Editor's Notebook

 


Hopefully, the lack of an operating jail in Nuckolls County is an indication that Nuckolls County folks have become law abiding citizens. In the early days of the county, the jails were busy places. And in some communities among the first public facilities built. In Nuckolls County the jail was built while the county was renting space for the county offices.

After reading back issues of newspapers published in Nuckolls County, I’ve concluded our citizens were not always law abiding. I haven’t done a thorough study but from my weekend reading, I wonder if spring fever could be blamed for some the lawlessness. A brief review of the stories published in March will follow:

March 5, 1904—The preliminary hearing for Harvey Feasel, the fellow charged with the murder of Eli Feasel, was scheduled for Friday.

The Superior Daily Journal reported Marshall Dan McDade attempted to arrest Joe Hasty about 6 o’clock on Saturday night. Hasty, seeing the intention of the marshall, in an instant wheeled about and flashed a six-shooter in McDade’s face. McDade coolly talked to Hasty until the latter lowered the point of his gun. At this time, McDade instantly took advantage of the situation and got the drop on the man with his own revolver. It was the quickest gun play the town had seen in many a day. Hasty was disarmed and taken to the calaboose and kept over night. About 11 o’clock Sunday morning, he managed to escape from the rickety old prison.

Superior has had several jails, including one made from an old railroad boxcar.

A hole large enough to admit a man’s body and dug nearly through was discovered in the lower story of the Nuckolls County Jail. A fellow named Hastey, told the officers about the hole and that Charles Hutchinson and Harvey Feasel were responsible for the excavation. Feasel had been turned loose and Hutchinson said Hastey did the job. Off the corridor to the east was the bath room with barred windows. The door was supposed to be locked but was not and it was in this room that hole was dug. Later, Hasty confessed to digging the hole.

The citizens of Nuckolls County built a jail before they built a courthouse. I suspect they thought jails were more important than courthouses.

It must have been common for prisoners to attempt to gain their freedom by digging. I remember when a Jewell County prisoner escaped the county’s historic jail by digging or chipping a hole through the limestone wall. But he didn’t get far for when he wiggled through the hole, he discovered he was in the jail’s fenced exercise yard.

I also remember the time a woman tried to escape the Nuckolls County Jail through a hole she had punched in her cell wall. She may have succeeded had the hole been a bit larger. As it was she got stuck and had to wait for an officer to help her back into the cell.

1914— Sheriff Jones arrested R. W. Martin in Superior. He was wanted in Holdrege for wife desertion.

1954—Robert (Banjo) Duncan and Merlin Thomson were charged with disturbing the peace and malicious destruction of property after an altercation in the lobby of Superior’s Union Hotel. Each drew 15 days in jail and a fine of $100. It must have been quite a fight as several pieces of furniture were broken in the melee. When officers arrived, one of the men was bending a smoking stand around the head of the other. The story did not report the reason for the fight.

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Break-away posts must not have been as important in the horse and buggy days as they are today. Now many of the road signs are designed to break if struck by a motor vehicle.

In 1904, it was reported the Burlington carpenter shops at Havelock had turned out the first batch of cement signal posts. The posts were an experiment and none had been put in place but the plan was to use them in place of wood. If they proved out, all Burlington crossing posts would henceforth be made of iron reinforced concrete.

I suspect the first signal posts were located along the railroad tracks and did not pose a hazard when motor vehicles became common. The test results must have been satisfactory for I remember railroads using cement posts in this area.

I don’t know if it is still there but at the point where ownership of the tracks shared by the former Santa Fe and Northwestern companies changed, a cement post marked the spot. For many years, the Northwestern was responsible for all track north of the Kansas-Nebraska stateline while the Santa Fe was responsible for the track in Kansas. Like a tombstone, the cement post was engraved to designate the state line point.

From my younger exploration days, I remember when at least one crossbuck marking a highway crossing was mounted on a cement post. I don’t know when the post was removed but that crossing is now marked with a crossing gate hung on a steel post. I wouldn’t want to hit either with my automobile.

I also remember when the crossbuck was not the standard for all crossings. Some were marked on a half-circle mounted on a pole. I believe the pole was made of steel.

The Nuckolls County Historical Society has on a display the wig-wag signal once located on the Burlington’s Bloom Street crossing. Only a few of those signals remain.

Perhaps one of my railroad friends will share more information about the signals.

 

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