Typical. School house on South Loup river downstream about 5 or 6 miles east of Callaway 1892. (CCHS Solomon Butcher photo #13626r).

In 1892, Center School District 185, was located about 4½ miles southeast of Callaway, Nebraska, and about 3 miles north of the site of the old village of Lodi. It stood on the south side of the South Loup River in the west-central portion of Custer Township or Precinct. The country school was in the “center” of Section 17, Township 15, Range 22, hence, its name “Center.”

In 1910, J. E. Martin was the teacher when Director Arthur Scott took the school census. The 24 students at that time were: Mary, Florence, Lettie, Clare, Laura, Ethel, Thomas, and Hattie Deal; Wyatt, Avery, Ethel, and Daisy Nichelson; Reaka, Mary, Matilda, Willie and Fred Lang: Florence and Elva Jones; Glen, Clifford, and Blanch Coutier; Elmer Anderson, and Lionel Wise.

The historic old Custer Township, was not only where Center School was located, but was also possibly where more history was made than any other specific area of Custer County.  The school was about three miles west of where the first courthouse of Custer County stood on the old Milo and Frank Young Ranch. (That log courthouse is now located in the Callaway City Park.)  Custer Precinct was also the area where Print Olive seized Luther Mitchell and Ami Ketchum. He then took them to Devil’s Gap just southeast of Center School where they were hung and their bodies were burned. It is said that the Olives made their own laws and forced many settlers, some with families, homes, and crops, to leave their homesteads.

Some of the families served by Center School Circa 1905 were Al H. Wise, C. M. Wise, Melvin K. Jones, Anna M. Tyrel, William C. Deal, Edward R. Koch, Eliza E. Ford, Minnie L Carter, and others.

In 1928, the pupils attending Center School were: Wayne Henry, Verle Landreth, Wilma Ogg, Frances Chad, Lenna Deal, Mamie Koch and Alice Estergard (mother of my classmate Jerri Ann Maxwell and her sister Donna Glendy).

The 1931 school census showed that District 185 was serving 7 of a possible 15, school age children.  Valuation of District 185 at that time was $152,667.  During Center’s 1930-1931 term, it cost $884.52 to operate the school.  Teaching this district in 1931-32 was Pearl Boyer Nichelson (my great aunt) who received $540.00 wages for the entire term.  (In comparison, my last year of teaching in 2019 was $63,677.00.)  Birt G. Henry was the director of the school board at the time Miss Boyer was teaching.  (I was unable to find attendance and teacher records from 1892 to 1910.)

Other teachers who taught during Center School’s 59 year existence (1892-1951) were: 1910, J. E. Martin; 1911, Anna B. Weaver; 1912, Harriet Cox; 1913 – 1916, Hazel Vanderslice; 1917, Edith Haefele; 1918, Della Cox; 1919, Mr. L. M. Huff; 1920, Della Cox; 1921 – 1924, Mrs. R. C. Jones; 1925 – 1926, Helen Davies; 1927, Verna Skelton; 1928 – 1929, Irvin Longmore; 1930 – 1931, Nellie Tucker; 1932, Pearl Boyer; 1933 – 1935, Clara Skelton; 1936 – 1937, Ileen Hammond; 1938 – 1939, Ruth Cox; 1940, Ruth Frenz; 1941, Ruth Headly; 1942, Evelyn Larson; 1943, Nellie Tucker; 1944 – 1949, Merle Brabham; 1950, Alice Schaad;  and in 1951-52, Joan Patterson.

This was the last year that school was held in District 185. Joan received $1440 for that final school year.  She had two pupils that year, Paulette G’Schwind and Joe Woodward.

On July 12, 1954, Center School was sold by auctioneer Joe Savidge along with a coal shed, a Waterbury jacketed stove, a crockware water-cooler, a teacher’s desk and chair, 12 double desks, an organ, one bookcase, slate blackboards, a merry-go-round, and other items. In 1956, members of the Callaway American Legion Post #59 began working on the school that had been moved north of the True Value Store to be used as their meeting hall.   The Legionnaires had created a “Time Capsule Note,” put it into a whiskey bottle, and placed it under the building before setting Center School down on its new foundation.

Later on, in the 1970s, Center School became the meeting place for the Boy Scouts.  Just inside the anteroom, you can still see the sign “No Pets Allowed,” perhaps posted by a Scout Leader.  Tom Kennedy purchased the school circa 1994 and in 2005, my husband Dave’s cousin Coeleen and her husband Brad Witthuhn became its new owners.  The school was sold to them along with the lot and house.  Witthuhns sold the school to us for $400 in 2010.

Shortly thereafter, we moved it to its present location after purchasing the lot from the Baptist Church, for a bargain price of $2000.  They were glad to see the building placed on the lot for development into a school museum and BnB that would eventually benefit the village in various ways.

On moving day in 2010 (Center School’s second relocation), my husband Dave made the trip to Callaway to “help” – “watch” the movers.  When “Crow” Moving Company from Hershey raised the building off its foundation in Callaway to relocate it to Arnold, imagine my husband’s surprise when he found the “Time Capsule Whiskey Bottle” 54 years after it had been placed there.

The note inside the “time capsule” stated, “These (Legion) Members of Post #59 Helped… Oct. 22, 1956, 10:30 a.m. ~ Dig foundation ~ Hauled Gravel ~ Run Cement ~ Whiskey sold by Otto Meyer ~ Gravel by Ace Ryan ~ Bill Street Contractor ~ Art Coons – Idea.”  The signatures of the other men helping to place the school at Callaway that day were listed below those comments: Ralph Mooney, Glen Johns, S. Rourke, Nigel Sprouse, Roger Taylor, Bob Glaze, Lloyd Liebhart (our neighbor where I grew up), and Charley Schaffer.

I was elated when I finally purchased Center School and got it moved to Arnold. Upon completion of the basement lodging in 2012, it was an honor to host Joan and (Lloy) Duane Thurman as the first BnB guests in 2014.  Joan was the first to sign the Center School BnB guestbook, followed by her husband Duane.  Joan wrote, “I taught this school 1950-51, its last year of classes.”

 Joan and Duane donated many books and historical items to me for use in this museum.

Starting around 2013-14, I began bringing my fourth-grade students to Center School dressed in period clothing, to experience “1890s Country School for a day.”  They thoroughly enjoyed the experience, even though the museum was unfinished at that time.

By 2016-17, the upper floor took on the look of what students may have seen when the first session started in 1892.  Work on the museum is ongoing…

(Compiled by Berni Crow 2017 – updated 7/15/2021.  If you wish to have a personal tour, contact Schoolmarm Berni Crow at 308 520 1102 or 308 848 2927.)