Wednesday, October 18, 2023

The fascinating career of Russell Thompson

It was just about 90 years ago this fall that the Nebraska Cornhusker football team – under the leadership of coach Dana Bible – appeared to be on the threshold of a great season.  Alas, it wasn't a "great" year, but thanks in part to a newcomer to the team, Whitney's Russell "King Kong" Thompson, the Huskers wrapped up the season with a 6-3 record, and a respectable 4-1 record in the old Big 6 Conference.  It was his second year of playing college ball – his first year was played with what was then known as Chadron Teachers College.

The Chadron Journal headlined a story about Thompson's success with "Russell Thompson Makes Good on Cornhusker Team."  Thompson, who played tackle, stood 6ft. 4in. and checked in at 234 pounds, proved to be fast and agile for his size.  The paper observed that early in the season, Thompson had a "poor start because he lacked a thorough grounding in fundamentals and a noticeable absence of "fire."  

But he did a quick about-face and reportedly turned in brilliant performances against Missouri and Kansas.  "He is a coming star" said the Journal, noting that Thompson – dubbed "King Kong" – was a veritable stone wall on defense in the season finale against Missouri with the Huskers winning 13-6.    He also revealed an ability to block on offense, bringing "smiles to the Nebraska coaching staff."  Against Kansas, "the Jayhawks found this giant tackle impenetrable."  Nebraska won the game 3-0.

Thompson had played ball at Whitney High School, but newspaper stories say he transferred to Chadron High School, where, he played football and then one year with "Chadron Teachers College."    After being recruited by Nebraska, he played out his remaining three years of eligibility – lettering all three years.

In 1935, Georage Hallas, owner and coach of the Chicago Bears offered Thompson a contract for $90 per game.  He played four years for the Bears before playing his final pro football season with the Philadelphia Eagles.  He also played one season of semi-pro basketball.

Thompson married Mary Jo Norman in Whitney in 1941 before moving to Wyoming, where the couple ranched near Keeline.  He helped start the Niobrara Convservation District and also served in the Wyoming Legislature in 1981-82.  

Thompson died on February 12, 2001 in Scottsbluff.  The family had been living in Lusk, Wyoming, for several years. Surviving Thompson was his wife, Mary Jo; children Cody of Lusk; Leif and wife Brenda of Philo, Ill; Tom and wife Dixie of Whitney; Roxanne and husband Roy Sharp at the family ranch; Link and wife Debbie of Gordon; 12 grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.

Friday, December 2, 2022

Gone....but not forgotten!

We ran across this clipping recently and spent a while recalling memories of Whitney school graduates and their reunions over the years –  sometimes they took place in Crawford, others in Chadron and some even in Whitney.....imagine that!

The photo and caption above appeared in the Whitney News section of the Chadron Record on Wednesday, July 6, 1977.  It was a gathering of Whitney High School grads for their 50th Class Reunion conducted in the Crawford City Park.  We don't have an actual photographic print – but this newspaper clipping sufficed in conjuring up lots of memories of these attendees.  I believe the clipping was passed along to me years ago by my late mother-in-law, Eva (Cunningham) Galey.  While I knew some of these folks better than others – I certainly remember all of their family names....and many of their family members.

The last Whitney School reunion of which I'm aware took place more than a decade ago......on May 29, 1911 in the "new" Whitney School, which – like the  – is no longer a school......but remains standing.  For a gallery of photos from that event, visit our WHITNEY SCHOOL REUNION .

Saturday, January 15, 2022

NEW! School photograph from 1953-54

Many thanks to Pat Cardona of Moore, Oklahoma for contacting us and sharing this 1953-54 class photograph at Whitney School.   Pat is among the many students shown here.  Who are these good looking lads and lassies?   Answer:  CLICK HERE to visit a higher resolution version of this image in our Whitney School Gallery.  Names are included!

Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Beverly Daniels (1922-2021)

Beverly Daniels, 98, of Lexington, NE (formerly of Whitney, NE), passed away at Wel-Life Assisted Living on February 27, 2021. She was born September 17, 1922 at Gregory, SD to William and Myrle Hawkins. She received her elementary education in several rural schools and graduated high school at Edgemont, SD with the class of 1940.

Beverly was preceded in death by her parents, husband Leo, son Neil, brother-in-law Arthur Klaus and wife Martha, brother-in-law Elvin Daniels and wife Emma, and sister-in-law Mary Daniels. She leaves to celebrate her life, daughter Marita Anthony (Tim) of Lexington, NE, daughter-in- law Dorine Daniels of Chadron, NE, grandchildren Bret Daniels of Fruita, CO, Scot Daniels of Albion, NE, Courtney Litzenberger (Matthew) of Lexington, NE, step-grandchildren Carrie Cox of North Platte, NE, Greg Failla (Megan) of Gig Harbor, WA, six great-grandchildren and six step-great-grandchildren, and several nieces and nephews.

On November 20, 1941 she married Leo Daniels of Whitney, NE. The couple was blessed with two children, Neil and Marita. Beverly worked with Leo on their farm north of Whitney and later in the livestock and trucking business they owned. She was always active in the Whitney community. She taught piano lessons, Sunday school, was a 4-H leader, and was involved in the PTA and church.

Beverly was a devout Christian; her life was a witness to Christ’s love. She was a hard worker and a wonderful wife, mother, and grandmother. She loved her family and friends deeply.

Graveside services were scheduled at the Whitney Cemetery south of Whitney, NE on June 26, 2021. Memorials can be made to the Whitney Methodist Church or Lexington Christian Church.

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!)