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Denton Community 
Historical Society

Tales & Trails

Taken from the March 2006 issue of "Tales and Trails"


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We are indebted to those from our past that took the time to save our history. Sara Gertrude Taylor Safford, the eldest daughter of Bertha Baughman and George R. Taylor of Denton and wife of Tunis J. Safford was such a person. She kept scrapbooks and her granddaughter, Jennifer David, a DCHS member has been kind enough to send us this article from Sara Gertrude Taylor Safford's 1936 scrapbook. I cannot find this article in the Lincoln newspaper microfilms, so I assume it came from the Denton Record newspaper. Keep in mind as you read this that it was written evidently around Memorial Day, 1936 and that it is written here exactly as it was printed. Accuracy is not insured.


The first Burlington survey west of Lincoln ran southwest up Haines Branch, crossed the divide to the junction of the Big Blue and West Blue at Camden and followed the West Blue to its head waters in Hamilton county, very nearly paralleling and sometimes following the old Nebraska City---Fort Kearney overland trail. The early survey was regarded by all the settlers in the West Blue valley as certain promise of a future railroad up that beautiful stream.

Someone changed the mind of the Burlington's chief engineer, Thomas Doane, founder of Doane College, at Crete Nebraska. What it was not fully known is that the Burlington railroad when completed made a sharp turn to the south just west of the village of Denton crossing the big Blue at Crete and followed the high divide to Hastings and Fort Kearney instead of following the beautiful West Blue valley.

The earliest settlers on Haines branch southwest of Lincoln felt confident they would have a railroad when the future capital was fixed at Lincoln, July 29, 1867. One of the earliest of theses settlers was Daniel M. Denton, who crossed the Missouri river in 1866 and located land at the site of the present village of Denton.

He was an intense republican in politics, a devout believer in the doctrine of the Disciple church, a very hard worker, a shrewd bargain driver and filled with faith in the future of Nebraska and Lancaster county. He accumulated about one thousand acres of land in his lifetime and died just on the threshold of the great drought and panic years of the nineties.

When the Burlington built west from Lincoln in 1871, the first station on the new line was located on a hill-top in section 22, township 9, range 5 east. The new side track was very naturally named Denton from the earliest settler and largest land owner. For the first ten years of its existence, it was scarcely more than a side tack and a platform. In the bright and hopeful period of the 80's, Denton burst into a village, with several stores, a hotel, a grain elevator, a group of residences and a village government.

Since that time, Denton has had experiences similar to that of other small towns near a growing city. But there is stands today overlooking a beautiful and rich valley with two graveled highways to Lincoln and a view of the high hills and wooded valleys of Haines Branch, Cheese Creek and Spring Creek which will delight the human eye through centuries.

Nearly forty yes ago there came a need of finding a burial place for some members of the pioneer families who centered about Denton. A convenient tract of land was secured from Frank R. Denton and wife, adjoining the Methodist church and located in one of the most beautiful sections adjacent to Denton village. A cemetery organization was organized in 1890 and a tract of five acres laid out for the future and final resting place of the founders of Denton and its vicinity.

Since that time, through the years, have been laid away there, Daniel M. Denton, his wife and other members of his family, many other names familiar to the early annals of Lancaster county may be read upon the tombstones in this little cemetery today. It is not likely that their resting places will ever be disturbed by the growth of the village or by an extension of the city of Lincoln across the intervening miles to absorb the little village as has been true in many of the great metropolitan cities of Europe and America.

Forty persons who have relatives sleeping in the cemetery gathered there to freshen it Monday. The plan was carried out particularly at this time to prepare it for Memorial Day decoration yesterday.

A review of document plat 3-190 at the Lancaster County Register of Deeds office has information as follows; I hereby certify that I have accurately surveyed and staked off the land described in the following statement into cemetery lots, walks and drives as shown on the plat of SUNNYSIDE CEMETERY. The dimensions of all lots, walks and drives are on the plat in feet. All lines are parallel with or at right angles to the North line of the tract described, except the diagonal lines as shown. Oak stakes are driven at all lot corners. Stones are planted at points marked thus.
June 7th 1890
G. P. Walton, Civil Engr

It is believed that Frank Denton attended a burial at Yankee Hill Cemetery on a bitter cold day and decided that Denton needed a burial location closer to the community. A review of deed #73-463 also at the Lancaster County Register of Deeds Office shows that on July 3, 1893, Frank R. Denton and his wife, Mary J. Denton did indeed give a portion of the northwest quarter of section 22 to the "Sunnyside Cemetery Association" whose trustees were Frank R. Denton, Mary J. Denton, J. W. Waugh, Margaret Waugh and J.R.C. Miller. The cemetery had a distance of 398 feet east and west and 258 feet north and south. The original trustees are now buried in Sunnyside Cemetery.

Some of the earliest burials were J.B. Hicks, Mary Hicks and William Olney in 1893, Roy Harley and Mary Helm in 1894, Ruth Miller in 1895, Jennie Denton Sheldon in 1897, Frederick Berryman in 1898 and William Ratsch in 1899. There are records for deaths occurring before 1893 i.e. Viola Miller, Anna Nelson and Carl Schell in 1892, Daniel Denton in 1889 and Robert Sheldon in 1890 and Hugh Miller in 1880 and Maria Grimm in 1884. The Sheldon, Grimm and Helm names are connected with the Denton and Miller families so it is possible that the area was earlier a family plot primarily for the Denton and Miller families. Or it may be that burials were held in the Camden cemetery and transferred later to Sunnyside Cemetery.

Many persons from the Denton and Emerald areas were buried at Yankee Hill Cemetery prior to the existence of Sunnyside Cemetery including Rufus Markel and Michael Shane.

Sunnyside Cemetery as a neighbor to the Denton United Methodist church was always perceived as a Methodist cemetery with Catholic burials from the area taken to Calvary Cemetery in Lincoln Nebraska. In the 1970's the southwestern portion of Sunnyside Cemetery was set aside as the Catholic section. On Memorial Day every year the Denton American Legion Post #355 conducts a service at the cemetery and depending on the weather there is often a Catholic Mass on the premises also. Current trustees of the Sunnyside Cemetery are Ivan Vagts, Joseph Fraas, Leland Sullivan, Melvin Giles, George Stewart and Jack Sexton. These men continue the dedication and work of the original 1893 trustees---103 years of tradition.

The cemetery has long been noted for the majestic pines on its grounds. Before her death, Dorothy Haase Weichert wrote a statement that said, "The cemetery trees were transported from a large planting of seedlings that Dad had in a cove along Haines Branch. We "four" were in charge of keeping the weeds cut. After transplanting we helped keep them hoed and watered. The water wagon used for threshing was used to water the trees during the dry 30's".

Dorothy's Dad was Walter Haase who served on the cemetery board for many years. The "four" reference was the Haase children, Dorothy, Clarence, Ervin and Ruth.

Another interesting feature of the cemetery is a 9700 pound stone. Here is the history as written by Walter Haase.

In the year of 1910 my folks sent two of my sisters and I to church school in Crete, and our way of getting there was by team and wagon or walk. And on these trips an unusual rock took my eye and I hoped that someday I could have it for my own. This rock laid to east side of the supposed to be road which is the Seward and Lancaster County line and as the years rolled on I would drive that road and have a look at that rock. So in 1961 I hired Mr. Harris to move it to the Sunnyside Cemetery as a memorial for the cemetery in May of 1962. I had a plaque made for it with name and date "SUNNYSIDE 1890 in memory of Mr. and Mrs. Walter Haase".


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