Friday, May 8, 2020

Another early image of Whitney...

This photograph of Whitney, Nebraska is one of the earliest we've ever seen – likely taken just before the end of the 19th century.  It was among a small collection of photos belonging to Marie (Miller) Derrick.

We've added a higher resolution version of this photograph to our Whitney Reflections Gallery, along with several other new images.  The one above was captured, we believe, between about 1890 and 1900.  Both the Whitney School and Warring Methodist-Episcopal Church were built in the late 1880s and can be seen in the background at the upper right.

Although we've had these photos for many years, this one – along with a couple of dozen other images – we've only recently begun sorting through them and examining them more closely.  It's an eclectic collection with a few family pictures, and it includes many taken in Whitney and the surrounding area during the  Blizzard of 1949

Not all of these "new" photos have captions, and in many instances the captions are a bit terse.  Full captions will be "coming soon."   We hope you find time to visit the gallery!

Thursday, April 30, 2020

Remembering the Howard family of Whitney

It was almost five years ago – 31 May, 2015 – that long-time Whitney resident Naomi Howard McCafferty passed away at age 90.  Her husband, Jim McCafferty, died in 2012.  
Naomi was the granddaughter of Dawes County pioneer John F. Howard and his wife Elizabeth.  
Howard family marker - Whitney Cemetery
According to a Howard family profile that was written by Naomi for the 1985 book, Dawes County Nebraska – The First 100 Years – John Howard first came to Dawes County in 1885. He "batched" it before bringing his family to the area south of Whitney two years later.  
It was there that John  established a successful farming operation and raised his family. His son William would later take over the place, marrying local school teacher Irene Goodell.  The Howard family donated a parcel of land to Whitney for a cemetery.  Mother Elizabeth Howard died in 1905 and was the first person to be buried in the new cemetery.
In March of 1925, John Howard died.  Five months later, his granddaughter Naomi Joyce was born to "Will" and Irene Howard and was their only child.
What follows is a biographical sketch of John F. Howard as it appeared in the 1909 publication Compendium of History, Reminiscence & Biography of Western Nebraska.


John F. Howard, residing in Whitney, Dawes county, is one of the oldest settlers in western Nebraska, and by his efforts he has aided materially in the development of the agricultural and commercial resources of his county. Mr. Howard is a gentleman of most estimable character, highly respected in the community and one of the leading old-timers of the section.
Mr. Howard was born in Clark county, Missouri, in December, 1839. His father, Isaac Howard, was of old American stock, born and raised in Virginia, who married Miss Elizabeth Morris, of Kentucky, the latter dying April 7, 1907, at the advanced age of eighty-nine years and five months. At this writing the father is still living in Iowa and is ninety years old. Our subject's grandfather and great-grandfather were also American born, the latter serving in the Revolutionary War.

When our subject was twelve years of age the family moved to Iowa, where he grew to manhood on a farm, helping his parents in all the hard work of building up a farm and home in a new country, and attending the country schools where he received his early education, later attending college at Birmingham, Iowa. Our subject enlisted in Company H, Third Iowa Cavalry, August 15, 1861, served during the war. being first mustered out January 1, 1864, and then re-entering the service was finally mustered out August 9, 1865. 

Mr. Howard, was truly a war veteran, seeing service though Georgia and Alabama and all through the south and west. He started farming in Iowa in 1866 and remained there up to 1885, then came to Dawes county, filing on a homestead in section 1, township 32, range 51. At that time the railroad was only laid as far as Chadron. He spent three years here, starting his farm, and "batching it," part of the time working at the carpenter's trade, his first house being a plank shanty 12 x 14 in size and lived in this shack for two years, then his family joined him here and they built up a good home and farm. 

In Iowa Mr. Howard was a pioneer and handled ox teams, leading a regular frontierman's (sic) life, then came to Nebraska and went through the same experiences, so that nearly his entire lifetime has been spent in building up a new country. In Iowa he lived in different counties, - Van Buren, Madison and Warren county. 

After coming to Nebraska he met with failures of crops, caused by drouths, and had many discouragements, but has succeeded in accumulating a nice property, and owns one thousand two hundred acres of land, which includes a son's homestead. He cultivates sixty acres, and has a seventy-acre field of alfalfa, engaging quite extensively in stock raising, running seventy head of cattle and fourteen horses. His place is well improved with good buildings, fences, etc., and he has plenty of timber, water and fruit.

Mr. Howard is now serving as assessor for his district. He has been justice of the peace for several years, also on the school board for sixteen years, and was one of the organizers of different schools in his section. He is a strong Republican.

Mr. Howard was united in marriage in Iowa in 1867, to Miss Elizabeth Moore, daughter of Littleton L. Moore, a retired farmer and old settler in Van Buren county. Mrs. Howard was born in Ohio in 1845, and she died in Dawes county May 28. 1905. leaving a family of seven children, named as follows: Walter C., Minnie M., Lula M., Arthur E., Earl V., William N., and Mabel (deceased).

(NOTE:  Thanks to Jim Sheaffer of Chadron for the photograph of the Howard family marker located in the Whitney Cemetery – and for the thousands of other photos he has provided over the years to the Nebraska Gravestone Photo Project, now containing more than 326,000 images!)

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.)