Friday, May 28, 2021

Equally Divided to all My Lawful Heirs

William Mann wrote out his last will and testament on May 1st, 1903. Just over two years later he passed away from heart failure on August 29, 1905 at age 75. Surviving him were his second wife Mary and seven adult children. 

The lots mentioned in his will in Milliken's Subdivision, Beatrice, Nebraska were located between Scott and Linn streets to the North and South, and Sumner and Bluff streets East and West. $500 in 1905 is the equivalent of over $14,500 today. When the estate was settled two years later his children received an additional $175 each, which would compare to nearly $5000 today1. His step-daughter Nancy may have felt things were not exactly "equally divided", but there were no legal objections.  A transcription of the will follows the images.

"William Mann of Beatrice Gage County and State of Nebraska, being of sound mind and memory, do make, Publish, and declare this to be my last Will and testament, here by revoking all former Wills by me at any time heretofore made, and as to my worldly Estate and all the Property, Real Personal, or mixed, of, I shall die seized and Posessed or to which I shall be entitled at the time of my decease, I devise, bequeath and dispose thereof in the manner following, to wit - 

My Will is, that all my just debts and furnal expences shall by paid my Executors herein after named, to be paid out of my possessions whatever it may be Money or otherwise as soon after my Decease as shall by then be found convenient

I give devise and Bequeath to my Beloved Wife Mary Mann all my Household goods my Horse and Buggy and Buggy Harness, and also my City Property as follows, Situated in Millikens Subdivision an addition to the City of Beatrice Gage County and State of Nebraska - containing two (2) Lots 53, and 39, with its improvements to have full use and all profits from said property, as long as she may live or until her Death, after her death - the Property shall be sold and equally divided to all my lawful heirs. I give to my Beloved Wife Mary Mann five hundred Dollars 500.00 in Cash - then in the following manner I give to my Daughter Effie Camp five hundred Dollars in Cash 500.00 I give to my Daughter Ada Johnson five hundred Dollars 500.00 Cash I give to my Son Clarence Mann five hundred Dollars $500.00 in Cash my son William B Mann and Son Horace Mann have received each $500.00 beforehand

I give to my Son Oscar M Mann two hundred and fifty Dollars $250.00 in Cash having had two Hundred and fifty beforehand - I wish to give my Stepdaughter Mrs Jane Camp two hundred Dollars $200.00 in Cash all the and residue of my Estate real personal and mixed of which I shall die seized and possessed or to which I shall be entitled at my decease I give devise and bequeath, to be equally divided between all my lawful Heirs, please understand me in this (Will) I have let my conscience guide me to the best of my understanding and lastly I do nominate and appoint my said Son William B Mann, and my Son in Law W H Camp to be my Executors of this my last Will and Testament, In witness whereof, I the said William Mann have to this my last Will and Testament, consisting of one sheet of paper subscribed my name and affixed my Seal this first day of May One Thousand Nine Hundred and Three,

Signed, Sealed, Published, and declared by the said William Mann

William Mann, as and for his last Will and Testament, in the presence of us, who at his request and in his presence, and in the presence of each other, have subscribed our names as Witnesses thereunto.

William Mann {Seal}

George W Heikes Residing at Beatrice, Gage County, Nebr

Edwin J Maxwell Residing at Beatrice, Gage County, Nebr "


1 Inflation calculator by Morgan Friedman, accessed 5/28/2021.


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