Sunday, April 11, 2021

The Rooms Are All on Fire


As my Grandma took these pictures of her old house burning down, I wonder what memories came to her. It makes me sad to see these pictures, there were a lot of good times had here.

No one was living in the house in 1987, it was burned down for more farm ground by the farmer who bought all but a few acres of their property a few years earlier. My Grandparents built a new house and shed on the acreage they kept at the corner of two rural roads now called 711th Road and 582 Avenue on the Jefferson/Gage county line in southeast Nebraska. They moved from Aurora into this farmhouse in about 1965 when the youngest of their four children was finishing high school and then into their new home in 1981 about the time they each retired. Grandpa worked at Petersen Wrench in DeWitt and farmed. Grandma worked at the Beatrice State Home.

It was a two-hour drive for my family to my Grandparents' place. We probably made the trip three or four times a year, usually just for the day. Always at Christmas when my other cousins, Aunts and Uncles were also there. Our Christmas gatherings were often on a Sunday near Christmas Day, Grandma would work at the State Home on the holidays. One year at Christmas we went down the night before and there weren't enough beds for everyone. My Aunt Sondra and Uncle Dale and I spent the night at Grandma's sister and her husband Aunt Florence and Uncle Pearle's house a few miles away. 
I think I also remember once sleeping on the couch in the dining room with the back that folded down into a bed. During the years they lived in this house my siblings and I spent part of a week there without our parents at least once when we were young. My sister and I got the bigger of the two upstairs bedrooms, my two brothers the other one. My parents met them halfway in Friend, Nebraska either to drop us off or pick us up. It's strange that I don't remember anything we did while we were there.

My very rough sketch of the floor plan as I remember it, second floor bedrooms on the left.

Other buildings on the old place were also torn or burned down. My brothers and cousins played in and around those buildings, but I don't remember playing out there. I was the only girl for several years, I kept out of trouble unlike the boys. They have some stories to tell!  At the end of Grandpa and Grandma's short driveway on either side were "Husker footballs", white with red stripes on poles stuck in the ground (made from some kind of metal maybe, I don't know).  They moved those over to their new home.

The house faced south to the road. The small square window on the right in the first photo is the kitchen window. The back door where we always entered is to the right of that. Grandma's kitchen was long and narrow, not much wider than the opened oven door. The sink was at the south end of the room with a window looking out over the front yard. Right inside the door was their kitchen table with a chair for each of them at each end. The stove and refrigerator were on the west wall. If I remember right, she didn't have a dishwasher.

Through the arched doorway to the dining room, the table was to the right where we had our big family dinners of roast, ham or turkey, mashed potatoes and all other sorts of dishes. I had to be careful if there was scalloped corn, Grandma sometimes made it with oysters and I am not a fan. I'm sure when we were all there, some people ate at the kitchen table and some at TV trays in the living room. After dinner there were often games of 10 Point Pitch played. As a kid, you would start out sitting on an adult's lap to watch the game, sometimes getting to "play" a card. 
About the time you were big enough to hold your cards, you could fill in a hand or two while someone had to get up from the game for a little bit. It was a rite of passage when you could play a "real" game with the more patient adults. Often some of Grandma's family would visit while we were there and then the Pitch games got serious. 

In the second photo I can see the screen door burning on the front porch. There was a door to the front porch in the dining room, and also one around the corner in the living room. They might have been open in the summer, but I don't remember using those doors much. There was a big picture window in the living room which was decorated in the greens, golds and browns of the '70's. I remember the TV sat in the southwest corner of the room. Grandpa smoked a pipe and I remember his pipe stand and ash tray next to his recliner.  

At the bottom of the stairs there was a bookshelf that held various things including a set of encyclopedias. This story comes up often, and everyone has a slightly different memory of it. But my memory is that I was looking through an encyclopedia and found a twenty-dollar bill. (The amount of money found grows depending on who's telling the story.) I ran to show Grandma what I found and she made it clear this was not a "finders-keepers" situation. Several others took an interest in the encyclopedia's that day. I don't remember anyone else finding more money, others might remember they did. When the encyclopedia's were on their moving sale years later, I think we all wanted one last look through them.

Grandma and Grandpa slept in the downstairs bedroom which was open to the living room. It wasn't a place for us kids to be other than to get to the bathroom from the living room. Between their bedroom and the bathroom was their walk-through closet. That's where Grandpa's safe was. One of my cousins wrote the combination to the safe on a slip of paper and stuck it in the door frame of the closet in the south upstairs bedroom. I wonder if it burned in the fire.

The bathroom had a door on each end of the room. They didn’t latch well and would sometimes come open again when you closed the other door. Makes a little girl kinda nervous (maybe some big girls too). The laundry room was of course, not a place for kids, but we always had to peek in and look for some A & W bottles. If there was any chance of getting root beer floats, there was Root Beer in the laundry room. 

Out of the twelve of us grandkids, probably all but the last four of us can remember this house. No doubt, Grandma had a few of these memories I've shared and many others too, as she watched them all go up in flames. 

Sunday, February 14, 2021

"The Secret of Better Health and Happiness is Keeping Busy"


Allie Bell in her yard, undated photo from the late 1940's

For Mrs. Cicero Bell It Has Been A Good Year For Vegetables And Fruit

Mrs. Cicero Bell, though 83 years young, is one of Aurora's most enthusiastic gardeners, both in vegetables and fruit. And she always finds time to raise an abundance of pretty flowers.

This season it seems peach trees are synonymous to a peach crop, and here again Mrs. Bell is up with the best of them with a peach crop. She has seven or eight trees, some of which produced early peaches, others of the very large and choice variety were picked late last week and still other trees are standing with their broken limbs loaded with lucious fruit. The boys propped up many of the large limbs to the best of their ability but when those big main branches hang so loaded it is hard to do much about it. As a result one of the big trees has the two main limbs broken high in the tree. The peaches will finish ripening but this is the last crop one or more of the trees will have.

Mrs. Bell has harvested quite a crop, giving her sons several bushels. She sold the rest, after canning all she can use. The super large fruit, she doled out by the pound so that many of her friends might have a few. Your writer can vouch for their quality and size. They averaged about three-fourths pound each.

Peaches are only one of her crops this year. Early there were nice cherries and choice summer apples. She had a better than average crop of strawberries and raspberries.

Long a producer of fine tomatoes, Mrs. Bell put her plants out very early and as a result she picked bushels of choice tomatoes, which had matured well in advance of the extreme heat of late June. They are gone now but numerous Aurora housewives have these tomatoes canned for later use.

Mrs. Bell made numerous entries at the county fair, not only fresh fruit but several cans of fruits, vegetables and jellies. She relates that she received some prizes but she didn't know just how many.

In her pleasant little cottage at 1505-13th St., Mrs. Bell keeps busy and happy the year around. Along with taking care of the garden, she always has a variety of colorful annuals and perennials, as well as climbing vines.

When the winter season arrives, Mrs. Bell turns to other interests - handwork of many kinds. She is especially enthusiastic about braided and crocheted rugs. These occupy her time largely until its time to garden again.

A few years ago she had a severe and lenghtly illness, but she has over come this and finds the secret of better health and happiness in keeping busy. She has several sons and their wives in the community who keep a watchful and affectionate eye on "Mom". 

Aurora News-Register, September 10, 1954 

Friday, December 4, 2020

I Miss Family Dinners


COVID-19 put a stop on any plans for Easter dinner. Family reunions in the summer were all cancelled. No Thanksgiving dinner. Christmas is not likely, and we will be staying home for New Year's Eve. I'm very grateful that I have not had to deal with COVID personally. But the news has been been so overwhelming at times, so I turned to old newspapers online for more interesting reading. I've found lots of trivial family news in the social columns of the past.

My Great Grandparents, Cicero and Allie Bell, were parents of a total of seven sons. Frank and G O (Oren) were sons of Cicero and his first wife. J W (Bill) Vickrey was Allie's son from her first marriage. In 1901 after both were widowed, they married and had Ben, Ed, Stanley and Virgil. About 1923, most of the family moved to Hamilton County, Nebraska from Jewell County, Kansas. Depending on the year, Oren, Bill and Virgil each may have had to drive in from out of state for family get-togethers.

We have had many family gatherings in the past where some people were unable to be there. Very often they were celebrating with the other side of their family. In this clipping from 1942 at Thanksgiving, it states "All joined in a prayer for those absent because of sickness, and for the boys in service." I'm thankful at least we're not at war right now. At the time of this dinner a few of the grandsons of Cicero and Allie were serving in WWII. Cicero was living in a nursing home, and Frank is not mentioned. Mr and Mrs Bill Dieckman are Ben's wife's parents.

Aurora News-Register, December 11, 1942

In 1943 the Bell family gathered for Christmas at the Grandparents home in Aurora. Two families weren't there, Oren's from Oklahoma and Bill's from Kansas. Cicero and Allie were blessed with 9 grandsons and 9 granddaughters.

Republican-Register, Aurora, NE December 31, 1943

I admit I had to lookup "Salmagundi", and I believe these dinners were the type of the second definition, "a general mixture, a miscellaneous collection". I've been having salmagundi dinners all my life! How did such a great word get dethroned by "pot luck"? 

This clipping says "all of her boys" but Bill, Frank and Oren weren't there. 

Aurora News-Register, December 30, 1949

"Those things mean so much to a shutin." Can't we all relate to that this year! 

Aurora News-Register, January 13, 1950

This big family reunion with the families of Cicero Bell and his sister, Laura Alcorn must have been quite a production. I'll bet the instrumental number by my Mom and her sister was a clarinet and saxaphone duet. From the list of where everyone came from, it looks like Oren's family didn't make the trip from Oklahoma.

Aurora News-Register, September 11, 1955

For Christmas 1955, my Grandparents hosted dinner for Grandma's parents, brother and Uncle Bill. Not mentioned were my Mom and her sister and brothers. This would have been in the same farmhouse where I had my first several Christmas dinners with this family. Great Grandma McGrath and Uncle Bill Negley were gone before I came along, but Uncle Virgil was at all of our family events, often with his movie camera.

Aurora News-Register, December 30, 1955

All of these events were before my time. I don't know if any of these people had a camera to take snapshots, but they would be priceless. These clippings are fund to read, but I think they are making me miss family even more.  When this pandemic is over I'm gonna host a big ole' salmagundi dinner! 

Sunday, November 1, 2020

Last Will & Testament of "Joe Tunk" Spalding, 1939

Last week I posted the Will of William T Spalding. This week I have his son Joe's will dated May 31, 1939. Joe's son Marcus is my daughter's Great Grandfather. Mark Spalding married Cora Lula Spalding, whose Grandfather John Austin Spalding is a brother of William T Spalding. Mark and Cora were second cousins, both Grand Grandchildren of Richard A Spalding and Henrietta Thompson.

Joseph Spalding married Harriet Elizabeth "Bettie" Thomas and together they had 9 children. Both Bettie and son Leroy Spalding died November 26, 1896. Joe Tunk died on January 6, 1945, his entire life was spent in the Calvary, Marion County, Kentucky area. He is buried beside his wife in Holy Name of Mary Cemetery at Calvary. 

Children of Joe & Bettie Spalding:

  • Mary Louise (1880-1953) married James F Mills 
  • Stella Josephine (1881-1972) married William "Spalding" Robinson 
  • William Thomas (1883-1885)
  • Mary Edith (1884-1972)
  • Marcus Thomas (1886-1950)
  • Susan Frances (1888-1973) married Samuel Ford
  • Annie Cora (1890-1983)
  • Mary Eugenia (1892-1966) Sr Rebecca
  • Leroy (1896-1896)

  • "Kentucky Probate Records, 1727-1990," FamilySearch (, Marion Will records, 1932-1949, Vol. 4 

Last Will & Testament of Joseph Spalding

I, Joe Spalding, residing at Calvary, Marion County, Kentucky, being of sound mind and Memory, do make and publish this as my last will and testament.

ITEM 1: I direct my Executrix and Executor, hereinafter named, to pay and satisfy in full all my just debts and liabilities.

ITEM 2: I give and bequeath to my daughter, known in religion as Sister Rebecca, of the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth, the sum of One Hundred ($100.00) Dollars to do with as she pleases. I give this to my said daughter as a slight remembrance of the love and affection that I bear towards her.

ITEM 3: The balance of my estate, of every kind and character, real and personal, I give, devise and bequeath, to my four children, Edith Spalding, Marcus Spalding, Susan Spalding Ford and Cora Spalding, conditioned, however, that these four children shall pay jointly the sum of Two Thousand ($2000.00) Dollars to each of my other two children, to-wit:

Lou Spalding Mills, and Stella Robinson. When this payment is made, that is, when Lou Spalding Mills and Stella Robinson shall each receive the sum of Two Thousand ($2000.00) Dollars, then my said four children, to-wit: Edith, Marcus, Susan and Cora, shall own jointly, in fee, my said estate.

ITEM 4: I hereby appoint my daughter, Edith Spalding, Executrix, and my son Marcus Spalding, Executor, of this will, and request that they be permitted to qualify as such without giving any surety upon their official bond, hereby giving and granting to my said Executrix and Executor full power and authority to sell and transfer, by proper deeds of conveyance, any real estate I may own, my said Executrix and Executor shall serve without compensation.

I have endeavored to make this a fail and just will as to all my children, who, in any manner, might be dependent upon me and hole that each of them will so consider it,

Given under my hand this 31st day of May, 1939.

Joseph Spalding

Signed and acknowledged by the testator as his will in our presence and signed by us as witnesses, at his request, in his presence and in the presence of each other.

This 31 day of May, 1939

Henry G Boldrick

Chas C Boldrick

At a Special Term of the Marion County Court, held in and for said County on the 11 day of January, 1945, the foregoing paper purporting to be the last will and testament of Joseph Spalding, deceased, was produced in open Court and proven by the testimony of the two attesting witnesses thereto, to-wit: Henry G Boldrick and Chas C Boldrick, and the Court being advised ordered and directed that said paper be established as the last will and testament of the said Joseph Spalding, probated as such and ordered to be recorded which is done accordingly, whereupon I have recorded it, and this certificate - 

Given under my hand this 12 day of January 1945 -

I M Gray, Clerk, M C C 

Sunday, October 25, 2020

Last Will & Testament of William T Spalding, 1880

At the age of 62, William T. Spalding, otherwise known as "William Tunk", wrote out his will. His wife was 48 and his children were between the ages of 39 and 13. His son, "Joe Tunk", is my daughter's second Great Grandfather. The will, dated December 4, 1880, was written only 3 months before his death on March 6, 1881. He spent his entire life in Marion County, Kentucky and was buried in the Holy Name of Mary Cemetery. A transcription of the will is below the photo.

William Tunk's family as I have it:

from his first marriage to Amanda Jarboe

  • Anna Emma Spalding (1841-1891), married Joshua Green Abell in 1839
  • Mary Alice Spalding (1843-1864), never married 
  • Catherine "Kit" Spalding (1845-1910), married Charles Preston Luckett in 1866

with his second wife, Mary Louisa Abell

  • Amanda Ann Spalding (1850-1910), married Henry Luckett 
  • Jane Florine Spalding (1852-1920), married James Robinson 
  • Martha Henrietta (1854-1925), married George Washington Spalding 
  • Elizabeth Rosina (1856-1919), married John Bernard Thomas 
  • Joseph T Spalding (1858-1945), married Harriett Elizabeth Thomas 
  • Susan Frances Spalding (1860-?)
  • Martin John Spalding (1864-1951)
  • Alice May Spalding (1867-1957), married Joseph A Spalding 
  • Richard Clement Spalding (1869-1870)
  • Mary Lillian Spalding (1871-1871)

"Kentucky Probate Records, 1727-1990," database w/ images, FamilySearch (, Marion > Will records, 1863-1890, Vol. 1 > image 190 of 553; county courthouses, Kentucky.
"Kentucky Probate Records, 1727-1990," FamilySearch (, Marion Will records, 1863-1890, Vol. 1; county courthouses, Kentucky

Will of Wm T Spalding

In the name of God amen. I William T Spalding of Marion County Kentucky being sound of mind, do make this my last Will and Testament.

1st I will my soul to God who grave it, and my body to the Earth from whence it came.

2nd I will to the Pastor of Calvary church one hundred dollars to say masses for my poor soul.

3rd I will to my beloved wife Leweaser all my Estate during her life. And at her death I will to my two sons Joseph Spalding and Martin John Spalding all my landed Estate to be equally divided between them. I will the land to them at Five thousand dollars, and they are to pay back to the Estate One thousand each when they come in possession of said land.

4th I will that my said two sons to manage the Farm during the life time of my beloved wife at the price they may agree upon.

5th I will that my Daughter Amanda Luckett and children shall have a home on the farm during her single life.

6th My children that have not been married. I want them to receive the same as the others that are married, including Joseph, who is married.

7th I leave my wife my sole administratrix without Bond or administration. This 4th day of Dec.r 1880

William T Spalding

T M Bickett

Henry Abell

State of Kentucky }

Marion County

At a county court held in and for said county on the 4th day of April 1881, the foregoing paper preporting to be the last Will and Testament of William T Spalding dec’d was produced in open court and proven by the oaths of Henry Abell & T M Bickett the two attesting witnesses thereto. And ordered to be recorded as the last Will and testament of William T Spalding Dec’d.

Whereupon I have recorded it & this certificate.

This July 14th, 1881

John Severance, Clk

Friday, September 25, 2020

Friday's Faces from the Past - Gertrude Fifield's Boy


"Leroy Benjamin Hopkins, Age 10 mo." is written on the back of this photograph which really helped me learn why this photo was included in the collection of old photos once belonging to my Negley ancestors of Eldorado, Clay County, Nebraska. It was easy to trace Leroy through census records and I found the connection with his mother, Gertrude Fifield. 

Gertrude was born in 1896 in Nebraska and lived in Eldorado at least through 1910. She was about 16 years younger than my Great Grandmother Sadie (Negley) McGrath, but I've learned that Sadie and/or her sister Alice were Sunday School teachers at the Eldorado Methodist Church. Gertrude could easily have been one of their students. If not through church, Eldorado was a small enough village that everyone knew everyone, so it's no doubt the Fifield's were acquainted with the Negley's. 

Gertrude's father Edward ran a general store, mother Sylvia was caretaker for her and her siblings Ralph, Otis, Earnest, Everett, Irene and Sylvia. Edward & Sylvia were very likely well acquainted with my Second Great Grandparents, Josiah & Sarah Negley.

Gertrude married Benjamin Hopkins and they moved to Logan County, Nebraska. Together they had four children, Leroy, Verlon, Eugene and Edna. In an earlier edition of my Friday's Faces, I posted a photo of an infant marked with the name "Edna" with no surname, maybe she is Edna Hopkins. 

Leroy was born in Stapleton on July 24, 1918 according to his WWII Draft registration, so this photo was taken about 1919/1920. He married Helen Elmira Foster in 1940. Leroy & Helen were the parents of eight sons: Frank, Robert, Larry, James, Ronald, Richard, William and Gregory. Leroy died in 2015 in Seaside, Oregon and was brought back to Nebraska for burial in the Aurora Cemetery. 

It was nice of Gertrude to keep in touch with her friends the Negley's after she moved away. I'd like to return the favor. I would be happy to get Leroy's photo back into the hands of his family. If you are a relative of Leroy Hopkins and would like to have the original of this photo, please leave a comment or send me an email. 

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Uncle Orville

His birth day was April 20, 1914, this photo is marked "Orville, 7 weeks". Orville Callahan was the third child of Art & Sadie McGrath. He joined his older brother and sister, Virgil and Alice at home in Eldorado, Nebraska. Little sister Violet, my Grandma, came along three years later. Orville lived in Eldorado just a few years, by 1910 the family moved to Aurora where he attended school, his name appearing on the honor roll multiple times. In high school he received a Remington certificate for his typing skills. 

He displayed some acting skills as well. In the Junior Class play "Take My Advice" at Aurora High School, Orville was "very good" as Kerry Van Kind according to the review in the Aurora newspaper. The Senior class play was "The Ghost Parade", Orville played a character named simply "Jones".  He graduated from Aurora High School with the Class of 1932.
The Aurorean, 1932, courtesy of

In June, 1933 he enrolled in the Civilian Conservation Corps at Fort Crook in Omaha. He served in Chadron for one year and worked as a grocery clerk, a plumber and was also tasked with exterminating prairie dogs. For his service he received $30 per month plus room and board, the requirement was that he send $22-25 of that home to his parents. He got to go home for Christmas.

After his CCC service, he joined his brother Virg working in the Produce & Feed Store in Aurora. At age 26, he decided to further his education and in 1940 moved to Washington, DC to attend the Benjamin Franklin University, a school of "accountancy". Maybe it was an ad like this that caught his attention.
Evening Star, Washington DC, January 7, 1940

A year later he started his career with the US Government, which was interrupted by his service in 
World War II. He was involved in the action at Omaha Beach on June 6, 1944. My attempt to have his service file retrieved was unsuccessful, it may have been one that burned in a fire at the National Archives.

While in DC, he met Ethel Jaeschke, who had been married to Revedy McPherson whom she divorced. She was employed in the US Treasury Department. She wouldn't like it if I mentioned that she was older than Orville. I remember Aunt Ethel, I liked her, she sent me birthday cards. So I won't say how much older she was (but she was 3 in 1910.)

On Friday, the 23rd of August, 1946 Orville and Ethel tied the knot in Baltimore, Maryland. The ceremony location is not given, they possibly went before a Judge. No one from Uncle Orville's side of the family made the trip as far as I know. I'm not sure when they heard about this event - before or after the fact. It wasn't mentioned in his hometown paper.

In 1951, Uncle Orville and Aunt Ethel moved to Denver, Colorado where he went to work as an auditor in the US General Accounting Office. For several years they lived at 1120 Jasmine Street, Denver. They didn't have any children.

Taken in Aurora, Nebraska in 1956, (L-R) Art, Orville, Sadie and Ethel McGrath

Orville was an active member of several fraternal organizations in the Denver area including the Dawn Chapter #125 Order of the Eastern Star, Rocky Mountain Consistory Scottish Rite Foundation, Colorado Commandery 1 of Knights Templar, Denver RAM Chapter 2 and past master and charter senior warder of Revelation Masonic Lodge 180. He was also a member of the Augustana Lutheran Church. 

On the evening of October 9, 1969 at just 55 years of age Uncle Orville died at his home at 755 S Alton Way, Denver, Colorado. Funeral services were held at Moore Mortuary in Colorado and then again at Higby Mortuary in Aurora, Nebraska. Masonic rites were conducted by the local Mason Lodge 68 AF & AM. His grave in the Aurora Cemetery is near his parents, who both preceded him in death, He was the first of his siblings to pass away. I have no specific memory of Uncle Orville, but I'm sure I saw him a few times. In every picture I have of him, he has a big smile just like in the one above.