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Fullerton's First 100 Years (1879-1979)

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HISTORY OF THE FULLERTON CEMETERY ASSOCIATION

   (The following history of the Fullerton Cemetery was prepared from the records of the organization.)
   The first meeting for the organization of the Fullerton Cemetery Association was held on February 13, 1885. The organizers were Lewis Webb, James Fee, James Clayton, Clarence Brady and E. B. Spackman. About 10 acres of land were purchased west of Fullerton for the cemetery ground, and Mr. Brady and Mr. Spackman were the committee which laid out the grounds into nine blocks with an average of 70 lots to the block. Most of the lots were 15-25 feet, large enough for six graves.
   People were invited to move bodies from other cemeteries to the new cemetery and lots were offered at half-price for a limited period. The prices of lots were $10 and $15. Some bodies had been transferred from the Pleasant Valley cemetery to a location on the hill west of Fullerton and these were transferred to the new cemetery in 1895.
   Lewis Webb was the first president of the Association. Others who followed in this position through the years were M. B. S. Odell who served for over 30 years, Dr. F. W. Johnson, Frank G. Frame. M. C. Leach is president at this time.
   W. S. P. Eyler became secretary in 1923 and served until 1947 and J. P. Whitney was elected to the office. E. R. Tranbarger had been secretary since 1949.
   In 1899 it was decided to make an assessment of $2 a lot for the purpose of raising a fund for upkeep, for fencing the grounds and erecting a windmill and to pay a sexton on a part-time basis.
   George Harding was employed as the first full-time sexton, in 1916 at a salary of $60 per month. The complete fence and metal gates and arch were bought in 1917 at a cost of $467. Seeing the need for more funds, the Association amended their Constitution in 1917 providing for perpetual upkeep of lots upon the payment by the owners of $100 per lot. This replaced the annual assessment of $2 per year. This perpetual-care assessment was later reduced to $50 per lot. A small surplus accumulated in the treasury and this was placed at interest in certificates of deposit and government bonds. In May of 1928 some of the Liberty Bonds held were sold and proceeds invested in a first mortgage on land north of Fullerton in the amount of $4,000 at 6 per cent interest, 40 acres of the land taken over by the Cemetery board as the interest could not be collected. This made the total cost of the land $4,615 and it was sold later for $4,920. The proceeds were invested in U. S. Savings bonds.
   In 1927 five additional acres of land adjoining the Cemetery were bought from Mrs. Addie Scott for $1,250. This land is now being used as more space became necessary.
   Many of the old records were in incomplete form. Secretary, E. R. Tranbarger, began in 1949 the bringing of these records up to date. He also prepared a plat map showing the location, occupancy and ownership of all lots. This had been a long and difficult task in

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searching the records, as some of the older graves were unmarked. A complete record of interments has been brought up to date and is now being kept. There are 4,000 burials that have been made since the Cemetery was started. This Cemetery now has probably as complete and accurate a set of records as will be found anywhere.
   In 1951, Ralph Cunningham was named sexton, replacing William Marshall who held the position for 22 years. Mr. Cunningham resigned and Floyd Schulte was named sexton.

FULLERTON P. E. O. CHAPTER

   Chapter AG was organized on June 26, 1903, by Mrs. H. Grace Thomas, state organizer. Seven initiates and one dimitted member formed the Charter list. First officers were: Mrs. Ella Paton, president; Mrs. Elinor Kemp, vice-president; Mrs. Anna Barber, recording secretary; Mrs. Cora Harris, corresponding secretary; Mrs. Catherine Koch, treasurer; Mrs. Lillian Spear, chaplain; and Mrs. Olive Mangels, guard. Miss Ella Prentice, Chaper "T", Clay Center, Nebraska, was the dimitted member.
   AG's Charter was presented on June 8, 1904, during Nebraska Grand Chapter convention at Broken Bow. Since its organization, 111 women have been initiated into Chapter AG, and 14 members have been received by dimit. The March 1, 1972 membership list consists of 31 resident members, nine non-resident, and one inactive.
   Elinor Kemp was Nebraska state treasurer, from 1915 to 1917, and state organizer, from 1917 to 1919. She organized Chapters BX, Omaha; BY, Lincoln: BZ, Gordon; CA, Valentine; CB, Ravenna; and CC, Seward. Concerning her experiences she wrote, "I have traveled 5,645 miles in temperatures varying from 25 degrees below zero to 104 degrees above; trains late, but no matter what the weather or hour, always a smiling P. E. O. sister waited to welcome me. I have visited every Chapter in the state, and no finer women can be found anywhere."
   Chapter AG hosted the 26th annual convention of Nebraska Grand Chapter in June of 1915. State President, Miss Rose Owens, presided. Honor guests were Miss Edith Prouty, Supreme Chapter president; Mrs. Helen M. Drake, Supreme Chapter organizer; Mrs. Carrie M. Peterson, past president of Supreme Chapter; and two past presidents of Nebraska, Mrs. Ida B. Johnson and Mrs. Bertha Clark Hughes. Mrs. Bernice K. Tillet present custodian of articles of historical value was a convention delegate. Convention center was the Presbyterian Church, and delegates housed in private homes.
   Rain fell continuously during the convention, breaking a long Nebraska drouth. Humorous stories were told concerning long skirts trailing muddy, unpaved streets, and of B. I. L. drivers with cars bogged down while transporting P. E. O.'s to and from the train depot. In spite of the rain, a fine convention was reported.
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NANCE COUNTY POST OFFICES

  There is no complete history of the Fullerton post office.
   The first post office was established in the home now occupied by the Roger Brown family at the east edge of town. O.E. Stearns was the first postmaster and the post office was first known as the Cedar River post office. Uncle Sam refused to furnish a mail carrier but did allow the use of an old sack. Many citizens were sworn in as carriers but a Johnny Johnson did most of the service.
   Early in 1879, M. K. Steinbeck became postmaster and opened a flour, feed and grocery store in connection with the post office.
   In 1881, N. C. Judson carried a complete stock of groceries and had the post office connected with it.
   The order of succession of other postmasters is not established but names included W. C. Jacobsen, N. B. S. O'Dell, S. L. Sturtevant, L. W. Morgan, J. W. McClelland and Joe Storch. Charles Anderson was postmaster from 1917 until Frank Frame took over in 1921. Mr. Frame served until July 1, 1934, when Bryan Snyder became postmaster. Mr. Snyder served nearly 28 years, retiring on March 31, 1962. Lloyd DuRell was appointed acting postmaster and served until his death on April 22, 1965. Lawrence E. Wozniak was then appointed acting postmaster and was appointed postmaster on August 30, 1965, and is now serving.
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First post office which is now Coast-to-Coast store.
   Various other post offices were established in Nance County during the winter of 1897. The Tekousha was established with Frank Hodges as postmaster. This was in Cedar township, near the District No. 53 school. The same year on April 15, Frank S. Guy received his commission as postmaster of the Red Wing post office which served the Timber Creek area.
   In 1880, Henry Knapp operated a post office and grocery store in the Pleasant Valley area. The building is now used as a grainary (sic) on the farm occupied by David Cunningham. It was known as the Omra
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post office.
   The Olive post office, in the northwest corner of the county, was in operation from July 1884 to November 1902. Thomas O. McIntyre was the first postmaster.
   Mr. Brown was postmaster for the Glenwood post office and there was a post office near the District No. 5 school house called Lone Tree and one near the District No. 2 school house, called Westgard. Names of postmasters here are not available.

FULLERTON LIONS CLUB

   The Fullerton Lions Club is the only service club in Fullerton. It was chartered on April 30, 1924, and was saluted for being the third largest club in Nebraska at that time. It has continued since, and currently has a membership of 35. Two of its members, J. R. Bitner and E. R. Tranbarger, served as Lions District Governors.
   Among the first projects planned by the club after being chartered were establishing a youth center clubroom and holding a banquet to honor the high school football team.
   Among other projects sponsored through the years were: promoting a successful movement for re-flooring the old Loup river bridge, assisting the American Legion in a drive for two carloads of foodstuffs for drouth areas, leasing a local football field in the community, sponsoring a testimonial dinner for an outstanding Fullerton citizen and promoting highway improvements. The Fullerton Club sponsored the organization of the Spalding and Albion Lions Clubs. It has sponsored Fullerton's Christmas Lighting Contests and been in charge of the distribution of Christmas treats for youngsters and food baskets for the needy and shut-ins for the holidays.
   In 1944, the club erected a military Honor Roll listing men and women serving in the Armed Forces during World War II. Also to aid the war effort, the club assisted farmers in the harvest fields because of a manpower shortage and sponsored a collection of scrap paper and metals. It has been the sponsoring organization in the Community for the Boy Scouts, backed proposals for irrigation projects, an airport, a swimming pool and contributed to landscaping grounds at the new municipal pool. The club has worked in cooperation with other communities in retaining mail service.
   The club has raised funds to fight polio, aided victims in a tornado stricken area, purchased a resuscitator for the swimming pool, collected discarded eye glasses for the needy and has participated in programs to supply dogs for training as Seeing Eye leaders.
   A major project has been a numbering system for houses and businesses and the installation of street markers in the business and
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residential areas of Fullerton. After installing wooden street markers in the mid-1950's., the club, in the town's Centennial Year, has completed a project of replacing the wooden markers with metal glow-in-the dark signs. The project was done at a cost of over $3,500, plus a great deal of donated labor and supplies.
   The club had a special observance of its 50th anniversary in 1974. It is anticipated it will remain a viable part of the community in the years to come.

FULLERTON PRODUCES A MASTER CRIMINAL

   Maybe there is something special about motivating young people who grow up in a small town, one of whose best-known "graduates" in a nationally-recognized practitioner in a difficult craft. Especially if the craft is counterfeiting!
   Not that Fullerton didn't produce other leaders; but William Watts, the counterfeiter, was in a class by himself.
   The lengthy story about his capture, in Newsweek Magazine dated September 30, 1935, said that Joseph Murphy, assistant chief of the U.S. Secret Service, exulted "because his agents, had, at last, captured the country's ace counterfeiter who was responsible for nearly $1,000,000 in spurious money -- second-greatest flood of 'queer' in the Treasury's records" (at least, up to that time ).
   Watts was so skillful that Henry Morgenthau, Secretary of the Treasury, fooled his underlings with it, as a training exercise. Watts' name and skill were known to the Treasury long before his capture.
   Nothing in his early background indicated that he might, some day, become a criminal.
   His parents were solid citizens, who lived unpretentiously in a two-story red brick house in the southwest part of Fullerton. One summer, when I was on vacation from Hastings College, I plowed their cornfield, for $2 a day, behind a one-horse walking cultivator.
   Newsweek observed that counterfeiting attracts strange recruits -- tearoom proprieters (sic), aviators, merchants, physicians, auditors and Sunday School teachers. Watts fit the pattern. Until 1920, he ran a drug store in Fullerton.
   The Secret Service traced his criminal career to prohibition, when he sold illicit liquor. He wanted fake labels for his bottles, so he learned how to engrave imitations. Before long, he discovered that the sideline was more profitable than bootlegging.
   Counterfeit money was the next easy step. According to Newsweek Watts mastered the technique so completely that experts had difficulty distinguishing his bills from real currency.
   To his pursuers, he long remained a phantom. He had no women friends, and no vices such as those which eventually betray most culprits. Of the small army of people who passed out his "queer", only the top men ever saw Watts.
   He was eventually cornered in Union City, New Jersey, after a clerk in an engraving supply house told Secret Service operatives that "there's a man buying engraving material; and he's not in the trade".
   At 7 o'clock on a September morning in 1935, federal agents tiptoed up to his door and knocked. To a sleepy, "Who's there?", Captain William Houghton, chief of the Secret Service's New York division, answered, "The milk man". The door opened. William Watts, alias E. A. Martin, alias E. A. McMillen, stared into the muzzle of a gun.
   But the Treasury Department had pounced on Watts too late to prevent Saratoga race track bookmakers from many dizzy spells. Throughout the 1935 Saratoga season, bogus money bombarded the bet takers, driving many of them out of business. Profits faded into heaps of worthless green paper.
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   In the haul when Watts was captured was a loaded 38-caliber pistol, $63,000 in fake 20's and 100's, engraving machines and presses, chemicals, inks, forged whiskey labels, fake Canadian liquor stamps, negative and plates for producing currency, an original device for imitating silken threads in bank notes and sacks of bill-sized paper.
   Even though the Watts capture was covered extensively in newspapers and magazines, and in "March of Time" on the screen, there was almost no awareness of it in Fullerton, Nebraska.
   Possibly this was a small town's way of protecting his modest and law-abiding family.

Written by Dr. Frank McIntyre

   One final note on the William Watts story. When my English classes were gathering data about FHS graduates, to be published in an alumni directory in 1936, we listed (in his class of 1906): "pharmacist, address unknown".
   We didn't explain that he was in a federal penitentiary.

THE "HORSE CREEK MURDER MYSTERY."

   Bizarre and notorious as it was, the Watts counterfeiting story wasn't the most sensational crime story in Fullerton's history.
   Years earlier (about the time I was born, in 1909, or earlier), the "Horse Creek Murder Mystery" broke, and provided lurid copy for periodicals and the press throughout the nation.
   My memory of this bloody story is fuzzy; and it is based on reading accounts in early issues of Fullerton newspapers.
   As I recall the details, five people in a single family were brutally murdered, on a farm on Horse Creek, about a dozen miles west of Fullerton. Some were shot with a shotgun; and at least one or two were bludgeoned, or axed, to death. One was slain in a hog lot, where the animals had consumed part of the corpse before a neighbor stumbled onto the scene of the massacre.
   A hired hand disappeared about the time of the murders. He was said to have rented a rig at a livery stable in Fullerton, and dropped out of sight forever.
   The two names associated with the crime were Percival and Furnival. I don't recall which was the name of the victims, and which was that of the suspect. At the time, newspaper accounts of the slaying gave complete, gory details of the scene and the principal characters in the drama.
   Years after the multiple murders on Horse Creek, the sheriff of Nance County (I believe that it was August Johnson, in the '30s) received a letter from California, asking if there were still a reward available to a person who submitted evidence leading to the arrest and conviction of the culprit in the "Horse Creek Murder Mystery" caper.
   Sheriff Johnson conducted a perfunctory "investigation" by letter, about the inquiry. No relevant details were disclosed. County officials weren't strongly motivated to follow a long-cold trail about a crime which had faded from memory years earlier.
   I was personally intrigued by this development; so I re-read old accounts of the ghastly crimes. As an English teacher, I was impressed by a unique style of expression, both in the letter to Sheriff Johnson and in a note written years earlier by the missing hired hand, published at the time when interest in the murders was high. I concluded that the writer of the letter in the '30s was actually the missing suspect.
   He is undoubtedly dead now. Whatever his involvement, he will have taken his secret to the grave.
   One small detail might be mentioned. In some of the newspaper accounts at the time of the Horse Creek murders, there was a suggestion that the hired hand had a secret "yen" for his employer's wife; and that the family of victims was related, remotly (sic), to English nobility.

Written by Dr. Frank McIntyre

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© 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001 by Ted & Carole Miller