Historical Details

Lewis, Lester

Courtesy of Our Heritage: Niobrarans and Neighbors, 02/16/2021


by Rose Lewis

Lester LeRoy Lewis and Rose Hebner were married June 20, 1935.

Lester L. Lewis was born July 12, 1913 to Mr. and Mrs. Charles Edward Lewis who homesteaded about six miles south of Van Tassell, a half mile south of the Niobrara county line just next to the Nebraska state line on the east, in 1910. (C.E. Lewis, 1885-1962, July 15) Mrs. C.E. Lewis, Laura Elsie Seegrist April 14, 1889-) Grandparents were Mr. and Mrs. George Lewis of Ravenwood, Mo. and Mr. and Mrs. Ike Seegrist of Crawford, Neb.

His boyhood days were spent helping with the farm and ranch work when not in school. This included raising certified seed potatoes, grains, cattle and sheep. Later on, he sheared sheep and helped with wool in the Rawlins, Wyo. area. He also helped with the sheep shearing of the home ranch.

Rose Hebner was born March 27, 1915, in Harrison, Nebr. to Mr. and Mrs. Fredrick William Hebner, (Mrs. Hebner, Nee, Catherine Beck) who homesteaded about 16 miles southwest of Harrison. She lived in the family home during childhood, where family members helped as able. At an early age we learned to milk cows, ride horseback, hoe weeds, make bread, help with housework and do field work.

Occasionally Rose helped some of the neighbors with housework. 1933 to 1935 she taught school in Nebraska, after graduation from high school. She took a normal training course in high school and the required exams for a Nebraska Teach­ing Certificate. She has three sisters and four brothers; William Fredrick, June,Oct. 12, 1906; Margaret, Jan 21, 1908; David Walter, Feb. 6, 1910; Daniel Fredrick, June 19, 1912; Rose, Katherine Magdalene, Feb. 26, 1917; Louis Freida, Jan. 10, 1920; Benjamin Reuben, Feb. 10, 1923.

Lester has four brothers and sisters, Ruby Lorraine, March 20, 1909; Lester, Archie Earl, Nov. 22, 1914; Lawrence Kenneth, Nov. 13, 1918; Gladys Lucinda, Oct. 13, 1920.

Lester and Rose were married in Chadron, Neb. by Rev. Eddie Newland. It was a 'double wedding' with Lester's uncle E.E. Seegrist and Thelma Weed. That night the neighbors gathered at the Leonard Seegrist home and had a wedding dance in their big barn.

Early teachers of Rose Hebner Lewis were Edward G. Pendray, (later a science and space expert and writer), Mattie Parsons (Carley), Miss Rusher, Alma Dunlap, Anna Olson (Abel), Hilda Detlefsen, Nellie Bannon, Grace Bourret (Powell).  Early teachers of Lester Lewis were; Maude Stevens (Mrs. Ernest), Myrtle Phillips (Broderick), Mrs. Hubbard, Minnie Hoppie, Mr. Bebeau.

Mr. and Mrs. Lester Lewis were engaged in the ranching - farming business with his parents, Mr. and Mrs. C.E. Lewis. They raised grain, corn and potatoes and mostly cattle and some sheep and pigs. In the late 20's and early 30's the Lewises raised certified seed potatoes.  Lester and his father built an ice cutting machine and cut ice for themselves and others to store for use in ice boxes. The ice was generally stored in cellars in sawdust or straw. Sawdust was most commonly used.

Lester Lewises worked for Mr. and Mrs. Guy H. Coffee, (Coffee Cattle Co.) 1942 to 1944, a large ranch about 18 miles south
of Harrison. In 1944 they helped at the Tom Lewis Ranch, (Tom and Lester's parents were not related). They moved back to help with C.E. Lewis ranch operation in 1945. Rose taught school in Van Tassell 1945 to 1947 and did sub­stitute teaching in that school almost until its closing in 1968 due to lack of children or children being bused to Lusk.

The L. Lewises have three children, Jerald Bruce, born June 20, 1936 at the ranch home, Melvin Wayne, Dec. 16, 1948 and Linda Yvonne, Nov..8, 1950. Dr. Walter E. Reckling of Lusk was the doctor attending all three.  Melvin and Linda born in the Spencer Hospital in Lusk.  Dr. Reckling was the family doctor.

The 30s were difficult, dry years for everyone.  Early 1935 there were dust storms from other areas settling dust everywhere and giving the atmosphere a hazy appearance. Neighbors visited back and forth in the 30s and 40s. There was a ladies aid, Sunday school and church at Van Tassell, and visiting and card playing and often surprise birthday parties. Some of the neighbors were: Leonard Seegrist, Victor Wests, Ed Redifers, Ed Davises, Ernest Stevens, Carl Dallarns, John Pendrays, Jack Magoons, Don Ellicotts, Gagstetters and John Tangens.

Rose Lewis raised large gardens, had chickens, did some sewing for the family, and many jars of food were canned yearly. The small house in which they lived (rented from the C.E. Lewises) had no modern conveniences.  Water was carried from a barrel at the well and later on a handpump was installed. Water was heated on the stove.  First lamps and gas lamps were used, then a six volt light plant run with a windcharger, then 32-volt batteries run with an engine for charging.   Neighbors had country telephones, some on barbed wire lines.

The blizzard of '49 left snowdrifts up to 20 feet high in our yard and kept us snowed in about six weeks. Many cattle were lost in the long, cold storm. Cattle were frozen to death or had feet or tails frozen and many drifted on. Water systems froze.  Large road equipment came from Iowa to open roads.  Several people lost lives during the storm.

Jerald (Jerry) graduated from Sioux County High School in Harrison, Nebr. in 1955, Linda from Niobrara County High School Lusk in 1969 and Melvin from C.H.S. in 1967. All three did scholastically well in school, took part in class plays and musicals and held school offices.  Melvin was student council president during his senior year.

All were very ambidextrous.  Jerry has and continues to 'turn out' many things in the shop.  He repairs machinery and cars, and has built a number of things. He and his father built a 'wool sacker' to use in their sheep raising operation. Melvin became a beautician.  Linda excels in sewing, knitting and has musical talent, along with homemaking ability.  She was Miss Niobrara County in 1970 and competed in the state contest in Cheyenne.  All three won 4-H trips to Chicago on 4-H records, the boys on garden projects and Linda on foods pro­jects. All earned a number of medals and special awards in their 4-H projects. All were 10-year 4-H members. They garnered a number of trips to the State Fair at Douglas and Jerry won a trip to Denver in 1951. Jerry was a charter member of the Rollicking Ranchers 4-H club and his mother is a charter leader. In 1971 Rose com­pleted 25 years as a leader and received a trophy pen set from the State 4-H Club office in Laramie at a banquet Feb. 10. Melvin and Linda belonged to the National Honor Society. Both attended Casper College two years after high school. Both were part of the Casper College Contact Troupe.   Linda had several business scholarships to pursue the course in college.  Jerry won a trip to Kansas City on F.F.A. project work.   He won the honor of Star Farmer in F.F.A.

Mrs. Lester Lewis and Linda competed in several Cowbelle's beef cook-offs, make it with wool contests and in National chicken cook-offs, the latter in the eastern states, (Maryland, Delaware and Virginia).

In 1953 the Lester Lewises bought the Van Tassell Store from Mrs. Frank (Marie) Martin, also the service station.

Melvin and Linda Lewis received their first eight years of education here. Teachers were Mrs. Jerry (Maybelle) Wasserburger, Mrs. John (Vera) Anderson, Mrs. Dick (Margaret) Brashear and Mrs. R. 'Duke' (Elaine) Rabe.

The 'permanent' residents of about the past 16 years are the families of Lester Lewis, Harvey Zerbe, George Siebken, Bob Bancroft and Mrs. Marie Martin and Joann, Chris Christensen, Mrs. Ernestine Vansant. Some now deceased and some moved away, but remaining are the Lewises, Zerbes, and George Siebken and two family members. Some of the 'part time' residents were Glen Homans, Gilbert Stolls, John Risings, Ernest Larsons, Whites, Richard Forells, James Menters, Foutz, Harold Manders, Bill Henritzes, Frank Rathluctners, and others, some em­ployed by ranchers and some on section. O.W. 'Slim' Pattersons were long time residents but moved to Lusk.

The past 16 years has meant the disappearance of the old depot, the Congre­gational church, the old water tank, and some houses that were homes either moved out or torn down for lumber.

Mrs. Lester Lewis baked a birthday cake for Ernestine 'Grandma' Vansant in 1944 and took her school pupils over where they enjoyed tea with her. Mrs. Lewis continued to bake a cake for Grandma Vansant every year for her birthday on April 1. It devloped into a community celebration and friends and neighbors visited in the Vansant home to help make it a memorable occasion.

Grandma Vansant passed away in June, 1971 at the age of 97.

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