From a photograph by Solomon D. Butcher of four daughters of rancher Joseph M. Chrisman, at their sod house in Custer County, Nebraska. From left to right, Harriet, Elizabeth, Lucie, and Ruth. Photographed in 1886.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Long Valley Cemetery in Loup County, Nebraska

Remote hill country of northwestern Loup County


While I was poking around Abebooks tonight, I happened upon several copies of the Holt County, Nebraska, centennial book and a copy of the Loup County, Nebraska, centennial book. These counties border on Rock County, Nebraska, where I grew up.

I probably won't buy either book. All my bookcases are stuffed already, and besides that, I don't casually buy $50+ books. Also, the Loup County GenWeb page says that the Loup County Historical Society still has new copies of the centennial book for sale.

I'm a little more interested in Loup County history than Holt County history, because my family had pasture land in northwestern Loup County. Much of the county is Sandhill rangeland -- big, sandy hills -- and there aren't many real roads off the highways. Two-track trails wind through miles of pastures from one windmill to the next. They are used by ranchers checking their cattle. No one else has any reason to be out there in the hills off the main roads.

At one time, every square mile of those hills was homesteaded. One by one, most of  the homesteaders eventually went broke or gave up, and their land was bought up by the cattle ranchers. In some places, the land is still scarred a century later from wind erosion of the homesteaders' plowed fields.

Long Valley Cemetery is another reminder of the homesteaders who once inhabited the hills. It's south of the land we owned, and west or southwest of the Upstream Ranch (a landmark along the 60-mile stretch of Highway 183 between Taylor and Bassett.)

The Taylor, Nebraska, website states,

Located in the yard of the old Long Valley Methodist Episopal Sod Church, with seven interments, this cemetery is accessible only via guide and 4-wheel drive pickup. Contact Loup County High School if interested. There are NO roads near this cemetery. (Source)

In other words, they don't want people to drive out into the hills and get their cars stuck in the sand trying to find the cemetery, and then maybe get lost trying to walk back.

A history of Loup County provides a little information about the Long Valley Church:

A Methodist Episcopal Church was organized and incorporated at Long Valley in western Loup County Sept. 12, 1909. Rev. Mr. Brink of Burwell was the organizer and later Rev. Albert Elliott became regular pastor. The church building was a large sod structure, which was not uncommon in the early days in the sandhills. (Source)

I would probably find lots of interesting, obscure, historic trivia of this sort in the Loup County centennial book, and that's why I'm tempted to buy it, despite my better judgment.

Above: A sod church somewhere in
Nebraska (not the Long Valley church)
Also see this photo of a

4 comments:

RunAwayImagination said...

Thank you for another well-researched, interesting post about the early settlement of Nebraska. I never cease to marvel at the pluck of those early settlers, from whom I am descended. Reading about their hardships certainly puts any of our current difficulties with the economy, gas prices and war in a different perspective.

Genevieve said...

That's very true, Runaway. Your remark reminds me of a photo of the black and white homesteaders at Bliss, NE, sitting together at a community gathering. They didn't have time to bother with segregation. They were all just trying to survive.

Many of the homesteaders of northern Loup County were probably Kincaiders -- that is, they homesteaded under the 1904 Kincaid Act. It gave them a section (640 acres) of land instead of the 160 acres allowed by the original Homestead Act. It was still very difficult to scratch out a living. 640 acres of sandhills might support a herd of about 30 cows (or maybe just 20 or 25 cows, depending on the grass cover and the rainfall.)

Connie Wilson said...

I so enjoyed reading your blog about Long Valley Cemetery in Loup Co., Nebraska. My great great grandmother is one of the seven buried there. My uncle had the fence replaced and the area cleaned up. I was able to visit the cemetery a few years ago during a family reunion in Taylor. Our line of cars and pickups made quite a scene as the cousins drove over the hills. It was a few miles west of the ranch owned by my grandparents, Fred and Maude Goos. My family lived near their ranch in the late 1940's before moving to Holt Co. and I do remember the gravel highway to Taylor. My parents dated by going to dances at Rose. The Sandhills are so beautiful and I visit the area as often as I can.

Genevieve said...

Thanks for your note, Connie. I'm glad you got to visit the cemetery and see your gr.-gr.-grandmother's grave. The trip into the hills would have been an adventure anyway, and the family connection must have made it even more memorable. I hope you'll visit Prairie Bluestem again.

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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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