Saturday, August 09, 2008

Some Memories of Duff, Nebraska

The Duff school, bank, and E.U.B. Church

Duff, Nebraska, was located in the southern part of Rock County, in a broad Sandhill valley. Drained by the Bloody and Skull creeks, the area was originally called the Bloody Valley and now is known as the Duff Valley. The Duff road turned off to the west from Highway 183, about 26 miles south of Bassett.

By the time that we moved to Duff, Nebraska in 1957, the Duff store was closed and the Duff post office had been gone for several years. The post office operated from 1886 to 1901, closed briefly, and then was open again from 1903 to 1953, according to Perkey's Nebraska Place Names by Elton A. Perkey (copyright 1995, Nebraska Historical Society).

I attended Duff Valley District 4 school which was still in its original building, 3 miles west and 1 mile south of Highway 183. The records of attendance in the attic of the school building went back to the late 1800s, when the old people of the community were school children.

The Eldon Horner family lived in the old Duff bank building, about 1/2 mile northeast of the school. My friends and schoolmates, the Horner girls, had their bedroom in the room where the bank had done its business. This is what the Horner girls told me. I don't know when or how long the bank was in business.

The old store building was 4 miles west of Highway 183. Forest Saar lived in the storekeeper's quarters in the back, and the Duff Evangelical United Brethren (E.U.B.) Church met in the big room in the front of the building where the store had been. In the pasture just west of the building, there was a concrete cellar (I am sure it was concrete and I believe it was a cellar). It was all that remained from an earlier store that had burned. (See this link which mentions the Duff Store in 1910. )

The congregation of the Duff E.U.B. Church was very small. I think that on a good Sunday, we might have had 30 people. Some of the people in the valley went to the Methodist church in town, another family or two were Catholic, and others didn't go to church at all.

Our pastor, Brother Harold Koelling, served three country E.U.B. churches, of which the Duff group was the smallest. In 1962, the Duff church was consolidated with the Rose E.U.B. church. (Sadly, the Rose Church is also now closed.)

I have a fairly clear memory of the little Duff church. The room was quite large with wooden pews on both sides of a central aisle. At the front on the right side were the pulpit, a piano, and a communion table with the words "In Remembrance of Me" carved into it. I confess that I thought Arthur Zlomke was the "Me" of that phrase. A metal plaque on the bottom crosspiece of the table clearly stated that the table had been donated in his memory.

A low table and some chairs occupied the area at the left front of the room, where the children's Sunday School class was held. Between the Sunday School table (on the left) and the pulpit (on the right), there was a door that opened to Grandpa Saar's living room. He often came through the door and joined the congregation when it was time for the worship service to begin.

Grandpa Saar was a generous man. Besides giving the space for the church in the front of his building, he also loaned his kitchen and living room for Vacation Bible School classes. His living room window looked out into a lilac bush that was often in bloom during VBS week. One year, a bird had built its nest right against the window, and we could look into it from Grandpa Saar's living room and see the little blue eggs.

(I speak of "Grandpa" Saar because he was the grandfather of the "Saar kids," all of whom I knew well. Marion Saar's four children were my third cousins on my mother's side, and their cousins, Bill Saar's three sons, were relation's relation to me from another side of the family. In addition to all that, all of us were neighbors in the Duff community.)

I remember one series of revival meetings at the Duff Church very well. The evangelist was a man named Elmer Reimer and he was from South Dakota.

Brother Reimer had a collection of crystal wine glasses of all shapes and sizes. He had them lined up on a table, and each glass had a different amount of water in it. He talked about how the glasses had been converted from their former wicked life of serving alcohol to a new life of service to God. Then he wet his index fingers a little and ran them around the rims of the glasses to make a vibrating, resonating musical sound. By switching from glass to glass, he could play hymns and even create harmony. I can still hear the thin, high, warbling sounds.

When I drove through the Duff community several years ago, the Duff church was completely gone. I would never have guessed there had ever been a building there. Before long, no one will even remember it.

Photos of the Duff Valley
Henry Seier's history of Duff


RunAwayImagination said...

Wow. With names like Bloody and Skull creeks, I wonder if some horrible things may have happened there in the past. I'm fascinated by abandoned old buildings or traces of where they once stood. We once unearthed the foundation of a small home in the woods behind my family's home in Virginia. It made me wonder whether young children had once played there, and what had happened to them. Thank you once again for a delightfully reflective post.

Mark said...

We don't preserve much of our past. I attended elementary school in the same building my father attended, which was just one house away from his mother's. We lived a mile away when I was growing up. All traces of those buildings are gone now.

Genevieve said...

Runaway, in a history of the area, I read that the origin of the names of the Skull and Bloody creeks is unknown. It may have been in that same history that I read speculation that Skull Creek was named for the buffalo skulls found along it, and Bloody Creek was named for the reddish color of the water in certain seasons from the aquatic vegetation. I don't remember hearing about the red water of Bloody Creek when I was a child, but I do remember hearing the buffalo skull theory. There is apparently no documentation of any great battles in the area.

Genevieve said...

Mark, the area around Duff has depopulated from the small population it had when I was a child. Ranch buildings where our neighbors lived are falling down now because they are vacant and unused. It's natural enough for buildings to come and go on the prairies.

However, I have always wondered what became of the pews, communion table, pulpit, and so on from the Duff Church. Maybe they were given to another church somewhere.

Anonymous said...

My great great grandfather was the first blacksmith in Duff. Sadly, he stayed single, so he was my only relative there. My family was from Midvale, a town south of Ainsworth that no longer exists. I live in Rose now. Do you happen to know it's history?

Anonymous said...

I was in the Duff area the fall of 2013. The bank vault stands in a field the cattle graze in. There is another old building about a quarter of a mile away that my father thinks was the old school. He grew up in Long Pine and Ainsworth but had family around Duff and remembers it from when he was quite young.

Dorothy said...

My mother Helena Wilhema Boerger was born in 1893 in Duff Nebraska .
She went to school in the very school shown in the picture. She remembered the post office and the baseball field. She walked a mile to school. She was born in the the familys first house a sod house. I went back to Nebraska many years ago after she died and was so taken by the school and being in it...just such a wonderful feeling.
She and all of her family are buried in the Duff cemetery . I would love to step back in time. The school is still owned by the Boerger family I believe.
thanks to all for the comments...
I have a copy of a book written in 1976. Title: Those who came before us. a History of Rock County Compiled During the Bicentennial Year. wonderful History of the many families who lived there and in the area.

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CONTENTMENT: Keep your heart free from hate, your mind from worry, live simply, expect little, give much, sing often, pray always, forget self, think of others and their feelings, fill your heart with love, scatter sunshine. These are the tried links in the golden chain of contentment.
(Author unknown)

IT IS STILL BEST to be honest and truthful; to make the most of what we have; to be happy with simple pleasure; and to be cheerful and have courage when things go wrong.
(Laura Ingalls Wilder, 1867-1957)

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