Questions of the Week — Readers have questions following museum visit as artwork brings history to life

The following questions were asked recently by inquiring readers:


Q: Thank you for your story about the museum’s art exhibit! I read the story and went to see it – and I was definitely not disappointed. I particularly wanted to see the photograph and painting of the old York County Courthouse. Someone at the museum and I started talking about the old courthouse and how beautiful it was. Is there any way to find out who designed that beautiful building and who built it?

A: The courthouse was designed by O.H. Placey and constructed by D.B. Howard in 1888, according to a history book published the year of the county’s 150th anniversary.


Q: I was also intrigued by the painting of Anna Bemis Palmer’s house, which is part of the exhibit at the museum. Can you tell me two things – where was her house located in York and where was she buried after her death?

A: According to her obituary, her beautiful mansion was located at 222 West 10th Street.

Her grave is located in Greenwood Cemetery in York.


Q: What was the first county to be established in Nebraska? What was the last?

A: Burt, Cass, Douglas, Dodge, Otoe, Nemaha, Richardson and Washington Counties were the original eight counties, created on Nov. 23, 1854.

Garden County was the last county created in Nebraska, on Nov. 2, 1909.


Q: Why are counties in Nebraska given certain numbers for license plates and how are those numbers chosen – what are they based on?

A: Motor vehicles were first registered in June 1905. Individuals made their own plates and registrations were recorded with the Nebraska Secretary of State. This practice continued until 1915 when the state began issuing the plates. The Secretary of State assigned numbers to the plates which were then made of metal. In 1922, the Department of Public Works established the practice of using prefix numbers to identify the counties in which vehicles in the county at that time. The county with the most vehicles – Douglas – was assigned the number 1; the county with the second highest number of vehicles – Lancaster – was assigned number 2; and so forth.


Q: I remember when I was a kid we learned about a day long ago called “The Awful Easter Storm,” as it was part of our Nebraska studies when we were in the fourth grade. I have tried looking up the story online and haven’t been able to find anything. Can you find the story and give us details if possible, because I think it was so interesting as it really impacted York County.

A: We did find reference to The Awful Easter Storm in the York history book, “Old Settlers’ Early History.”

This is the story as it is written in that book:

One great event in the early history of York County that stands out most prominent of all, and never to be forgotten while an early settler is alive, is the awful Easter Storm that began the evening of Sunday, April the 12th, 1873. The spring had been early and small grain was all up, and farmers had their spring work well underway; the weather had been dry and the wind blowing strong from the south for more than a week, and Sunday, April 12, the wind quieted down and the day was pleasant until in the afternoon a bank of heavy clouds made their appearance in the northwest. Soon there began a heavy rain and as night approached, the rain turned into sleet and then to snow, then for three days and nights without a moment’s cessation the storm rages in all its fury, with the air so full of whirling snow it was impossible to see an object scarcely a rod away.

Fortunate for the early settlers that their dwellings were mostly sod houses or dug-outs, and in the place of being blown away they were more likely to be snowed under, which happened in many cases; in several instances the settlers took their meager stock in the sod houses with them and all lived together for three days. Many interesting incidents have been related by persons who experienced such a strange make-up of families and although the milk and eggs were handy, none have desired a repetition of the novelty.

After the storm was over, the neighbors who were not snowed in had interesting experiences digging their neighbors out of their dug-outs. One family that was snowed under in a dug-out held a conversation with their rescuers through the stove pipe that stuck up through the snow and showed them where to dig down for the door by running the broom handle up through the snow. The writer went to one dug-out where nothing but the stove pipe was visible and hollered down through the stove pipe and asked the owner what he was doing. He promptly answered he was reading the B & M advertisements about the beautiful climate of Nebraska.

Mrs. Capt. Read tells u that Andy Hansen, a Dane, had a homestead on Section 32 in Thayer Township and had built him a comfortable sod house on the south side of the draw, front door opening to the north, and that he was away from home when the storm came and that the storm blew the front door open and when Mr. Hansen came home after the storm his house was so full of snow he could not find place for a dog to crawl in.

Our townsman, N.A. Dean, had his stable built under a bank; in one end of the stable were two mules, in the center horses, and in the other end hogs and chickens. The snow kept drifting in and the mules tramping to keep on top until they got up to the roof and broke through and went out. The hogs and chickens in the other end were snowed under at least 25 feet deep. And Mr. Dean was surprised when digging them out a week later he found them all alive and hungry.

As far as known, only three lives were lost in the storm in York County. One, the 15-year-old son of J.S. gray in Arborville Township. The boy was trying to carry a sack of corn from the barn to the house, missed the house and was not found until the storm was over. The other two deaths occurred in Henderson Township. A Mr. Frank Kailey had built a log house, but had not had time to chink it up when the storm came and the first night of the storm the house drifted half full of snow. The stove and beds were under snow. They thought they must go to one of the neighbors and they started – Mr. and Mrs. Kailey and their baby boy. Mrs. Kailey soon gave out in the deep snow and awful storm, and Mr. Kailey tried to carry his wife and the baby on his back but only went a short distance and gave up exhausted. He left his wife and baby to go for help but never found them until later, when it was too late.

The book, “Old Settlers’ History” was published in 1913.


Q: Last Friday, an earthquake was felt in New York City and on the east coast. Are earthquakes there very common? I sure don’t ever remember hearing of any in the past.

A: Earthquakes there are not that common.

According to CBS News, “earthquakes are less common on the eastern than western edges of the United States because the East Coast does not lie on a boundary of tectonic plates. The biggest Eastern quakes usually occur along the mid-Atlantic Ridge, which extends through Iceland and the Atlantic Ocean.”


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