of value to him.
   On January 29, 1893, Mr. Grimes was married at Weller, Iowa, to Miss Winifred May Patterson. She was born near Attica, Iowa, the daughter of William M. and Martha (Rogers) Patterson, the former a native of West Virginia. She was the third in a family of ten children born to her parents and since her marriage has become the mother of six children herself, they are: Verna A., who married G. G. Melick, of Hemingford, who owns and operates a hotel and they have one child, Christiana; Hattie P., the wife of Frederick Seirwein, the owner of a garage at St. Bardanoes, California; Desse M., at home with her parents; Gladys R. and twins, Wesley Franklin and Wilma Fern, in school.
   After he had taken the course in the auction school, Mr. Grimes continued to engage in farming and also auctioneering in Iowa, but he knew that there were many and good opportunities for an energetic man to make money in the newer country of western Nebraska



and determined to come here and learn what fortune had in store for him. In 1913, he came to Box Butte county and located in Hemingford, though he still retains the ownership of his fine farming land in Iowa. For two years after coming west he devoted his entire time and energies to auctioneering, but saw that there was a good opening here for a much needed produce business and feed yard where the stock of the surrounding fine farming district could be bought and sold. In partnership with P. W. Melick he bought the Spencer Lumber Company's ground which was well located for their business and there erected a fine feed yard where the company buys and sells live stock, hay, feed and grain. In 1919, Mr. Grimes wrote the largest check ever banked in Hemingford for a sale of hogs, it was for $5,582.26, payable to C. E. Wilsey for seventy-five head. Today Mr. Grimes owns a modern home in the town and has built up a reputation as one of the most competent and resourceful auctioneers in western Nebraska though he is called all over the state to conduct sales and says, "I will answer calls anywhere this side of the celestial realm." Mr. Grimes stands high in the Masonic order, having taken his Thirty-second degree and is Past Grand in the Independent Order of Odd Fellows.

    JAMES V. POTMESIL, president of the First National Bank of Hemingford, is one of the leading financiers of Box Butte county. Efficiency has characterized all of Mr. Potmesil's business and most especially his services in the responsible office of president of the bank, and his administration has done much to conserve the success that has marked the history of this important and representative financial institution, while his personality and civic loyalty have gained him a high place in popular confidence and esteem.
   Mr. Potmesil is a native of Bohemia, born in that province of the Austrian Empire, December 26, 1972, the son of John and Rose (Sixta) Potmesil, both natives of the same country. James was the third in a family of six children born to his parents in their native country. He attended school there for about two years before the family came to America as their parents were desirous of giving their children more advantages than could be obtained for them in Bohemia. The father emigrated in 1880, and after reaching America worked his way to Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and then learning of the opportunities to secure free land from the government farther west came to Nebraska in 1882, locating in Saunders county, where he secured work on a farm. The year before, having saved the money and learned about reaching the United States, Mr. Potmesil had sent for his wife to join him and bring the children. After they arrived he continued to work on a farm and had the three oldest children do the same. Young James, who was eight years old when he made the long voyage to the new world was duly initiated into the art of herding cattle as soon as his age and strength permitted. He did this for two years during the summer and today tells that "it was afoot, if you please, no cow ponies for me in those days." However, the boy seemed to thrive on this out door work during the summer and helped as he could at regular farm industries during the winter season, receiving twenty-three dollars a year and his keep. During these hard and trying years on a frontier farm the boy had little opportunity for educational facilities but availed himself every chance of self improvement and when the family had some headway toward a competency he was sent to Chadron to school, then entered the Chadron Academy and after graduating entered the agricultural college of the State University at Lincoln, for this boy of foreign birth early realized that the best and most secure capital he could have was a good education of a high order. He had been reared on a farm and after coming to this great commonwealth had lived and worked on one so that he naturally decided on agriculture as a business. In the fall of 1884, the father had accumulated considerable capital for a man on the frontier and as he and some of his Bohemian friends learned of the fine land to be had in the Panhandle, a party of nine men purchased horses and made the long trip up the Platte valley to Valentine. They filed on land in what is now Box Butte county about eighteen miles northeast of the present site of Hemingford, and after locating the homesteads returned to Saunders county. The following spring the new settlers shipped what provisions they could buy to Valentine while the families drove across country in prairie schooners, locating on the new farms. Settlers were few and far apart and it was fortunate for these men that they located in the same locality so that they could help each other in erecting their first homes of sod and in general farm work where one men could do little alone. Mr. Potmesil made a number of trips to Valentine to freight in supplies and provisions for himself and his neighbors, a trip of one hundred and fifty miles which took



sixteen days. During these trips the mother was forced to pack water from the river a mile and a half away to the house for family use, at a time when the country was all open range over which the wild, long horned cattle roamed at will so that her trips were made with great labor and danger. Thus Mrs. Potmesil was many times fearful of her life and consequently her little ones at home. In the fall the railroad was completed as far as Hay Springs and the following winter the father and boys earned most of their money for supplies gathering buffalo bones on the prairies to sell at this station. Another piece of hard work the father accomplished was taking down a fence around a pasture twelve miles wide by fourteen long. By these various endeavors the family accumulated money enough to buy the first cow in the country and they had milk and butter in abundance. Having a keen, far-sighted vision the father gathered together what money he could and began to buy cattle in a small way. That was the heigh-day of the cattle industry on the prairies and knowing from the settlement already taking place that the day of the open range was waning had cattle to tide him over the years of drought and grasshopper invasions as he managed to find pasture along the river bottoms. More fortunate than many of the settlers he was not driven out during those trying periods and by holding on, increasing his herds and buying land at low prices, the father and his sons prospered and felt well paid for the years of privation, hardship and labor. By 1913, the family owned and held some seven thousand acres of land in Box Butte county and ran from three hundred to six hundred head of cattle, having as it may be said, "got in on the ground floor," in the cattle business before most men realized that the future of the live stock industry was to be in the hands of the farmer. Both the father and mother died in 1913, leaving the large landed estate to the sons, the oldest of whom, John, still remains on the ranch as owner-manager, though the land is shared by John and James jointly. In 1912, the First National Bank of Hemingford was organized by C. J. Wilder, Mr. James Potmesil becoming one of the organizers with him and a heavy stockholder of the new institution, and eventually when the personnel of the officers was chosen was called to the head of the institution as president. The bank has a capital stock of $25,000, surplus of $20,000 and deposits of $414,031 in 1919, which shows its rapid growth in less than a decade. The, management of the bank has from the first endeavored at all times to serve the public efficiently and to be of real benefit to its friends and patrons, all of which has been carried out under the guiding direction of the president, whose policy has been progressive yet conservative and since becoming a member of the Federal Reserve System, has had the financial backing of the county to which it may be likened as the backbone or financial support. Mr. Potmesil has well earned his high position in this county, for he is one of the first settlers, and by his thrift, executive ability, sound business principles built up a reputation of which he may justly be proud, for he has been most especially the architect of his own fortunes, and looking back down the years may feel that his life has been well lived for he has been a builder, and played an important part in the opening up and development of this favored section of a great commonwealth. On January 31, 1917, Mr. Potmesil was married at Beatrice, Nebraska, to Cecil Wilkenson, born in Pawnee county, the daughter of William N. and Emma (Seldon) Wilkenson, the former a Kentuckian, while the mother was a native of Iowa. Two children have been born to this union: James, and Jeane, a baby. Mrs. Potmesil is a graduate of the Beatrice high school and of the Peru Normal school and after her graduation from the last institution she taught for about ten years prior to her marriage. They have a lovely home in Hemingford, where they dispense a cordial hospitality to all their many friends for few people in the county do not know the Potmesil brothers, for they are the type of true American citizenship who are making history in the Panhandle, both financial and civic.

    WILLIAM M. CORY, one of the substantial merchants of Box Butte county and Hemingford, the owner and manager of a men's furnishing and jewelry store, has been a resident of this section since 1890, and during more than a quarter of a century that has intervened he has been variously connected with agricultural and the rising industrial and commercial interests of the county, always to the benefit of himself and his community.
   Mr. Cory is a native son of this great commonwealth, born in Brownsville, September 8, 1873, the son of Thomas and Janet (Slatterly) Cory, the latter a native of the state of New York. William was next the youngest in a family of five children. Thomas Cory was a farmer who moved to Washington county, Kansas, when the boy was about five years

Prior page
General index
Next page

   © 1999, 2000, 2001 for NEGenWeb Project by Pam Rietsch, Ted & Carole Miller