Saturday, July 2, 2016

John Castek was early Superintendent at Whitney

Many mid-20th century rural school students in Dawes County will remember the name John Castek, who was a long-time Dawes County School Superintendent and also had served as superintendent at Whitney School.  His teaching chores included Latin, English, algebra, geometry and history.  He received his college preparatory training at Chadron Normal and earned his B.A. degree at the University of Nebraska.  He taught at Ardmore, S.D. before taking a job in Whitney, according to the 1942 "Souvenir Issue" of the Whitney "Shunga" school newspaper.  Born in 1894, John's parents immigrated from Moravia, the region now known as the Czech Republic, and they settled on land south of Chadron.  The elder Castek was also named John, and his biography was among those included in the 1909 Compendium of History Reminiscence and Biography of Western Nebraska distributed by the Alden Publishing Company of Chicago.  That biography is shared here.


John Castek, one of the prominent and successful farmers of Dawes county, Nebraska, comes of Bohemian stock, and is a worthy representative of the best traits of his race and blood.

He was born on a farm in Moravia in 1863. His father was a carpenter who lived and died in his native land. Our subject grew up there until he was sixteen years of age, then came to America, landing in New York city in June, 1880, and came west at once to Colfax county, Nebraska, following farm work in the eastern part of the state for several years.

In the spring of 1886 he moved to Dawes county, locating on his present farm, in section 31, township 31, range 48, and there built a dugout and hatched for awhile. His first team were oxen, and he owned a half interest in a plow and wagon, with which the farm was broken up and crops put in. Soon after coming here the drouths struck the section, and as he was unable to raise anything on his land he tried to sell out, offering his place for two hundred dollars, but even at that price could get no buyer so was compelled to stay. He kept on trying to improve his farm, and in '89 had the finest prospects for a good crop and was getting ready to harvest, when a hail storm struck the region and completely ruined his crop.

Mr. and Mrs. John Castek
The next year he took out hail insurance and mortgaged his team to pay the assessment, and was again hailed out, but when he tried to collect damage, he was unable to get a cent, but he kept on carrying insurance for several years, but for some reason dropped it one year, and that very year he was again completely hailed out, having this experience for four years altogether.

During late years he has raised good crops, and he has plenty of hay and pasture for his cattle of which he keeps a large number, most of the time having two hundred head, besides running them for other farmers. He has about nine horses and his range is admirably adapted to stock raising of all kinds.

In 1889 Mr. Castek was married to Miss Anny Potmesil, and she died June 16, 1896, leaving a family of two children, Francis, born August 14, 1892; and John, born September 6, 1894.

In 1898 Mr. Castek was married again, to Miss Jennie Kratochvil, born in Bohemia, daughter of Joseph Kratochvil. Mrs. Castek came to America in 1893 together with a sister, they coming to Chadron, Dawes county, Nebraska.

Mr. Castek spends all his time on his ranch building up his home, and is one of the well-to-do and progressive agriculturists in the county. He is a Republican, and keeps well up with the time in politics locally. He is a genial, whole-souled gentleman and is full of social qualities that bring him many friends. On another page of this volume will be found a picture of their residence and also portraits of Mr. and Mrs. Castek.


Note:  The younger John Castek received a good formal education, followed by teaching jobs in North Dakota, South Dakota.  He was selected Dawes County School Superintendent and served in that capacity for many years.  His wife, Mildred, was a long-time and well-known legal secretary in Chadron.  Their son, Jack, graduated from Chadron High School in 1961 and also pursued a long and successful career in education.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Early years of Irrigation District revisited

Chadron Record publishing a five-part series about Whitney Irrigation District

Workers toil during installation of the White River diversion line west of Whitney Lake (1923-25)

We were contacted a few weeks ago about sharing several Whitney Irrigation District photographs we'd posted in Whitney Reflections photo galleries some years back.  The caller was Kerri Rempp, editor for the Chadron Record, who alerted us to a series of five stories she's authoring about the "creation and struggles" of the irrigation district in its early years.

A couple of the stories already have been published in the Record, and we're providing links to them from this Whitney Reflections website.  And as each part of this series appears online, we'll provide a link to the story.  You'll find those links displayed at the top of the column on the right side of this page.

Kerri has done a good job poring through and making sense of the old irrigation district documents, including the considerable works assembled by George Lawrence.  We think you'll enjoy her stories and encourage you to read each of the five parts in the series.
And if you have a hankering to look at more pictures, check out the Construction Photos we posted a few years ago.  There's also a separate but equally interesting gallery of "Other WID area photos."

Monday, February 1, 2016

Long-time area farmer Milton Arner passes away

Another life-long Dawes County resident has died.  Milton Arner passed away Wednesday, January 27, 2016.  Below is his obituary as it appeared on the Chamberlain Chapel website. 

Funeral services for Milton E. Arner, 90, of Whitney, Nebraska are Wednesday, February 3, 2016 at 1:00 PM at Chamberlain Chapel in Chadron with Dr. Russ Seger officiating. Burial at Crawford Cemetery. 

Milton passed away on January 27, 2016. 

Milton Everett Arner was born May 11, 1925, at the Arner homestead north of Crawford, Nebraska to Lloyd and Bessie Pearl Arner. He was the second to the youngest child of seven. Milton and Wilma (Baker) Arner were married December 30, 1947, by the Justice of the Peace. To this union there were three children: Darlene, Carma, and Steve. 

In 1951 they purchased a farm two and a half miles east of Whitney. The place they called home for 64 years. Milton was a farmer all of his life raising hogs, cattle, wheat, corn, and alfalfa. Milton was a member of the USDA Farm Service Agency and predecessors for more than 35 years. He was on the Whitney Irrigation Board for 20 years and on the Whitney School Board. Milton was a member of the Crawford Eagles Club. 

Survivors include his daughter, Darlene Cottier and her husband Terry of Leander, Texas. His son Steve and wife Diana of Whitney, Nebraska. Grandchildren: Heather Cottier of Dallas, Texas-Scott Cottier and wife Angie of Austin, Texas-Chadd Arner of Chadron, Nebraska-Nikki Daringer and husband John of Chadron, Nebraska. Great-Grandchildren: Cash Daringer of Chadron and Katherine Cottier of Austin, Texas. Special Friend: Sheila Green of Crawford, Nebraska Sister-in-laws: Leona Brown of Hot Springs, South Dakota and Betty Arner of Arizona. 

Milton was preceded in death by his parents, his wife Powered by: Wilma, daughter Carma and husband Bob, his siblings: Cora, Elwin, Don, Roland, Cal, Vi. 

A memorial has been established to the Crawford Eagles Club. Donations may be sent to Chamberlain Chapel, PO Box 970, Chadron, NE 69337. 

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Services held for long-time resident Mary Daniels

Editor's Note:  We were saddened at the news last month that our long-time friend Mary Daniels of Whitney had passed away.  For anyone who has ever lived in Whitney, and many  who attended school in the the Whitney-Crawford-Chadron area during much of the mid-to-late 1900's, Mary was likely no stranger.  Her roots in Whitney were deep, and she was a kind contributor of information and photos to our Whitney Reflections website.  Whether it was school, church, or community, Mary etched her mark into the history of Whitney, Nebraska.      ~~Larry Miller, Editor

Mary Daniels (1917-2015)
Memorial services for Mary E. Daniels, age 98, of Whitney, NE were held Saturday, November 21, 2015 at the Whitney Methodist Church with her nephews Dr. Byron Klaus of Blue Eye, MO and Reverend Merlyn Klaus of Omaha, NE officiating.

Inurnment followed in the Whitney Cemetery.

A memorial has been established. Donations may be sent to Chamberlain Chapel, PO Box 970, Chadron, NE 69337.

Online condolences can be made at

Mary passed away peacefully in the care of Ponderosa Villa in CrawfordNE on October 30, 2015. She is survived by sister Martha Klaus of SpringfieldMO, sister-in-law Beverly Daniels of LexingtonNE, numerous nieces and nephews; and numerous great-nieces and great-nephews. She was preceded in death by parents Jake and Anna Daniels and brothers Elvin and Leo Daniels.

Mary, a lifelong resident of the Nebraska Panhandle, was born in the brand-new farm home of her grandparents, John and Elizabeth Gobel, in GeringNE on June 21, 1917. She was the first child of Jake and Anna Gobel Daniels. 

The family moved to Dawes County in 1921, eventually settling in the town of Whitney, where her parents purchased a farm in the Whitney Irrigation District. 

A graduate of Chadron State College, Mary had a career as an educator that spanned five decades, all of that in Dawes County. Mary taught in rural school districts, and in the Chadron and Crawford school districts, teaching everything from Senior High English to Kindergarten. Multiple generations of Dawes County students were influenced by Mary’s teaching efforts. In fact, Mary loved teaching so much that even after retiring, she was a substitute in various schools for another 15 years. 

A devout Christian, Mary was involved in numerous volunteer activities in the Whitney Methodist Church, and also served with the Nebraska United Methodist Women and the Christian Women’s Club in Chadron.

Mary lived in the Whitney area most of her adult life, moving to Ponderosa Villa in Crawford in 2011, where she spent her remaining years.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Investing in the old Whitney water system

Long before the Whitney Irrigation District was formed in 1922, giving rise to optimism that a lake and extensive system of irrigation ditches would transform the region, there was a serious and continuing need for a reliable local water system.

This 1920 stock certificate issued to  William Hitchcock was the fifth such certificate issued by the Whitney Water System.   According to Mabel (Burkitt) Kendrick's book Still Alive and Well — Whitney, Nebraska, a community water system was first created in 1911.  Wells were dug near White River on the south side of Whitney, and a wooden water tower was constructed nearby.  It would be nearly a decade before a new and larger metal tank would replace the wooden structure, and that meant years of having to deal with problems of frozen pipes, manual pumps, and a limited storage capacity.

The 1920 stock issue was likely intended to help maintain and perhaps fortify the rather archaic system that was in place.   This certificate was signed by two familiar names in Whitney history:  Tom Holding, listed as secretary of the system, and W. M. Burkitt, president.  Burkitt was the father of Mabel Kendrick.

Mabel wrote that "…even though the wells were near the river, the water was very hard and strangers disliked its taste, but residents were used to it.  Nearly every home had a rain barrel under an eave spout.  At hair washing time, water was dipped from the barrel, strained through a cloth to remove mosquito larvae and heated on the range."

About a half century later, in 1975, Whitney was connected to a rural pipeline that transported water from wells in the Pine Ridge hills south of Whitney.  Water meters were installed in 1985.

For a closer look at this certificate — and more Whitney Reflections images — visit our Whitney Reflections Gallery.

(Thanks to Jeanette [Couch] Potloff for sharing this certificate with Whitney Reflections.)

Friday, June 12, 2015

Whitney is on the map again!

(Nearly two years ago, we posted this tongue-in-cheek story about the creation of "Greater Nebraska Territory," the brain-child of the late Mike Cartwright, our friend who passed away last month (5/22/15) in Whitney.  Many folks well remember Mike, who was as a good friend and a great teacher, as a man who never forgot his roots.  And he did have a sense of humor, when he proclaimed Cora's Place in Whitney as the capital of Greater Nebraska Territory!)

It's been almost four score and a decade since Whitney was a bustling community in the Nebraska panhandle -- a frontier town that boasted a bevy of businesses.  Simply put, its star was ascending and the future was bright in the early 20th century!

But following a disastrous fire in 1927, the wrath of the "Dirty 30's," and relocation of U.S. Highway 20 some years later, Whitney endured a sharp decline.   Nonetheless, even as recently as 25 years ago, in the wake of Mabel Kendrick's publishing of her book Still Alive and Well - Whitney, Nebraska, there were still vestiges of pride in this little village.  But still, the erosion has festered.

But the times are-a-changing!  One of the recent bright spots was the opening two years ago of Cora's Place, a quaint coffee shop on Missouri Street in the heart of Whitney.  Offering antiques, books, and coffee, perhaps its most important quality has been a spirit of "never say die!"  Whitney native Michael Cartwright, a long-time college professor and administrator, opened Cora's Place in August of 2011.  Its name is a tribute to his grandmother.

Maintaining residences in both Lincoln and Whitney, Mike and his wife, Jeanetta, have not only sustained Cora's Place, but we learned during a visit earlier this month that they now offer a tasty sandwich for those who may have a bit of an appetite.  But still, their real product is a cozy environment where locals and visitors can congregate at mid-day to enjoy some classic vinyl music, read a book or magazine, grab a bite, have some coffee, and most importantly -- bask in a bit of warm fellowship.

But now add a dash of tongue-in-cheek politics.  Conversations may divert to a rekindled notion of west Nebraska autonomy.  But wait a minute -- that notion has expanded to something that has a rather nice ring to it: Greater Nebraska Territory!  The map above shows the lay of the new political landscape, and Greater Nebraska seems to be accorded its proper position relative to both Baja Nebraska and the far eastern provinces Where the East Peters Out.  The map and related posters appear to have been the handiwork of Mike Cartwright and some of his confederates.

As fate would have it, Whitney has been declared the Territorial Capital of Greater Nebraska, and Cora's Place at 3305 Missouri Street seems to be the seat of the virtually non-existent government.

What's wrong with that?  


We'll try to publish political postings as Greater Nebraska Territory evolves, including updates on the Territory's "No-Coast Coast Guard," which provides all necessary protection from heathen forces in the alien lands that surround our beloved territory.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Naomi McCafferty passes away at age 90

A private memorial service will be held for Naomi Joyce Howard McCafferty, age 90, of WhitneyNE. Friends of the family are invited to join the family at 3:00 PM on Friday, June 5, 2015 at the Howard Homestead, 141 Whitney Spur, for coffee and cookies.
Naomi’s cremains will be buried at the Whitney Cemetery
A memorial has been established. Donations may be given to the James and Naomi McCafferty Scholarship Fund, Chadron Community Foundation, 100 Main StreetChadronNE69337.
Naomi Howard McCafferty passed away on Sunday, May 31, 2015 
at Crest View Care Center in ChadronNE. She was born March 30, 1925 in WhitneyNE, the only child of William N. Howard and Irene Goodell Howard. She attended Whitney School for most of her primary and secondary education. At the age of seven, she was completely paralyzed by polio and attended third grade at the Nebraska Orthopedic Hospital in Lincoln while rehabilitating. Seven years later, she was again paralyzed with polio and took her sophomore year of high school by correspondence through the University of Nebraska. She graduated in 1942 from Whitney High School.
After taking a year off from her education, she enrolled at Chadron State College, where she majored in physics and graduated with a Bachelor's of Arts degree in 1947. During her senior year, she taught physics at Chadron High School and was a Science Lab Assistant at CSC from 1947-1955. 

(Note: The above photo was taken during Naomi's years as a Lab Assistant at Chadron State College.  With Naomi (at left) are long-time faculty members Dr. Lyle Andrews and Minnie Lichte.  Photo courtesy of Shelley McCafferty and Con Marshall)
While attending CSC, Naomi was courted by James S. McCafferty, a chemistry major from Alliance. In 1950, Naomi and Jim were married at the Whitney United Methodist Church, and they resided on the Howard homestead just outside Whitney. In addition to raising their four children, Naomi and Jim cared for foster children and invited various college students to reside in their home. Naomi cared for her parents, William and Irene Howard, until they passed away in 1976 and 1958, respectively. After Jim’s retirement from Chadron State College, they often traveled with their children and grandchildren, in whom they took great pride.
Although her affliction with polio left her physically diminished and relying on crutches most of her life, Naomi was driven to care for her family, contribute to the community, and make improvements to the Howard homestead. She served on the Whitney School board for multiple terms and was active in the Whitney Methodist Church. She frequently called upon and assisted elderly members of the community. Eventually Naomi became reliant on a wheelchair, and in 2006, she and Jim joined Chadron United Methodist Church, which was accessible to the handicapped.
Naomi was preceded in death by husband James Steven McCafferty and parents William and Irene Howard.
She is survived by children James Duff (Ro) McCafferty of Rapid City, SD, Howard Martin McCafferty of Iowa City, IA, Steven Todd (Carol) McCafferty of Iowa City, IA, and Shelley McCafferty of Whitney; grandchildren Jennifer (Andrew) Webb of Fort Collins, CO, Michael (Melissa) McCafferty of Oceanside, CA, Kaitlin (Nick) Stoysich of Omaha, NE, Ryan McCafferty of Omaha, NE, and Nolan McCafferty and Alayna McCafferty, both of Iowa City, IA; and great-grandchildren Adler Day Webb and Zander James McCafferty.