Wednesday, September 4, 2013

SAMUEL W. WYMORE - THE FAMILY BEHIND THE MAN


There is always more to a man’s story and what we think we know after a century of hearing it told may be quite different from the way it really was. 


When Patti Novotny handed me the abstract of her family home last June, she hadn't thought much about the name on the first page, after all most of Sam Wymore’s land was turned over to the Lincoln Land Company on July 21 of 1881 to plat the town of Wymore.  His name must appear on the first page of a lot of abstracts in town – right ?  Right. 

What was different about this abstract was the first entry:

On July 9, 1868, Sam was in Brownsville, NE filing an application for Homestead land.  He paid a $14 filing fee to secure his claim on 160 acres described as the South 1/2 of the NE 1/4 and the West 1/2 of the SE 1/4 of Section 20 in township 2 of Range 7E.   It took Wymore 7 years and on April 29, 1875, two witnesses; William Wymore (his brother) and Herbert Viney vouched for the Proof of Wymore's settlement and improvements made to his homestead whereby Wymore earned the right to the title of this land. The Patent was delivered to Samuel W. Wymore on April 28,1876 ... the same date as shown on Patti's abstract.  Patti and Mike's property is an undivided City Block #4, essentially at the center of Sam Wymore's original Homestead and a few paragraphs down the page, we'll tell you why we think this 1890 house is Sam Wymore's last standing residence in the town that bears his name. 



Block 4 of Wymore's Addition
Section 20 Township 3 North Range 7 East of the 6th P.M.
Gage County, Nebraska



In 1870, a young man held the patent to 160 acres of the land bordering Sam Wymore's Homestead. When he claimed his stake he was 23 years old and his wife, Louisa, was 17, their daughter, Margaret Jane, was 3 and son William was born on this land that year.  It seemed impressive that this young man would cut the limestone by hand for the small stone cottage that stands today in ruin (on a lot at the north end of 4th Street) but George Wymore and his wife and children were not alone in Southeast Nebraska.  The Wymore Family had siblings and cousins scattered across Gage & Pawnee Counties in the 1800s and his older brother’s homestead bordered George’s property to the south and east.  While Samuel Wymore was fulfilling his obligations for 160 acres of Homestead land, he was also buying up land in the area. In 1875 George sold his property to Samuel … which presents an interesting question: Did George build the old limestone cottage or did Samuel ?  For certain one of them did. 

George & Louisa moved on to a farm in Section 1 of Island Grove Township.  They welcomed three more children into their family, Peolya, Samuel, Sallie and Robert. Louisa died young at the age of 30, in November of 1881. George lies at rest near his daughter Margaret in the Odell American Cemetery. 





WYMORE FAMILY TREE
compiled by Carolyn Riemann

(scroll down to)
Children of JOHNSON WYMORE and SARAH MCMAINS (1816-1890) : 

Samuel W. Wymore 1835-1908 (family pictured below)
William L. Wymore 1837-1911  (family pictured below)
 Margaret Peggy Wymore 1839-1921
 Abraham Wymore 1841-1917
 Nancy Wymore 1843- ?
 Martin Wymore 1844- ?
 George Wymore 1846-1913
 Summerfield Wymore 1848-1927
 Jonathon Wymore 1853-1926
 Robert E. Wymore 1855-1903



Back (l-r): Dill and Alice  Front (l-r): Samuel, Nancy, William L, Willie (James William) Wymore



Samuel Porter, Matilda Mariah, Isabella, Mary Scott & Samuel

Children of SAMUEL WYMORE and ISABELLA SCOTT:
Nancy Ann Wymore 1857-1878
Sarah Wymore 1859-before 1868
James Hugh Wymore 1860-before 1868
Mary Scott Wymore 1861- ?
Margaret Summerfield Wymore 1866-1886
Matilda Mariah Wymore 1869-1943

Samuel Porter Wymore  1875-1941

Matilda Mariah & Samuel Porter were born in the log cabin on the Wymore Homestead. 






When Samuel Wymore negotiated his historic deal with the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad, he signed over his homestead and the land George had sold to him along with other landholdings to the Lincoln Land Company, a company the railroad incorporated to manage the sale of the lands they held title too and build towns spaced about 10 miles apart along the track.  Wymore’s Homestead was in the Wymore Addition of town and George’s old patent was in the Summit Addition.  John Schock held land in the west 1/2 of Section 20 in 1869.  Jeremiah Scanlan purchased land to the south in 1860. All of Section 20 was sold to the Lincoln Land Company in 1881. In the hands of the Lincoln Land Company, between 1881-1908, the secluded stone house near the railroad tracks took on a notorious reputation, apparently rented out to shady characters who capitalized on its close proximity to the railroad.  






In 1871, James Hugh Scott, his wife Mary Emily and their twin sons, James & Levi, packed their belongings in a covered wagon and moved to Gage County, Nebraska.  Here they joined his twin sister Isabelle and her husband, Samuel Wymore.  Little Mary Emma was born on January 21, 1872. Life on the prairie held many hardships and Mary Emily died in June of 1872 leaving James with the 3 year old twins and baby Mary.  On September 16, 1872 he took over the claim to the homestead land of Owen Jones. This was in the Blue Springs Precinct, formerly Otoe Indian Reservation. From his place there was not a house in sight. The nearest neighbor lived in the neighboring town of Blue Springs, which at that time consisted of only a store and a post office. A few months later in 1873, Mary Emma followed her mother to her eternal home.  In June of 1873, James married Mary Catherine Tisdell and together they worked to earn the rights to their Homestead.  They built a 12 x 20 foot house with a shingle roof, floors, 2  doors and windows 'all complete'. They built a corn crib and pig pen listed in their documented Final Homestead Proof submitted on 6 October 1877. 

When Samuel Wymore invested a good share of his land holdings into platting the town of Wymore in 1881, his brother-in-law James Scott sold his Homestead to Samuel.  This is the land now thought of as Wymore's Home Place.  The dugout dwelling on Indian Creek was most likely the work of the original Homesteader, Owen Jones.  James Scott stated he built a frame house on the property. The 1888 Gage County Biographical Album describes the limestone foundation house:  The residence of our subject overlooks the city, and is a very fine modern building erected as recently as 1883, one in every way worthy the founder of so beautiful and prosperous a place.  

Samuel Wymore Home Place (taken before 1981)
Limestone foundation with wood frame first floor


Limestone foundation summer 2013


Legendary Indian stone for grinding corn on the old Wymore land.
Section 29 of Gage County was once a part of the Otoe - Missouri Indian Reservation. 



When James Scott sold the rest of his land situated near the Original Town of Wymore, the land became what is still known as Scotts Addition to the town of Wymore. 




For some men the grass, it seems, is always greener over the next hill and Samuel Wymore spent most of his adult life pursuing an ever illusive dream.  Between 1835, the year of his birth and 1857, the year he married Isabella Scott in Mahaska, Iowa, Wymore lived in Indiana, Iowa, Kansas and Missouri.  As was customary at the time, Samuel left Isabella with her family when the children were small while he worked for his father in Atchinson County Kansas and drifted from Missouri to Pawnee County, Nebraska and back. In November of 1864 he held a Warrant for 120 acres in Section 9 of Pawnee County. In December of 1865 he held a Warrant for 120 acres of land in Section 3 of Pawnee County.  The Homestead Act successfully held him captive for nearly 8 years, since he had to build a dwelling and live on the land to fulfill his obligation to the rules of the Act.  It is possible that Wymore built the limetone cottage on North 4th street while living on the Homestead intending to live there for a time before he moved south of town in 1881. 

Even after building the fine limestone & frame home in the country, Wymore built what is now Patti & Mike Novotny's house on Block 4 of Wymore's addition.  While it is true that Sam Wymore and William Ashby built numerous spec homes to sell with their lots, Block 4 was never divided into city lots and the large 1890 Four-Square home is seated on the portion of Wymore's original homestead where the old log cabin likely was situated.  It is logical to think that in 1890, when Wymore was on the backside of 50, he built that nice house in town for Isabella that most pioneers of his time promised their wives when they retired. 

Wymore's 1908 obituary states: In 1892 the population got too dense and he moved to Nevada and bought over 5000 acres of land under an irrigation ditch.  The fact that the town was closing in around Samuel is another reason to believe Samuel and Isabella lived in the 4th Street house from the time it was built until they moved to Nevada.  The Nevada move proved to be Wymore's most costly mistake ... both in Nevada and Wymore.








 Charles M. Murdock was born in Pennsylvania in 1843 to Daniel and Prudence Murdock. Daniel was a Presbyterian Minister and son, Charles was one of 9 children. The family followed the western movement in 1853 and settled for a time in Iowa.  In 1856, Daniel accepted the calling as missionary to the Oto-Missouri Indians and taught for a time at the limestone mission school just south into Kansas in Marshall County. When the Civil War broke out, Daniel served as chaplain of the Thirteenth Kansas Infantry.  On the 11th day of July, 1862, Charles enlisted as a member of the Ninth Kansas Calvary ... Charles turned 12 years old the next month. 

After the war, Charles settled in Washington County Kansas and associated with the likes of William Hecock "Wild Bill."  After serving as sheriff of the county, Murdock moved to Blue Springs, NE in the late summer of 1874.  He founded the Blue Springs Reporter and was appointed right-of-way representative for the Burlington Railroad which lead to his appointment of agent to the Lincoln Land Company when the City of Wymore was organized. History remembers Charles Murdock as quite an outspoken character. 

Murdock and Sam Wymore had negotiated many property deals together, so when Wymore left for Nevada in 1892, he and Murdock wrote up a contract dated 3 December 1892, entrusting Murdock with selling Wymore's extensive land holdings in Gage County and various personal properties including a team of horses, paying any property debts and taxes incurred during the process and forwarding the proceeds to Wymore.  Samuel and Isabella actually deeded their property over to Charles and Arthur Murdock and Joseph Pasko.  The first thing Murdock did as Wymore's wagon disappeared over the horizon, was to mortgage Wymore's home place for $500 which he used for personal expenses.

Now ...  in Murdock's shaky defense, the Panic of 1893 sent the United States into the worst depression the county had experienced, fueled by overbuilding of the railroads and its shady financing.  As the 1890s wore on, Wymore's holdings in Gage County sat idle and property taxes accumulated .. unpaid. Charles worked up an agreement with his son, Glen, to buy the nice Four-Square house on 4th Street, but the paper was never formally filed with the county and essentially Glen lived there without paying anything for the convenience. Charles occupied a lovely piece of land just a few blocks to the northeast and built a nice house overlooking the Blue River Valley (it was torn down years ago but some will remember seeing it on the hill west of the River road). 



1906 Plat Map showing undivided Blk 4 & C.M. Murdock property

Weekly Wymorean - Feb. 23, 1895

Samuel Wymore arrived in this city last Monday, Feb. 11, 1895 from Wellington, in the Walker River Valley, Nevada, where he has a small farm of 5,920 acres or 37 quarter sections. He looks rugged and hearty and says that the country is good enough for him and that he has no desire to return to Nebraska to make his home. On his ranch he has over 400 acres of alfalfa meadow which they cut 2 or 3 times a year and get from 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 tons per acre at each cutting. He has over 50 milch cows and about 100 head of horses. He has the upper charter on the Walker River which not only gives him fine mill power, but affords an abundant supply of water to irrigate. They are sure of a crop every year, but without the water, the land would be useless for farming purposes.

As the 19th Century came to a close, the Wymore family found themselves back in Wymore after the disappointing sale of Sam's investment in Nevada with not much better prospects on the home front. Wymore renewed his agreement with Charles and Arthur Murdock in March of 1899 providing that from the sale of proper to credit Samuel Wymore $8729.50 due in three notes and after said amount is paid the residue and balance of all property held in common or sold and proceeds divided equally.


1906 Plat map


A 1906 Plat map of the Blue Springs and Wymore Township shows Wymore's Home Place in the center of Section 29 in the name of A. L. Wachtel.  One can only assume that when Samuel Wymore returned to his Home Place in 1899, he was allowed to live on the property but never again in his lifetime would he hold title to it.  Stories around town flourished with tales of poverty the Wymore family struggled through. 

Beyond Wymore's control, the properties he once held title to, began to sell at tax sales.  On July 25, 1907, Blk 4 on 4th Street was auctioned for taxes due from 1893 to 1904 ... a total of $124.91 and James H. Ellis was the high bidder. 

On September 19, 1907 Samuel Wymore filed suit against Charles, Arthur Murdock and their wives in Gage County District Court. As the highly publicized trial wore on into 1908, Wymore's health began to deteriorate and in June of that year the family made George T. Stephenson Trustee for Samuel Wymore.  Samuel would not live to see the verdict handed down in his favor in May of 1909.  Murdock filed an appeal and took the case to the Nebraska Supreme Court who upheld the District Courts decree in January of 1911

Over 100 years have passed since Samuel Wymore was laid to rest in Blue Springs Cemetery next to his daughter Nancy.  Isabella joined them there in 1914.  Wymore's weaknesses were laid to rest with him. His strengths and the town who bears his name lives on to celebrate, each June during Sam Wymore Days, the legacy he placed in their care. 



Weekly Wymorean-Dec. 31, 1908
Funeral of Sam Wymore

The funeral of the late Sam Wymore, was held last Saturday morning, at 10:30 am at the Baptist Church. Services being conducted by Rev. Taylor of Blue Springs. In respect to the deceased, all the business houses in the city of Wymore, were closed during the funeral. The funeral offerings were beautiful, the casket being literally buried with flowers. The services were largely attended by old friends, who had come to pay their respects to one with whom the history of Wymore is so closely connected. The pall bearers were all old friends of the deceased. Interment was made in the Blue Springs Cemetery. 



Tuesday, July 16, 2013

WYMORE - the Gay Nineties, Roaring Twenties & Dirty Thirties




Through the early years of the 1880s, Wymore quickly became the Darling of the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad and with that notoriety came the naughty along with the nice.  The city was built, block-by-block, with the railroad in mind.  Within a few blocks of the train depot, hotels popped up almost overnight. The first hotel, The Potter House, was completed in 1882 and shortly after came The Palmer House and the Cottage Hotel.  In the summer of 1887, Wymore’s crown jewel, The Touzalin, opened its doors.  




Imagine for a moment, stepping down from the station in 1890 to the sight of a fine Victorian hotel with a glimpse of a bustling city all around.  Just north on Nebraska Street past the hotel was the Livsey Opera House and across the street east awaited a livery stable offering the finest teams of horses and buggies in Southern Gage County.  If you were only in town for the day, a ticket on the Wymore Blue Springs Railway offered a ride past the town churches and on to the Blue Springs bridge and back.  The restaurants and saloons catered to the men of the Railroad as well as its customers.  Then, as now, the noon whistle announced lunch hour once intended for the men working in the railroad shops.


LADIES OF THE EVENING

During what may have seemed to be an ideal time to have lived, the railroad towns of the prairie were a world apart from ours.  Boredom came quickly to the single young men who were pushing westward in search of their fortune and with the coming of the railroad, the saloons and brothels were quite obliged to accommodate.  In deed, in the 1880s brothels were no more outrageous than saloons.  The madams and inmates of houses of ill repute were fined when too much of a fuss about them stirred the town and proceeds were placed into a town’s school fund.

In Kansas City around the train depot, whole neighborhoods of brothels opened their doors.  The train brakemen carried red lanterns as part of their job and took them along where ever they went. They paid extra for the madams to watch for their next train while they were otherwise occupied and set the lighted lanterns in the hallways or near the windows so they could be easily found before the train whistle blew. It seems there were enough brakemen lanterns to light the neighborhoods in the dead of night with an eerie red glow.   Hence – RED LIGHT DISTRICTS came to be.

Wymore, in those days, was no different from other railroad towns. Well, the difference was the houses of ill repute, three of them that we know of, weren’t near the Depot but on the outskirts of town, yet all within a block of the tracks.

There was the small frame house west of Fouts Street across the tracks over in Blue Springs where its been said the Prairie Doves would cool themselves on the front porch in the hot summer evenings while the town drove by close enough to try not to notice. 

And in the Roaring Twenties the large new foursquare just south of the Arbor State Park on  7th Street was rumored to house Painted Angels right through the midst of the Dirty Thirties.  By the end of the Depression, the house changed ownership and it became a respectable dance hall where the upstairs balcony overlooked the dance floor and the mill work was painted black.

Middy Gillhouse, a native of Concordia, Kansas purchased the old stone house on North 4th Street in 1909 for $1100. Middy’s marriage to Theodore Gillhouse had ended the year before but she was quite self-sufficient having made handsome investments in properties in Grand Island, McCook, Fremont … and Wymore. The rumor was she was quite wealthy from renting the properties for an outrageous sum of $5 a day.

On August, 10, 1910, the Gage County sheriff made an early morning raid on the house arresting Middy and one Ollie Clark and took them to a hotel in Beatrice for safekeeping. The front-page story in the Weekly Wymorean on August 18 titled the story:  STONE HOUSE CLOSED …”The blinds are down at the House on the Hill  and there is rejoicing and sorrow that it should be thus.”  Gillhouse was charged with leasing the property for immoral purposes and Clark was charged with being an inmate of a disorderly house. Middy bonded out for $400 and the Clark woman $100.


click to read full article

When court convened on August 30, twenty subpoenaed witnesses were present along with Middy's the defense attorney, Alfred Hazlett, who filed a mortgage claim on the house for $500 on August 16 so the ladies could make bail.  The ladies in question, it seemed, had other obligations on the court date and failed to appear.  Their hefty bonds were forfeited in lieu of probable lesser fines and that was that.

Perhaps more interesting was the statement in the newspaper article of how the old house had the reputation as a house of ill repute for nearly 20 years.  So just who owned the property before Middy came along ?  The Gage County Deed’s Office shows Samuel Wymore signing it over to The Lincoln Land Company in 1881 and it was the Lincoln Land Company who sold it to Gillhouse in 1909. 

The limestone house, sometimes known as 4 chimneys, long since covered in stucco and now standing in ruin, was built sometime during the 1870s. It was probably built around the same time Robert Wilson was building his limestone house on the road to the Blue Springs Cemetery between 1869-71.  The stone was most likely cut by hand from the same hill  – Mathew Hill just east of the river road out of Blue Springs.

In 1870, George Wymore held the patent to 160 acres of the land where the house stands. When he claimed his stake he was 23 years old and his wife, Louisa, was 17, their daughter, Margaret Jane, was 3 and son William was born that year.  It seemed impressive that this young man would cut the stone by hand for the small stone cottage but he and his wife and children were not alone in Southeast Nebraska.  The Wymore family had siblings and cousins scattered across Gage & Pawnee Counties and his older brother’s homestead bordered George’s property to the south.  While Samuel Wymore was fulfilling his obligations for 160 acres of homestead land, he was also buying up land in the area and in 1875 George sold his property to Samuel … which presents an interesting question: did George build the old stone house or did Samuel ?  For certain one of them did.

When Samuel Wymore negotiated his historic deal with the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad, he signed over his homestead and the land George had sold to him along with other landholdings to the Lincoln Land Company, a company the railroad incorporated to manage the sale of the lands they held title too and build towns spaced about 10 miles apart along the track.  Wymore’s homestead was in the Wymore Addition of town and George’s old patent was in the Summit Addition. Passing into the hands of the Lincoln Land Company in 1881, the secluded stone house near the railroad tracks took on its notorious reputation, apparently rented out to shady characters who capitalized on its close proximity to the railroad while the LLC and the City looked the other way.  That is until from time to time, the local Women’s Christian Temperance Union or some other local concerned citizen forced the sheriff to do something about the disgraceful goings on .. and that strung things along for about 20 years.  At one point, Charles Murdock, who worked as the agent for Lincoln Land Company and lived just down the hill, took his complaints to the governor of Nebraska, accusing the mayor and city police of allowing the operation of these businesses within the city limits … the governor refused to have them fired but suggested they rid the town of the houses … after which life went on much the same as before.  It seems odd that Murdock raised his voice at all seeing how he was agent for the company who owned the property and had control over what happened there.




THE VENDOME


Meanwhile downtown, The Touzalin Hotel opened its doors in late 1887.  Samuel Wymore invested a lot of money into the building, but he would never see a profit.  Elisha P. Reynolds & Company built the hotel and the final cost escalated to $62,000. In 1887, no less than 14 mechanic liens were filled by the contractors before the doors were even open.  With a Saloon, a fine Dining Hall and 65 well appointed rooms, the grand Victorian structure struggled to make ends meet and went through a succession of managers and owners.  In 1914, it was sold at a sheriff’s sale and the new owner changed the name to The Vendome. 

Since before the 1900s, the Nation had struggled with the effects of alcoholism on family life. Saloons as well as houses of ill repute were targeted by societies such as the Women’s Christian Temperance Union for the flow of liquor and its drain on family finances.  In the 1910, William Jennings Bryan took the side of the “Dry” track: 
"The fight against evil is always an uphill one, and the hill is never steeper than when you fight the liquor interests.” 

The citizens of Nebraska were deeply divided over the liquor issue; Lincoln for example considered itself leaning “Dry” while Omaha was most definitely at “Wet” town.  Times were changing and in 1916 Nebraska voters approved a statewide prohibition amendment. Prohibition passed in Nebraska almost simultaneously with limited woman suffrage, and with the full support of the Nebraska Woman Suffrage Association. By law, there would be no more booze when the law formally went into effect in 1917.  National Prohibition would not come to pass until two years later in 1919.  Looking back, perhaps Nebraska’s timing wasn’t so grand as bootleggers from other states poured into Nebraska to supply the large number of people who firmly believed the consumption of alcohol was not a crime. This went on until Prohibition was repealed in 1933.

In 1915, a tunnel was dug from the City steam plant (City Hall) to pipe steam to the Vendome Hotel, which kept the building warm and toasty.  The tunnel was large enough to walk through and encased in bricks.  Legend has it as the decade wore on and Prohibition became the law of the land, more tunnels were dug to saloons and restaurants making it convenient for people who didn’t want to be seen on the streets to move about the City.  The Vendome, it was rumored, housed a Speakeasy in the basement and when word came that the law was headed to the hotel; gambling tables, booze and probably a gangster or two were hidden behind a cellar door in the tunnels. How they thought that was a good idea when the City obviously knew about the tunnel .. is a question worth pondering. 

BATHTUBS OF HOOTCH

Charles Fulton bought his property on North 5th Street in 1915. He built and paid for the house the same year. Most likely the 1000 square foot block garage with the easily spotted corner door was built soon after.  You might remember him as “Nig.”  Charles came from a large family, sometimes notorious, sometimes fondly regarded by the townspeople.  Through prohibition and beyond, Nig and Earl “Whitey” Fulton famously regarded the placement of alcohol beverages at their sole discretion whether or not that was how the law regarded it.

Nig grew up in a large family of 9 children including his famous heavy weight boxing brother Fred, the Rochester Pasterer.  Stories endure that Nig’s wife Edna had once been a Prairie Dove who liked to dress up in fine clothing and ride through town in a fancy carriage with a parasol shielding her from the sun. She died in her early 40s and Nig mourned her loss the rest of his life. The Census of 1900 listed the whole family in Wymore: Henry F. Fulton 35, Lulu 34, Charles ‘Nig’ 12, John A. 10, George 9, Fred ‘Rochester Plasterer’ 8, Roy ’Dub’ 5, Verna M. 3, Earl Maxwell ‘Whitey’ b. 1889, and Pearl E. b. 1904. 

It was a hot Saturday night in August of 1925 when State and Local Authorities staged a raid on Nig's alleged gambling house in Wymore.  The next day the headline in the Beatrice Daily Sun read "THIRTY-ONE TAKEN IN BIG ROUNDUPS."  Staging one of the most sensational law enforcement roundups in the history of Southern Nebraska, state and local officers last night threw out a dragnet at Wymore in which nineteen alleged gamblers were caught. (click headline to read the entire story

Nig was arrested numerous times through the 1920s, oblivious to the thought that bootlegging liquor was a bad idea.  In 1926, authorities raided his haunts and found nothing until they came to his house and discovered 3 hidden containers and enough hootch in the bathroom drain to provide jags for a small army.  Edna was arrested along with him that day.

Fulton often used his garage for gambling, cockfights and bootlegging.  Through the gangster years he was known to rent the garage out to notorious types as there was a lift in the garage and one car could be hidden on the lift, another beneath it.  It was rumored that Chicago gangsters parked their cars and used the tunnels to move around town without being noticed. This garage is also on the way to the Kinney area where gangsters were known to have hideouts around Kinney and Rawley hills.



FINK'S PARK


Lewis Fink's son was an architect who designed his parents lovely country home in Sicily Township. Lewis had raised two families and planned to live out his days on the farm but his health started failing and he was forced to put it out to rent in 1913.  Things didn't go well from the start, the elderly Fink was showing signs of dementia and he was troubled by the way his tenants let chickens and stock run at large over the land. He didn't believe other provisions of his lease were being carried out.  Things got out of hand when the tenants, armed with a pitchfork and clubs, refused to let him come on the premises.  On November 6, 1913, Fink's son-in-law arrived at the house with his father, who was armed with a shotgun, threatened the tenants. In February of 1914, a Jury found the elderly Fink guilty on the charge of assault and he was fined $50 and court costs.  His health deteriorated quickly that year and he passed away in October 1914. 

With so many children and a substantial estate, the siblings protested the will stating it was uncertain and indefinite and owing to disease and infirmities Fink had been incompetent to make a will.  The will was eventually settled  and in June of 1918, wife Hattie and Alvin, a son from Fink's 2nd family, bought the Sicily property from several of his siblings and moved from his home in South Dakota.  The fine country home just north of the railroad tracks once again occupied by the Fink family.

Indian Creek wound its way through the farm and artesian springs feed clear, cool pools in the low lands. The family arrived home one summer from visiting parks in Colorado. Their home,  they decided, was the perfect place for an amusement park.  Fink's Park opened in June of 1921 with a spring fed swimming pool, a small dance hall, a small store stocked with grocery items, candy and tobacco products and a counter where hamburgers and ice cream was served.  Tourist cabins were popular in those days and several cabins were offered for rent on a weekly basis furnished with cots, mattresses, table, chairs and a kerosene stove for cooking. Row boats were available for use on the lake and on Indian Creek which had been dammed.  A fond memory for many who spent the day there was the swinging bridge over Indian Creek that connected amusements on both sides of the creek.  The open air dance hall featured weekly bands booked out of Omaha and Kansas City, Lawrence Welk was among the artists who performed there. There are wonderful stories of Church picnics, sweethearts meeting for the first time, 
fireworks over the lake on the 4th of July, and Model T's arriving on a late Spring evening then struggling to leave the grounds when a rolling thunderstorm turned the dust to mud.   

Alvin amused himself with imported pheasants who were kept in pens on the grounds and the flocks were replenished from time to time when mischievous lads opened the gate and let them fly the coupe. Hattie amused herself with travel and entertaining the local lady's societies with afternoon tea.  In 1934, Hattie regaled her friends with tales and treasures brought home from a trip of see the Chicago World's Fair.

As the Depression and the Dust Bowl closed in around them, Alvin was known to travel to Omaha frequently on business and darker more troubled summer nights at the park forced parents to keep their kids away.  Strangers drifted through, keeping to themselves at the cabins and raising eyebrows when their high powered cars rumbled by. The Dirty Thirties dried up the Springs and the park was forced to close in the mid 1930s, about the same time as when Prohibition was repealed.  Alvin & Hattie moved back to South Dakota.  The old Victorian was rented out again over the years, stood empty for many atop the hill overlooking the countryside and when the descendants of the Fink family sold the property at the turn of the century, the old house came down.

HEADED OUT OF TOWN IN A HAIL OF BULLETS

On Saturday May 26th 1928, the Farmer’s & Merchants Bank of Wymore was robbed. Bandits entered the bank about 9:35 am and forced officials, employees and customers (including 4 school teachers) to lie on the floor.  They left the bank with $54,000 in cash and bonds and opened fire with at least one machine gun outside the bank, a barber in a nearby shop was grazed in the arm by one of the bullets.  They fled north out of town in a red Nash with stolen license plates and deterred pursuers by throwing nails on the streets to flatten tires. Suspects were later apprehended but witnesses could not identify any of the men and the real bandits were never found.  The troubled bank on the corner of 7th and F Street was finally forced to close in January of 1930, when the depositors made a run on the bank.

The First National Bank of Fairbury was robbed April 4, 1933 by the infamous Ma Barker/Alvin Karpis Gang.  Six gangsters terrorized employees and customers during the robbery, and made off with nearly $28000.  During the most violent robbery in this area, Sheriffs hit the streets quickly from the Court House across the street and opened fire as the robber’s tried to escape using two bank employees and two women as human shields. The deputy sheriff was wounded in the leg and a man standing with him from Des Moines was shot in the shoulder. The bank employee who was being held as a shield was caught in the line of fire and wounded five times, he died a short time later. The black sedan with Iowa plates left Fairbury headed north and the two women were released unharmed two miles outside of town. On the run, one of the gang named Earl Christman took a bullet from the bank security guard and was taken to a Kansas City safe house where he died the next day. The gang buried him in an unmarked grave. The Barker/Karpis gang’s rein of terror far exceeded other well known gangsters of their day. Ma Barker and her son were gunned down in Florida in 1935 and Karpis was apprehended in 1936. Alvin (Kreepy) Karpis was the last "Public Enemy #1" to be taken. He also spent the longest time as a federal prisoner in Alcatraz Prison, serving twenty-six years. He died after his release in 1979. 

Rumors have it that John Dillinger spent several weeks in an unknown location in Wymore, it seems the only credible link to Dillinger in Wymore is one of the Barker gang, who was known to have made arrangements for a safe house in Chicago for Dillinger while he was on the lam and the Barker gang was certainly familiar with this area.  Stories go that early in their career the Dillinger gang was also known to ride the trains, and Wymore was well known from Omaha to Chicago in the 20’s and 30s as SIN CITY. 

In Sept of 1934, 4 bandits known as the Denning-Limerick Gang rented a two story house in the little town of Kinney from Hugh Berry, an Odell man who had been running a dice game in the house. They paid him $6 a day for rent, which was a hefty sum.  Folks in the area reported the suspicious characters to the Sheriff. The group was described as several expensively dressed men and just as many women who spent their days target shooting in the fields and spending money without worry at the local markets. 

The gang had a history of burglaries and robbery’s before they robbed the Security National Bank of Superior on November 22. They used revolvers and a sub machine gun to force all of the employees and customers into the back room while they waited for the timed vault to unlock itself.  They went out the door with $7900 in cash, forcing the cashier and bookkeeper to ride the running boards of the getaway car, acting as human shields until they were out of the city limits. Gage county authorities were quick to set up a raid on the suspects living in the house at Kinney.  

On a chilly night in November, 18 lawmen closed in on a property in Kinney .. trouble is they targeted the wrong house at first which tipped off the gang that they were being raided.  When the officers turned their guns on the two story house the Sheriff gave the bandits 15 minutes to surrender.  Two men walked about 50 feet from the house with their hands up and then made a dash for the hills. One of the men, named Keeling caught a bullet in his side and collapsed in a ditch about a half mile away, he died in a Beatrice hospital the next morning. Harper made his way to Beatrice where he hijacked a trucker and was later seen in Kentucky.  

The two bosses of the gang, Denning and Limerick, arrived back at Kinney around midnight to find authorities waiting for them and ignored sheriff’s orders to halt, speeding away through a flurry of gunfire. Their stolen car was found abandoned in a barn near Odell but there was no trace of the bandits. Limerick was arrested in St. Joseph MO in May of 1935, he confessed to bank robbery’s and was sentenced to life in prison, in Leavenworth Kansas and was later transferred to Alcatraz.  Denning was never seen nor heard from in Nebraska again. On July 20, 1936 after the death of Dillinger associate John (Red) Hamilton, the FBI named Maurice (Blondie) Denning Public Enemy #1 and he stayed on FBI radar until the 1960s.  He was never apprehended, making him the most illusive Public Enemy.

When authorities searched the house, they found money stashed in a radio and inside pocket doors between the rooms, there were piles of fancy clothes and other luxuries seldom seen in those days.  When word got around about the loot in the house, treasure hunters tore the house apart over the next decade looking for money left behind.

Bonnie and Clyde were rumored to have toured through the area before they were killed in May of 1934, but if they were here they wouldn’t have been seen driving through town or robbing banks.  Clyde was predominately a petty thief, stealing cash from gas stations or robbing grocery stores.  They stayed in rural tourist cabins, like those at Fink’s Park and traveled 100s of miles a day at high speeds, Clyde’s stolen car of choice was a 1932 Ford V8.  They circled state lines wherever they went and preferred the borders that ran north and south from Texas to Minnesota.  State officials couldn't cross their state line to pursue a gangster, but in the early 30s Hoover’s FBI made it a priority to get them when they did cross state lines and fell under Federal jurisdiction.  

The Blue Springs State Bank was robbed on June 24, 1936. Staff and customers were told to lie on the floor while the bandits scooped up $788.80 and sped away in a Ford V-8. The night before, J. E. Chalmer’s of El Paso, Texas stopped at a filling station in Wymore for gas and asked if he could sleep in his car for a while before heading on to meet up with his wife in Minnesota.  After the filling station closed for the night, a man tapped on his car window and demanded he open the door, 3 men took over his car and forced him to ride along with them through the countryside all night. They stopped at Union Center School and went through all of his personal belongings looking for a gun and took $89 dollars of his traveling money.  They stopped at the Union Center store and woke up the owner for gas.  Chalmers was finally released near at a hideout on Rawley Hill (which is a mile west of the town site of Kinney). The leader of the bandits told Chalmers “When you get back to Wymore, tell them that you have had a ride with Maurice Denning and that he is not as bad a fellow as some people believe.”  As was a ploy to divert attention from his own identity, he tried to hang the heist on Denning, the man who escaped the Kinney Raid a year and ½ before. Chalmer’s car was found a week later abandoned in Des Moines, Iowa.   The real robbers were later apprehended and did time in prison. 

Somehow, through the all of the revelry, the hootch, the dust and the gunfire Wymore survived to face another decade .. World War II.