NEGenWeb Project - Thomas County
Who's Who in Nebraska, 1940
C. E. West
HOMAS COUNTY, a typical Nebraska sandhill region, was formed in 1887 from the unorganized territory west of Blaine County. Governor Thayer appointed C. C. Wright, one of the earliest settlers, special commissioner to carry out the county's formation. Wright had homesteaded in Fillmore County in 1871 before moving to Thomas. The new county was named for Major General George H. Thomas of Civil War fame and its boundaries fixed by a legislative act on March 31, 1887.
To carry out the new county's business until officers could be elected, Governor Thayer appointed C. E. Callender, county clerk, B. F. Dill, treasurer, W. W. Cowles, judge, Lulu Wright, superintendent, J. F. Swain, sheriff, J. P. Walters, atorney (sic), W. R. Harper, surveyor, C. C. Wright, H. W. Pierson and John W. Carney, commissioners.
Two rivers, the Dismal and Middle Loup, traverse the county. Each has its source about fifty miles to the west, and both are fed by clear springs which flow the year round. Floods are unknown in this region and the rivers seldom rise more than six to eight inches after a heavy rain. Irrigation has not been attempted because the number of acres to be benefited is too small to make it profitable.
The thick grass on the sandhills, which serves as food for thousands of cattle, also occasionally becomes fuel for extensive prairie fires. These blazes were more numerous in earlier days than at the present time. In 1895, three fires raged simultaneously between the North and South Loup rivers, and burned for four or five days.
Thomas County at one time had sixteen school districts, but through consolidation the number has now been reduced to eleven. The largest district, No. 12, contains 256 square miles. It extends almost the entire length of the county on the south and is sixteen miles across at its widest point. In 1920 this district supported eight schools, but at present it contains only four schools. The county has twelve rural schools, three elementary town schools and three high schools. The county high school was organized in 1914 at Thedford.
The Bessey division of the Nebraska national forest is located in Thomas County, and is one of the beauty spots of Nebraska. The trees are all artificially planted and grown, and demonstrate the sandhills' ability to support an extensive forest. The area includes 90,000 acres and was established in 1902 during President Theodore Roosevelt's administration. The idea was conceived by Charles E. Bessey, famous University of Nebraska botanist.
Between 1903, when work was started, and 1921, 13,500,000 seedlings had been set out. In the latter year alone, 2,200,000 jack and yellow pine trees were planted. Every year approximately 2,500,000 seedlings were taken from the Bessey division to be transplanted in the Niobrara division of the Nebraska national forest in Cherry County.
At the time of Thomas County's organization, Thedford was named the county seat, and so it remained without serious dispute until 1920. In that year a fire destroyed the courthouse, and Seneca residents demanded a special election to move the seat of government to their town in the county's extreme northwest portion. The ballot, however, resulted in 362 votes for Seneca and 514 favoring construction of a new courthouse at Thedford.
The Thedford Live Stock Association played an important part in the passage of the Kinkaid homestead law which granted settlers a full section government land instead of the previous 160 acres. The association, with J. H. Edmiston as president and E. D. Roberts as secretary, passed a resolution asking the congressman from this district to introduce a bill to enlarge the homestead entry from a quarter section to two sections. The bill was passed in 1904 while Moses P. Kinkaid was representing the district, but the size of the allotments was reduced to one section.
Passage of this act resulted in an important phase of the history of Nebraska, for it attracted large numbers of new settlers into rural areas. Experience has taught, however, that one or two sections is not enough land on which to operate a cattle ranch successfully, and the tendency is toward larger holdings. Fourteen ranches are now being operated in Thomas County on holdings exceeding 3,480 acres. The largest, T. P. Hamilton and Sons, controls 16,000 acres. During recent drouth years, many farms have been abandoned and more interest is now given to cattle raising.
When C. T. McMillan's present term as Thomas County clerk and clerk of the district court expires, he will have served as a county officer for 26 years, and at the expiration of Treasurer C. E. West's term, he will have been in office exactly two decades.
BATES, AUSTIN FREDERICK: Rancher & Stockman; b Bridgeton, N J Oct 27, 1888; s of Sommers Bates-Mary E Frederick; ed Bridgeton N J HS 1904; m Flora Prilla Grove Jan 5, 1918 Thedford; s Ernest Frederick (dec); d Mary Elizabeth, Ruth Grove; 1905-06 emp by Western Electric Co in San Francisco; 1906-16 farmed in Kas; 1914-17 homesteaded in Grant Co, developed & oprd 5000 A ranch: 1917-22 owned & oprd 3700 A ranch in Cherry Co; 1923- owner & opr of 14,000 A ranch running 700 head of stock, Flying Y brand, in Blaine Co; 1937- field man for USDA; Amer Natl Livestock Assn; Meth Ch; hobbies, reading, travel; res Halsey.
BECKHOFF, FREDRICK GUSTAVE: Rancher & Stockman; b Westphalen, Germany Dec 10, 1875; s of William Beckhoff-Matilda L Haumann; ed Ill; m Hanna Voth June 12, 1907 Thomas Co; d Alice Geraldine (Mrs B F Harvey), Goldena Evelyn (Mrs Allen N Engberg), Evelyn Kathleen (Mrs H P Smith); 1883 came with parents to US & resided in Ill until 1893; 1898-1901 with father on homestead in Thomas Co; 1901 filed on homestead near father's claim; 1907- with brother in developing ranch of 7500 A & running 400 head of stock; past mbr sch bd; IOOF; Luth Ch; Dem; hobby, fishing; res Thedford.
BECKHOFF, WILLIAM: Rancher & Stockman; b Westphalen, Germany Nov 4, 1877; s of William Beckhoff-Matilda L Haumann; ed Thomas Co; 1888 came with parents to US & lived in Ill until 1893; 1898-1900 with father on homestead in Thomas Co; 1900 filed on homestead near father's claim; 1907- with brother in developing ranch of 7600 A & running 400 head of stock; mbr sch bd; IOOF; Luth Ch; Dem; hobby, reading; res, Thedford.
COX, MASTIN J: Banker: b Independence, Va Feb 7, 1876; s of Zechariah Cox-Sarah Ann Hash; ed Elk Creek Va HS; Emory & Henry Coll, Emory Va 1898-99; m Blanche Reeves July 2, 1913 Battle Creek; 1899-1902 tchr in Madison Co; 1902-04 tchr in Burt Co; 1904-07 tchr, Hooker & Cherry Cos; 1904 filed on homestead in Cherry Co under Kinkaid Act; 1904-15 famed & touched on homestead; 1915- cash & dir Stockmens Bank, Seneca; Neb Bankers Assn; mbr dist sch bd 18 years; AF&AM 284; Scot Rite; IOOF; committeeman BSA: Prot; Dem; hobby, sports; res Seneca.
CRAWFORD, ALBERT OSWELL: Rancher & Stockman; b Winterset, Ia June 17, 1868; s of James M Crawford-Mary M Harmon; ed Winterset Ia; m Hilma C Anderson Nov 8, 1899 Seneca; s Bud, Oro (dec), Alva 0; d Anna Melvina (Mrs Niels Andersen); 1883 came with parents to Neb & settled in Boone Co; 1888 moved with father to Thomas Co homestead; 1888- developing ranch by purchase & homestead, now owns 2480 A of land & 100 head of stock; 1889-95 engaged in comml hunting; 1896-97 with father in gen store; 1910-12 in merc bus; past mbr sch bd; 1897-1900 Thomas Co commr; 1936- chmn Thomas Go commrs; Thomas Co surveyor 40 years; Farmers Union; AOUW; MWA; IOOF; Dem; hobby, reading; mbr of Crawford family came from Ireland to US in 1750 & Andrew Jackson later married into clan; grandfather was pilot on Robert E Lee river boat at time it made record breaking run to New Orleans; father came to Sandhills in 1887, took tree claim which is still in family; res Seneca.
DOYLE, JOHN: Merchant; b Pottawatomie Co, Kas Sept 6, 1860; s of Mathew Doyle-Eveline Vandergrieft; ed Kas; m Hattie Beckhoff Oct 9, 1902 Thomas Co; s James Alexander, John William (dec); d Helen Alice (Mrs P Vogt), Kathryn Louise (Mrs S Larsen); 1878-87 famed in Kas; 1887-93 homesteaded & farmed in Thomas Co; 1887 with James McMillan in gen mere, lbr & impl bus, Thedford; Neb Lbr Mchts Assn; mbr Thomas Co HS bd; past mbr town coun; AF&AM 84; Dem; hobby, gardening; res Thedford.
EVANS, RICHARD JOE: Produce Dealer; b Sargent, Neb Nov 9, 1902; s of F W Evans-Cora B. Brumbough; ed Sargent; m Pauline Dilinger Aug 28, 1935 Mullen; 1919-22 emp by F M Cures on Triple L Ranch; 1922-23 emp by CB&Q RR; 1924-25 emp by William Piercy on ranch; 1926-28 emp by Big Creek Ranch; 1928-29 emp by William Roberts as rancher & former; 1929-31 emp by CB&Q RR; 1922 emp as rancher for Brandeis; 1933-34 emp by Big Creek Ranch; 1934- opr of cream & produce station & clk & asst mgr Farmers Store, Seneca; hobbies, hunting, fishing; res Seneca.
FRANKS, MRS AGNES MATILDA: Homemaker & Merchant; b Galesburg, Ill Sept 9, 1893; d of Clair LeRoy Inman-Jessie McEwen; ed Mullen; Seneca, 1908 recd tchrs certificate; m Alfred William Franks Feb 23, 1911 Lincoln; s Eugene (dec); d Carol Marguerite, Agnes Kathryn; 1909-11 clk in The Big Store, Seneca; 1911-27 reared family & helped husband; 1927- owner & mgr of Mrs A W Franks Ready-To-Wear Dress Shop; active in ARC during World War; past matron OES; past noble grand Rebekah; trustee Congl Ch; Rep, past chmn Thomas Co Central Com; hobbies, fancy work, painting, drawing; res Seneca.
FRANKS, ALFRED WILLIAM: Implement Dealer & Mortician; b Holbeach, Lincolnshire, England Sept 15. 1878; s of Alfred William Franks-Charlotte Ann Miles; ed Holbeach England; Page Co Ia; m Agnes M Inman Feb 23, 1911 Lincoln; s Eugene (dec); d Marguerite; Agnes Kathryn; 1892 came with parents to US, settled in Northboro Ia; 1893-98 with father on farm in Page Co Ia; 1898-1902 emp on farms in Ia & Mo; 1902 ranched in Sheridan Wyo; 1902-05 emp by CB&Q RR; 1905-06 ranched at Hyannis; 1906-07 owner & opr Franks Livery Stable, Seneca; 1907- mortician; 1907-13 mgr Franks Lbr Co; 1913 owner & mgr of A W Franks impl & Undertaking Establishment; 1929- mayor; past master AF&AM 284; RAM; OES 261; hobby, reading; res Seneca.
HAFFNER, PAUL: Banker; b Orleans, Neb Dec 9, 1894; s of J N Haffner-Clara Ostrander; ed Superior HS; Fremont Bus Coll; m Alice M Book Dec 26, 1922 Seneca; s Paul Dallas (dec), James Gene (dec); 1919- emp by Stockmens Bank at Seneca; 1921- asst cash; 1922- village clk; 1917-19 during World War, clk at mobilization Point, Fort Logan Colo; Amer Leg, adjt; Prot; Dem; hobbies, reading, gardening; res Seneca.
HAMILTON, THOMAS PRICE: Banker & Rancher; b Atchison Co, Mo Mar 3, 1862; s of Thomas Jefferson Hamilton-Sarab Elizabeth Buster; ed Mo; m Lucy Hamilton Jan 25, 1888 Fairfax Mo; s Jesse Earl, Lloyd Lester; 1883-84 emp on farm in Mo; 1884-86 indep former near Rockport Mo; 1886-97 former in Gage Co; 1898- homesteader in Cherry Co, owns ranch ints 15,000 A in Cherry & Thomas Cos, & runs approximately 900 head of stock; 1928-30 org & VP Citizens State Bank of Thedford, 1930- pres; Neb Stockgrowers Assn; Neb Bankers Assn: AOUW; Dem; hobby, reading; res Thedford.
HARDY, PEARL SYLVIA: Homemaker; b Sioux Co, Neb Oct 24, 18841; d of George W Howard-Martha E Bales; ed Dawes Co; Alliance HS; Whittier Coll, Salem Ia 1903; Gregg Bus Coll, Chicago 1905: m William H Hardy Apr 4, 1917 Omaha; d Opal Elizabeth, Mildred Estelle, Garnett Marie; 1902-03 tchr in dist sch, Sheridan Co: 1904-05 tchr in Taylor Ia; 1905-14 emp by Hyde Park State Bank, Chicago; auditor, Chicago & Omaha; 1914- resident of Thomas CO: Rebekah: Prot; Dem; hobby, writing; father came to Sioux Co in 1884 & was one of first settlers; mother homesteaded in Thomas Co in 1910 & lived there until 1923; res Seneca.
1 First white child born in neighborhood.
LOWE, MABEL ETHEL: County Superintendent of Schools; b Thomas Co. Neb Jan 17, 1899; d of William H Lowe-Gertrude Cleveland: ed Thomas Co HS 1914; Midland Coll; Hastings Coll; CSTC; 1914-19 tchr in dist schs, Thomas Co; 1919-84 tchr, Thedford grade schs; 1935- Thomas Co supt of schs; NSTA: NEA; leader in 4-H club work; Thedford Vicinity Club; secy Garden Club; Womens Project Club; past noble grand Rebekah; Congl Ch; hobby, flower gardening; res Thedford.
McMILLAN, CLARENCE THOMAS: County Clerk; b Dower Hill, Penn Sept 28, 1874; s of Thomas McMillan-Jane Douglas; ed Bower Hill Penn Normal Sch, Cannonsburg Penn; Normal Sch, Valparaiso Ind; m Coral Miltenberger Oct 24, 1906 Thedford; s George Sherill, John Maurice, Mitchell Dale; 1893-1900 tchr in dist schs, Washington Co, Penn; 1899 filed on homestead in Thomas Co; 1900 owner 3000 A ranch, which he leases; 1909-12 emp by brother in gen store, Thedford: 1912 Thomas Co clk; past mbr town coun; mbr dist sch bd 15 years; Neb Assn of Co Commrs, Co Clks Co Registers of Deeds & Co Highway Commrs; AF&AM; IOOF; Congl Ch: Rep; hobby, gardening; res Thedford.
McMILLAN, JAMES MITCHELL: Merchant & Rancher; b Washington Co, Penn Feb 18, 1864; s of Thomas McMillan-Jane Douglas; ed Wash-
ington Co Penn; m Anna F Rankin Oct 28, 1890 Cass Co; s Thomas Wright, Joseph Washington; d Lois Jean (dec), Alice Kathryn (Mrs Carl Blackstad); 1883 came to Cass Co & worked on farm until 1884; 1884-88 proved up on pre-emption claim in Blaine Co; 1888- homesteader in Thomas Co; ranches now consist of 25,000 A of land & run approximately 1000 head of stock; 1889- ptr of John Doyle in gen lbr & hdw bus, Thedford; Neb Lbr Mchts Assn; AF&AM; Rep; res Thedford.
McNITT, MARY JULIA: Rancher & Stockman; b Port Hope, Canada Aug 31, 1875: d of Henry Murphy-Mary O'Leary; ed Sheridan Co; m B J McNitt July 2, 1907 Broken Bow (dec); s Joseph Henry; d Julia Alice (dec), Eileen Charlotte (Mrs George Stichka); 1907-34 assisted husband in oprn & development of Cherry Co ranch which he homesteaded with brothers in 1895; 1934- since husband's death mgr of ranch consisting of 6000 A & running 400 head of cattle; Cath Ch; hobby, travel; res Seneca.
MEIDELL, WILLIAM: Merchant; b Ill Oct 20, 1899; s of Fredrick Axel Meidell-Thomine Halversen; ed Ia; Furnas Co; m Bertha Mae Evans July 6, 1931 Mullen: s Robert William; d Dorothy Ann; 1906-10 with parents on farm; 1910-29 emp on various farms; 1929-36 mgr of Farmers Union Shipping Assn, Seneca; 1936- owner & mgr of same bus under name of Farmers Store; Farmers Union; past mbr town & village bd; hobby, care of home & family; res Seneca.
MURPHY, ALICE CATHERINE: Rancher; b Deseronta, Canada Sept 30, 1880; d of Henry Murphy-Mary O'Leary; ed Sheridan Co; 1885 came to Sheridan Co with parents who filed on homestead; 1885-1901 with father in farming & stock raising; 1901 filed on homestead; 1904 acquired land under Kinkaid Act; 1921- with brother opr of ranch, which consists of 6000 A & runs 300 head of stock; Cath Ch; hobby, travel; father (dec 1921) estab P 0 at Banner; res Seneca.
PAXTON, CHESTER RAY: Rancher, Stockman, County Judge; b Warsaw, Mo May 18, 1909; s of Jesse C Paxton-Maggie M Lutes; ed Thadford HS 1927; Grand Island Bus Coll 1927-29; 1911-29 with father on ranch; 1929- owner & opr of 4040 A ranch running approximately 300 head of stock; 1932 Thomas Co judge; clk of town coun; IOOF; Congl Ch; chmn Dem Com; hobbies, reading, sports; res Thedford.
ROBINSON, CHARLES FAYETTE: Rancher & Stockman; b Burt Co, Neb July 12, 1880; s of Fayette Robinson-Margaret Grant; ed Coleridge; m Naoma Hoar Sept 18, 1913 Hot Springs S D; s Forrest Grant, Orville Glenn, Harold Desford, Vernon Charles; d Georgia Fay (Mrs Orin Shuck), Esther (dec); 1901-03 homesteader in Boyd Co; 1903-06 veterinarian at Mead; 1906-08 farmed in Saunders Co; 1909-10 farmed near Broken Bow; 1910-13 oprd ranch near Edgemont S D; 1918-16 farmed near Broken Bow; 1916- opr of ranches consisting of 12,000 A & running 400 head of cattle, also raises sheep & hogs in Thomas, Hooker & Cherry Cos; Neb Stockgrowers Assn; IOOF; Prot; Rep; hobbies, reading, fine horses; re; Seneca.
RYMAN, CLARENCE CECIL: Rancher & Stockman; b Geneva, Neb Sept 26, 1890; s of Harry G Ryman-Emma Zeba; ed Fillmore Co; m Lura G Rumery Aug 3 1919 Litchfield; s Ivan Dale; d Margaret Lura: 1906 came to Thomas Co with father who filed on homestead under Kinkaid Act; 1911 filed on homestead; 1906- ptr of father & brothers in developing ranch ints consisting of 12,000 A including original homesteads & 750 head of stock; 1921- ptr in gen mdse store, Halsey; 1918 during World War in special trainIng detachment at Manhattan Kas; Amer Leg 230; Prot; Rep; hobby, mechanics; res Halsey.
TURNER, JOHN MARTEAU: Merchant; b Bedford, Ia Jan 7, 1883; s of William J Turner-Nancy Jane Little; ed Bedford Ia HS 1903; m Sylvia Dee Moore March 28, 1906 Broken Bow; d Katharine Anna (Mrs G S McMillan), Mary Josephine (Mrs M J McMillan), Elizabeth Jean; 1904-17 in lbr bus, Broken Bow; 1917- owner & opr retail hdw store, Thedford; past mbr town coun of Broken Bow; past chmn town coun, Thedford; Pres Potash Highway Assn; IOOF; Congl Ch; Rep; hobby, inventing; res Thedford.
TURNER, SYLVIA DEE: Abstractor & Homemaker: b Sullivan, Ill June 4, 1883; d of Joshua C Moore-Emma T Rowe; ed Broken Bow HS; m John M Turner Mar 28, 1906 Broken Bow; d Katharine Anna (Mrs G S McMillan), Mary Josephine (Mrs M J McMillan), Elizabeth Jean; 1900-06 emp by father in abstract off in Broken Bow; 1920- bonded abstractor, Thedford; Amer Title Assn; Thedford Vicinity Club; Garden Club; PEO; past noble grand Rebekah; Congl Ch, supt Jr dept of SS; Rep; hobby, needlework; res Thedford.
WEST, CHARLES EVERETTE: County Treasurer; b York Co, Neb Aug 11, 1871; s of John West-Mellissa Pierson; ed Thomas Co; m Rebecca May Dill Brown Mar 25, 1900 Thedford (dec); s Ruel Everette, John Dill; 1885-88 emp as printer by Custer County Republican at Broken Bow; 1888-1912 printer & publisher of Thomas Co Herald, Thedford; 1897. 1912 P M Thedford; 1912-22 barber, Seneca; 1922- Thomas Co treas; also owns ranch lands; Neb Assn of Co Treas; AF&AM 284: IOOF 365; Rep; hobby, flower gardening; res Thedford.
WINTER, ORION BENNETTE: Publisher; b Ellery, Ill Aug 3, 1892; s of John J Winter-Dora Scott; ed Fairfield, Ill HS; m Stella Anna Bates Feb 22, 1923 Thedford; s John Jay (dec); d Marilyn (dec); 1907-08 printer in Fairfield Ill; 1909-18 printer & linotype opr in Ia & Neb; 1919-23 printer & linotype opr in Neb; 1922- owner & publisher of Thomas County Herald, merged in 1928 with Clipper; 1929- owner & publisher of The Enterprise in Anselmo; 1927- owner & publisher of Blaine Co Booster in Dunning; 1938- owner & publisher of Hooker Co Tribune in Mullen; 1939 consolidated Seneca News-Messenger, Thedford Herald-Clipper & Hooker Co Tribune; 1918-19 during World War in marine corps encamped at Parris Island S C & in Haiti one year; NPA; Amer Leg; IOOF: MWA; Congl Ch: hobby, travel; res Thedford.
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