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FOLLOWING ARTICLE WAS PUBLISHED IN THE RITZ HOSPITALITY
MAGAZINE, ROCKY MOUNTAIN EDITION SPRING/SUMMER 2007
Sandhill, Nebraska Double R Ranch
This Nebraska guest ranch lies in the Heart of the Sandhills,
20 mi N of Mullen and 50 S. of Valentine on Hwy. 97.
It is in a land of spring-fed lakes and lush fields
of open prairie; a land where cattle out-number the
people. Whether you seek quiet serenity or an outdoor
adventure, you can experience both at the Double R Guest
You will enjoy the feeling of sand hill solitude in
the cabins which are situated in a secluded, wooded
area. They are nestled at the base of the steep hills
that surround the lush, green valley of the Home Valley
Lake. The deluxe cabins have comfortable accommodations;
including, kitchenettes complete with all dishes, utensils,
pans, and appliances; all you have to bring is your
food. The cabins are open year round to anyone seeking
tranquility and relaxation away from the fast paced,
Sportsmen will enjoy white-tail and mule deer hunting
over spectacular, 4-wheel accessible, terrain. They
can shoot the abundant waterfowl and hunt the plentiful
upland game; including, sharp-tail grouse, dove, and
pheasant. Fish private, spring-fed lakes, and hike the
sandy dunes, observing an amazing diversity of birds,
wildlife and wild flowers.
The many pelicans and shore birds can be observed throughout
the day. Eagles and hawks can be seen riding the waves
of air currents, or sleeping on the nearby fence posts,
seemingly oblivious to their surroundings. At dusk the
hills sport the deepest shades of green and make for
the best photography. At nightfall, the howling coyotes
with their yipping pups, may remind you that Mother
Nature is on continual watch providing for all of her
History buffs can explore onsite, the original 1908
three room sod house and one-room schoolhouse. Stargazers
from all over the USA come to this area to study and
view the stars because the sky is so big and is free
of interference from city lights. Ranch tours and adventures,
and canoe trips on the Middle Loup and Dismal rivers
are also available.
Call or e-mail us today for additional information.
The Double R is a near-perfect, year round, retreat
for your next get-away holiday!”
By -Pat Bridges
Select Lodging – Guest
Ranches and then Double R Ranch
4) AAA Living Nebraska issue July/August 2006 pg. 25
R Guest Ranch"
You don’t need to be an experienced equestrian to
have a great time at the Double R Guest Ranch in Mullen,
where you can observe the ranch’s various seasonal
activities during your stay. Guests with horseback riding
knowledge may use horses at the ranch or are welcome to
bring their own. In July and August, ranch hands will
check cows, fences and windmills around the property daily.
In addition to observing the ranch’s operations,
you can hike, fish, horseback ride and bird watch. Hunting
for sharp-tailed grouse, deer geese, prairie chickens,
pheasants and ducks also is a popular activity.
The ranch, with clear skies and rolling pastures, is a
stargazer’s dream. Pollution from smog and city
lights is practically nonexistent, making the number of
visible stars utterly stunning.
The Double R Ranch, owned by Jim and Pat Bridges, has
been in the family since Pat’s grandparents homesteaded
the property in the Sandhills region of Nebraska back
in 1908. Folklorist Roger Welsh has said, “Any days
you spend in the Sandhills are not taken off your lifetime
allotment. It is so restful that God just gives them to
you for free.” Thanks to the generosity of the Bridges’,
other people are able to share in the history and beauty
of this sanctuary.
“We started this lodging business because we had
several empty houses on the property,” Pat says.
“Rather than just letting them sit vacant, we decided
to remodel them and rent them out.”
Since then, they have built a new cabin and remodeled
Pat’s grandmother’s house as well as the building
her grandfather used as a doctor’s office. Currently,
those three buildings make up their visitor lodging, but
they are adding a fourth building near one of the property’s
four lakes. Since each cabin has its own cooking facilities
(the renovated doctor’s office only has a microwave),
visitors to the Double R Ranch take care of their own
meals, whether they prepare them at the ranch or drive
to town to eat.
“Our ranch is a watching and unwinding kind of place,”
Pat says. “You can do whatever you want while you’re
here, even if that’s just hiking around the property,
enjoying the peace and quiet.”
If you’re looking for something different to do
this summer, try a week on a working ranch. In addition
to a relaxing getaway, a working ranch lets you participate
in new, exciting activities in a beautiful, rustic setting.”
-Karen M. Alley
5) Hooker County Tribune December 7, 2006 pg. 18-19
“The following is the history of the District 66
schoolhouse which tells of the adventures that Jim and
Pat Bridges have had in the restoration of the little,
red, one room schoolhouse. The schoolhouse now rests in
their valley, overlooking the Marsh Lake, and close by
their ranch home. It is open for visitation most of the
time, but to be sure they are home, you should call ahead
They are North on Highway 97, and 19 miles from Mullen
to Mile Marker 85; then take the first turn East on the
first gravel road. Go east about 1 1⁄2 miles and
then turn North again at the end of the first shelter
belt and go up the lane to their house. You can stop there
and inquire. The schoolhouse is just to the west.
History of the District 66 One-Room Schoolhouse from 1987
The school district directly north of them had the use
of the original District 66 schoolhouse up until the time
that they no longer had any kids to attend it. The school
board had to come to a decision about what should be done
with the school house. Elsie Roth, Pat’s Aunt and
the former Cherry County School Superintendent, had contacted
one of the board members. She stated that Jim and Pat
Bridges, her niece and husband, had just recently bought
the RR Ranch from her, and that they were very interested
in buying a one-room schoolhouse which they could restore
and preserve for historical purposes. This idea apparently
appealed to the school board and they came up with a plan.
Jim Bridges and Elsie Roth were invited to a special meeting
of the school board. At this meeting, Elsie was given
the school house for restoration and for historical purposes.
Miss Roth was speechless and overwhelmed by the generosity
and goodness of the board, the members of which had all
been close friends of the Roth family for many years.
The board did insist that the school house be moved from
its present location as they were not going to continue
maintaining the fences, etc.
Dr. R. G. Roth, the father of Miss Roth and the grandfather
of Pat Bridges, was one of the founding fathers of District
66 and was instrumental in building the schoolhouse, hiring
the teacher, and getting it set up for school. Pat’s
mother, Mildred Roth McDuffee, and Elsie, her aunt, were
two of the first students to go to school in this schoolhouse
in its original location which was just down the valley
west of the Roth ranch headquarters just beside the present
As soon as Elsie completed the Normal Training course
at the Mullen High School she was hired to teach the District
66 school. That would have been during 1925-26 school
year. She had 5 students for this, her first teaching
experience, and she continued to teach in District 66
for two more years before going on to college to obtain
her Bachelor’s Degree in Education at Chadron State.
One of the final acts of her years in this school was
to see the addition of new desks for the children. Elsie
had the foresight to know that the old original desks
needed to be preserved so she had one of the older students
push the old desks up into the attic cubby. When the schoolhouse
had been moved and was settled into its new location by
the lake, Elsie came over to see it. The first thing she
wanted to know was if the old desks were still up in the
attic. Jim looked, and they were still there! She was
delighted and pleased to know she had preserved them for
Miss Roth had sold the ranch to her niece and husband,
Pat and Jim Bridges, and Elsie no longer owned property
to move it to. So, she wanted to transfer the title to
the schoolhouse to Jim and Pat so it could be located
on the ranch, and so that the restoration work could begin.
This was done immediately.
The moving of the schoolhouse is another story in itself!
Briefly, it was moved 10 miles south via a stack mover,
and with the expertise of goodwill of nearest neighbors,
Jim O’Brien and Chuck Anders, and with the assistance
of their ranch hand, John Golden, and of course, Jim’s
help too. John had built a foundation for the new school
and this was all ready and waiting. After they finally
got the tractor and stack mover w/schoolhouse maneuvered
down the lane and into the present location, the trick
then was to get it set squarely onto the foundation. This
proved to be quite a job, but undaunted, it was finally
accomplished. They did a very fine job and there was very
little damage to the structure; damage that was easily
repaired by John. All of the guys had a healthy respect
for regular house movers form that day on.
There were many years of neglect and a lot of repairs
that needed to be made. The roof would hopefully last
a while, so the first priority was to get the inside cleaned
up. Pat peeled off all of the old wallpaper and discovered
that the paper wall board was so rotten it would not support
a new wall paper job. John’s help was again enlisted
and he sheet rocked the interior and Pat learned how to
finish seams. When it had cured long enough the new wall
paper was hung and it was an immediate transformation.
Pat had a large personal library of her own books and
quite a number of books that had been her mother’s
and Elsie’s. There were also a few of the original
school books that the district had left in the school
and many other books that had just accumulated. She decided
that the schoolhouse would be the logical place to display
this library and then it could be available for those
who were interested and wanted to sue it. Again John was
enlisted to build as many book shelves as he could. He
did and Pat was able to display everything on the new
Pat thought that the building needed to have some purpose,
or use, in order to justify all of the time and expense
of restoration. The piano, desks, books, games, stove,
high-jump, maps, propane tank, and two outhouses came
as a part of the package. The c. 1886 Baer Upright Grand
piano is an excellent one and it gets tuned very fall.
She have been giving piano lessons on it since the restoration
was completed and all of her students have expressed their
appreciation of the time they get to spend in the school
and being able to play the old piano.
Pat’s next work project was to refinish the floor.
It was very rough and worn. She started removing the old
finish on a small area but ended up having to remove the
finish on the entire floor with paint remover. It was
a summer’s job. The floor was already a natural
warm mahogany color so she did not want to change that
by adding a lacquer finish. Pat wanted it to retain its
character spots and some of the discolored places so she
only used sweeping compound to finish it. It consists
of oil and sawdust and when it is time to add a little
color, she scatters the sweeping compound around and the
kids have a lot of fun sliding around on the floor and
rubbing the finish into the boards. It seems to work great
and the floor has an old-fashioned, warm and homey look,
Every year Jim and Pat were invaded with millers and wasps.
The old windows were broken and loose and the screens
didn’t fit anymore. Finally, last year they replaced
the broken panes, reputtied all of the windows, and caulked
the windows shut!! Then they all needed painted so Pat
I did that. It did help to keep the bugs out but they
still needed new windows or screens. There will always
be some improvements that have to be made but most of
the big projects are completed.
Some of their future plans include a search for a large
yard bell or one to hang by the front door; they need
a flag and a flag pole; and would like to hook up the
old water pump; plant some trees; and replace the green
paper, black board with real slate.
Now that the restoration work is completed, Aunt Elsie
and Pat plan to start collecting memorabilia for the inside.
She has a lot of ideas which will make it even more interesting.
Such as important books, magazines, and pictures that
are a part of the schoolhouse memories. This is a continuing
project and a project that brings Jim and Pat great pleasure
and satisfaction. Pat is so happy to have had a part in
the preservation of this tiny bit of history.
A Continuation of the History of the District
66 one-room schoolhouse
They had to put on a new roof before too long as the old
one was beginning to leak. Also, Pat found it necessary
to have a light put on the outside so that her piano kids
could find their way to the car after their lessons! It
was just too dark to see in the wintertime.
Pat had always envisioned a “little red schoolhouse”
and when it came time to paint, they painted it red with
white trim. Pat loved the color of it and even though
Aunt Elsie thought it bespoke “communism”,
she went ahead with the red color and she thinks Elsie
learned to love it too.
After Pat had puttied the windows shut there was no ventilation
and it got so terribly hot inside that they decided to
buy new aluminum storm windows so they could open the
windows. They got the new storm windows installed but
Pat had done such a good job on the putty, that they still
couldn’t open the windows!! They still can’t
open them and probably never will be able to unless someone
tells them how to get the putty out.
Sometime in the late 1990’s Pat was asked to open
up the school house as the polling place for this precinct.
She was delighted to do so and the girls who run that
show were very tolerant of having no “in-house”
bathroom and tap water. There were a lot of people who
got to see the school house that never would have done
so if they hadn’t voted in it. The voting took place
here until 2005 and then because of new rules requiring
handicap access and voting machines their precinct was
asked to either vote by absentee, or drive the 50 miles
to Valentine to vote. Pat was in agreement with this because
she thought it would save tax dollars by closing the little
country polling places, but they do miss the activity.
In the hopes of making the schoolhouse a little more pleasant
for the election board and to get some form of ventilation
for them, Pat convinced her husband that they just had
to have a new door on the side. They got this and had
it all installed just before they found out that they
wouldn’t be coming here to vote! The door was needed
anyway so they were not unhappy. It adds so much and it
replaced the old door that leaked and was warped beyond
repair. Jim and Pat still need to get an inside door to
keep out the cold air. When it gets too cold Pat’s
piano kids take their lessons at their house and that
Through the years the Bridges’ have been able to
plant some pine trees on the lot and have planted grass
about 4 times that they remember. None of the grass has
grown yet, but the trees have and they are a beautiful
addition. Pat found a big school-type bell and Jim installed
it outside on a post and he added a rope for ringing it.
It is a favorite thing for visiting kids to do. Jim went
to a school sale near Whitman a few years ago and was
able to buy a set of swings and a teeter-totter; also,
he got a couple of pictures of the presidents of the United
States and one of George Washington which were great near
the front door and maybe next summer they are hoping to
get some grass started and do a little more with the yard.
The guests that they have at their cabins really enjoy
touring the schoolhouse. It is an added historical attraction
for them. Jim and Pat also had many different schools
come from quite a distance, and from Mullen, bringing
a bus full of kids to enjoy the history lesson and a little
time in an old-fashioned school room. They have had many
visiting teacher groups and several tour groups visit
Many of the children and visitors have a hard time visualizing
just how school was conducted in one tiny room with kids
in several different grades. It is very educational for
the children and they enjoy seeing the books, desks, and
the old piano.
This year 2006, went by too fast to get very much accomplished
over there, but they still really enjoy the privilege
of having this historical building so close by and they
try to be good caretakers so it will be enjoyed for years
Custer County Chief Broken Bow, NE
“Bridges remember heritage
Guests illustrate urban, rural differences
Mullen – Preservation of heritage and preparation
for the future converge at the Double R Ranch, nestled
in the Sandhills among valleys and spring-fed lakes, north
The Double R Ranch is owned by Jim and Pat Bridges and
is located 19 miles north of Mullen on Highway 97. The
Bridges’ ranch is only 24 miles south of Merritt
Reservoir, 60 miles from the Fort Niobrara Wildlife Refuge
and 70 miles south of Rosebud. It is one of the few places
that still receive mail only three days a week.
Jim and Pat have used the ranch’s location to prepare
for the future. However, they have not forgotten their
heritage. In fact, their heritage contributes to their
ability to keep the ranch going and to educate others
about their legacy.
Jim and Pat operate a guest ranch on their property using
vacant houses that belonged to Pat’s grandparents
and great-grandparents, including a three-room sod house
with an attic.
“We’re losing the identity. There’s
not very many ranches left that have been in the family
for very long. The big are getting bigger, and the little
are getting littler, and I’m going broker.”
Pat’s grandparent’s, Dr. R.G. and Winnie Roth
homesteaded the Double R Ranch in 1908, along with Pat’s
great-uncle Edward Roth and great-grandmother Catherine
Over the years, Pat’s ancestors purchased other
homesteads in the area and built up the ranch.
Her grandfather, Dr. Roth, served as the area doctor.
Jim and Pat still have his old ledger books and his medicine
bag, complete with supplies. Jim said according to Dr.
Roth’s books, it cost $16 to deliver a baby and
$1.50 to set a broken arm.
Pat added that he often took chickens or other things
in trade, rather than cash. Jim said one ledger might
say “Delivered baby…$16 see book two.”
Then in book two an entry one year after the baby was
delivered might say “Received one chicken as payment,
“Apparently there wasn’t any interest,”
The Roths came to Nebraska from Missouri, Pat said. Before
that they had lived in Illinois.
“The first thing Grandma did was get a tree claim
started,” she said. Winnie missed the trees and
Missouri, and felt the vast plains were too desolate.
Doctor Roth was the first in the area to have a car and
a telephone. Jim said at that time he thought doctors
were higher on the priority list to get those types of
things. Before getting his first car, Jim and Pat said
Dr. Roth had a horse that knew the way home from every
patient’s house. That allowed him to sleep on the
Jim and Pat moved to the ranch in 1984 and are currently
trying to restore the three-room sod house Pat’s
grandparents built in 1908. They are also working on her
great-uncle Edward’s house, which was built a few
Pat’s great-uncle’s house used to be across
a spring-fed lake from where Jim and Pat’s house
is located. They moved it to its current site, across
from the sod house.
Uncle Ed’s house is used as part of the guest ranch.
However, this “cabin” doesn’t have cooking
“This is a work in process,” Pat said.
Jim and Pat had been renting out Uncle Edward’s
house, as well as a bunkhouse that used to sit on the
compound, for several years on a limited basis. They said
it’s really only been in the last couple of years
that they got serious about starting a guest ranch.
“Tourism is one of the only things left for ranchers
without destroying the land. You get some traffic, but
it’s good traffic.” --Pat Bridges
The main cabin at the Double R Ranch guest compound sits
between the sod house and Uncle Ed’s house. It was
built last summer.
Pat said they hadn’t intended to build a new cabin.
They had just remodeled the bunkhouse when it was struck
by lightening last April and burned to the ground. Pat
said there was probably between $35,000-40,000 worth of
property inside that was lost. However, she added, they
feel lucky that the fire didn’t take anything else
“We feel like we’re pretty well blessed,”
The lightening strike gave them the opportunity to build
the main cabin. Pat said that was when they really got
into making the guest ranch work and came up with a business
plan. She said they probably need another three years
to reach their goals.
Contractors from Valentine began the new cabin in June
and finished it by mid-July.
“We had a lot of input,” Pat said. “It
started out as a box and it ended up beautiful.”
What really makes the cabin, Pat said, is the wrap-around
balcony. It was a suggestion by the contractors.
Sleeping quarters are on the first floor of the cabin,
with the living quarters on the second. There is a separate
bath and shower house off to the side of the cabin.
The cabins are set away from the house, which Pat said
makes it nice for them because the traffic isn’t
right in their yard. She feels it’s also nice for
the visitors because no one is going to bother them on
their vacation. The only time anyone is at the cabins
is when Jim goes to do chores.
“Most people come to get away,” Pat said.
Their guests have come from several states, including
Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, South Dakota, Iowa, Colorado
and eastern Nebraska.
Jim and Pat said everyone seems to love it there, especially
“It’s a kid haven,” Pat said.
Jim tells the story of a young girl who came to visit
the ranch with her family. She knew how to ride horses
and became attached to one of Jim’s horses.
When it was time for her family to leave, she told her
father she thought she was far enough ahead of her classmates
at school that she could skip a few weeks and stay to
help Jim take care of his horse. Jim said she told her
father he could come get her at Christmas.
Meeting people from all over is an interesting aspect
of running the guest ranch Jim and Pat said. They said
you really notice differences between how urban and rural
Several guests have told Jim and Pat that the sky is bigger
out here. It’s not, Jim says, it’s just that
we can see more of it because there’s no smog or
skyscrapers. Another comment that’s quite common
is that it is too quiet. People from cities are so used
to the noise they can’t sleep the first night, Pat
“All you can hear is your breathing,” Jim
Jim recalls one story that illustrates how different city
and country people are. He was driving down the road one
day and saw a vehicle stopped on the side. Naturally,
he said, he pulled over to see if they were okay or needed
The occupants of the vehicle were fine, but they were
wondering if Jim knew of any place they could rent horses
to ride. Jim said he had horses they could ride, but he
didn’t want any money for it.
The people rode for about one hour, and when they were
through they tried to pay Jim for letting them ride his
horses. Jim insisted that he didn’t want their money,
while they insisted he take it, holding out a rolled up
Jim said they kept telling him where they were from they
pay to ride and they would do the same here. Jim thought
the rolled up bill was a 10, but he didn’t want
even that and kept refusing. Finally, the people got in
their vehicle to leave. As they were driving away, the
man tossed the rolled up bill out of the window. Jim went
over to pick it up.
“Here it was a $100 bill.”
There are a variety of things to do at the Double R Ranch
during a stay. The ranch is centrally located between
several spots that offer activities. In addition to the
Merritt Reservoir, Fort Niobrara Wildlife Refuge and the
Rosebud Casino, the ranch is 35 miles north of the Sand
Hills Golf Club, a world-class golf course, says Pat.
She’s worked there in the summer for the last six
There are also several spring-fed lakes within a 25 miles
radius of the Double R.
Jim and Pat said they get a lot of ice fishers in the
winter, and snowmobiling, ice skating and sledding are
The lakes also offer an opportunity to fish for perch
or pike in the spring. With Merritt Reservoir so close,
Pat said, the guests can also head up there or even fly
fish on the Snake River and see Snake River Falls.
Hunters have a variety of game to choose from, including
grouse, ducks, geese and deer in season. A gun fee is
charged by the day, but guide service is also available.
Jim said many of their deer hunters have been visiting
the ranch each year for 15 years. Some of them return
in the spring to help around the ranch as payment.
“One year they set 600 posts,” Jim said.
There are plenty of photography opportunities for visitors,
including wildflowers, ducks, pelicans, wild turkey and
The Double R is also a working ranch and that offers another
photo opportunity, as well as a chance to see branding,
calving, haying and roundup in season.
Guests at the ranch can get their exercise by hiking the
hills and valleys or reserving a canoe trip down the Middle
Loup and Dismal Rivers.
Jim and Pat will also provide pasture, feed and shelter
for horses if guests wish to bring them. Their boarding
rates are available by the day, week or month.
It addition to the sod house and Pat’s great-uncle’s
house, there is another historical attraction at the Double
R. Jim and Pat have restored and preserved a one-room
The schoolhouse was built in 1908 or 1910 and is the original
school that sat on the Double R at the beginning of the
century. However, it had been moved to the north over
the years as there were fewer kids.
Jim was interested in restoring an old schoolhouse and
found out who had the old District 66 school.
The people that had the school agreed to sell it to Pat’s
aunt, Elsie Roth, for $1 as long as it would be preserved.
Elsie, a former county superintendent in Valentine, attended
and taught at the school. Pat said Elsie was 15 years
old when she first began teaching at the school.
The school still contains everything that was in it years
ago. That includes a piano that was made in 1886. Pat
still gives area children piano lessons on it in the winter.
Jim said the man who tunes it for them says it’s
the easiest one he’s ever done.
Jim and Pat did add bookshelves along all of the walls.
Pat said most of the books that are now in the school
are hers, her mother’s and her aunt Elsie’s.
There are a few that belonged to the District 66 school.
“They bring school kids out (to see the school),”
Pat said. It allows the children to see what it was like
in the early 1900s.
Jim added that it illustrates another difference between
urban and rural people.
“People from the east have never seen a one-room
schoolhouse,” he said. They can’t believe
students could actually fit in one room and learn. On
the flip side, Jim said, he went to a one-room schoolhouse.
When he started high school in Broken Bow with a lot of
kids around him it was disorienting.
Preserving and sharing their heritage is allowing Jim
and Pat to plan for the future.
“We love the place and love to share it with people,”
7) Hooker County Tribune Mullen, NE December 14, 1995
Midland News Valentine, NE November 29, 1995
“Little Red Schoolhouse preserves Sandhills history
Editor’s Note: This article appeared in last week’s
issue of the Midland News.
About 58 miles south of Valentine and three auto gates
east, near the shores of Marsh Lake, lies a little piece
of Sandhills history. It’s a one-room schoolhouse;
merely a hutch by today’s standards, but which
was, in it’s day a luxury borne of the high priorities
placed in education by parents, many first- and second-generation
When it was built around 1912, one-roomers were as common
a sight as the buffalo that roamed the same hills scant
decades before. But unlike the buffalo, which are enjoying
resurgence in numbers, the one room country school is
quietly; swiftly going the way of the sod house. And
like the sod house, many abandoned country schools are
being lovingly preserved as a time capsule of the education
many remember, and many long for in this ever-changing,
This little red schoolhouse was once the home of Cherry
County School District 66, according to its caretaker,
Pat McDuffee Bridges, granddaughter of one of the school’s
In the first decade of this century, Dr. R. G. (Doc)
Roth, the man who delivered many of the “old-timers”
in southern Cherry County, and other area residents
began to see a need for a school in the area. Other
one room schools in the county were accessible yet far
enough away to create a hardship for the growing populations
around the valleys surrounding the Horse and Big Creeks
north of Mullen.
Around 1912, District 66 was opened with five students
enrolled, Pat’s mother and aunt, Mildred and Elsie
Roth, were two of its first students, who rode horseback
from their sod house, which is still standing, north
of the school.
Pat’s mother, the late Mildred Roth McDuffee,
eventually became a teacher in Mullen and surrounding
rural Mullen and surrounding rural schools before settling
in Broken Bow where Pat was raised. Her aunt, Elsie,
grew up to teach in District 66 upon completion of Normal
School training in Mullen. Miss Roth eventually went
on to become Cherry County Superintendent of Schools.
Never failing in her love of learning, Elsie Roth now
resides in the Mullen Nursing Home, where she still
learns a new word every day.
After nearly 70 years, over 20 teachers and hundreds
of little feet trodding upon its floors, District 66
was closed forever in 1981. A few years later, Pat and
her husband, Jim Bridges, purchased her Aunt Elsie Roth’s
ranch, 10 miles south of the school. In 1987, the Bridges’
and Miss Roth approached the school board with an offer
to purchase the school and restore it if it could be
moved to the Marsh Lake Valley.
The Board, concerned with the possible cattle damage
potential to the school and out of affection to Elsie,
presented the school to Miss Roth as a gift for her
untiring devotion to the residents of District 66. Pat
recalled this act as being one of the most meaningful
experiences in her Aunt Elsie’s life.
The school was moved 10 miles with the help of a stack
mover and four very patient men: Jim Bridges, his hired
hand Johnny Golden, Jim O’Brien and Chuck Anders.
It was reportedly a learning experience, and one the
men are in no hurry to repeat.
For Pat, the work had just begun. She peeled off the
wallpaper to find the paperboard beneath was rotten.
Walls were sheet rocked and papered, the floor was refinished,
and windows were repaired. The original outhouses and
playground equipment were moved with the school and
now stand in the one acre tract.
The walls are lined with shelves of books belonging
to Bridges, her mother, aunt, and grandfather, Dr. Roth.
There are novels, textbooks, travel, inspirational,
and how-to books; books of poetry and medicine or any
subject one can imagine. Pat hasn’t counted all
of the books but she said, “Between the four of
us, we’ve got pretty much every subject covered.”
Pat enjoys wading through the old books which include
works of Shakespeare, Dickens, Sir Walter Scott and
Zane Grey. She especially enjoys her grandfather’s
old medical references. “I found a chapter in
one book which tells how a woman should look, how she
should behave and what is expected of her in public,”
she laughed. Pat loves sharing the school with visitors,
which have included friends and neighbors as well as
people from Sweden, Spain, New York and Washington state,
to name a few. She has begun recording a history of
the school and keeps a list of the teachers and the
students enrolled during their terms. Some of the families
included are Marsh, Shears, Sweet, Long, Rice, Sherman,
Hale, Wright, Carpenter, and Prentice, many of which
still reside in the Mullen area.
has come a long way in her restoration, and plans to resume
work again as soon as she fulfills her term as area 10
Representative in the Nebraska branch of the National
Cattlewomen’s Association. Pat watches auctions
and estate sales for Brooks Readers, a Regulator clock
and school portraits of Washington and Lincoln. Her next
projects include installing a flagpole (the original school
flags “don’t have enough stars”), hooking
up the water, planting trees and replacing the green paper
chalkboard with slate.
Stan Moreland of Merriman recently donated a slate board
and some have donated books but “I really don’t
have room for many more books, except maybe textbooks,”
Although Pat never got to experience a rural school education,
this project has been a labor of love for the ranch wife.
Her greatest pleasure is giving piano lessons on the school’s
pride and joy, a Behr Bros. upright grand piano, circa
In December 1993, life was once again brought to the old
school as her piano students presented a Christmas program
for the community. Steve Dent and Phil Sherman, former
students of “Ol’ 66”, were in attendance
to squeeze into the seats and reminisce about the teachers
and friends they once knew.
Through Pat’s hard work and devotion, one can look
upon this little red schoolhouse as a monument to the
values and dreams of the ancestors who believed in their
As she fingered a dog-eared McGuffey Reader, Pat remarked,
“If teachers were still teaching the material in
these books, do you think we’d have all the problems
we do today?”
By Jean Vackiner
8) Hooker County Tribune Mullen,
NE August 12, 1993
Pick a cool evening or afternoon and take a short drive
to the country – about 20 miles north of Mullen.
Setting about 2 miles east of Highway 97 on Jim and Pat
Bridge’s (sic) place, just barely visible from the
highway, is the old District #66 schoolhouse. The little
red schoolhouse served students in the southern Cherry
County district for many years and now it is ready again
for children and adults to learn
are immediately attracted to the six old wooden desks
lined up neatly in front of the teacher’s desk,
ready with slates and chalk. Also available for their
enjoyment are several puzzles and games. Musicians will
enjoy the almost century old piano that Pat has tuned
yearly and gives piano lessons on.
Readers will want to browse through the shelves of books
holding Pat’s personal library, along with books
of her mother’s, Elsie Roth’s and of course,
the old school books that came along with the building.
Others will simply enjoy seeing a part of the area’s
and perhaps their own, past – be it District #66
or one of many other country schools they attended.
little schoolhouse was presented as a gift to Elsie Roth
in 1987. The school had not been open since 1981 and it
was time to take care of the building before it was destroyed
by cattle in the school yard. The school board was aware
that Jim and Pat Bridges, Elsie’s niece and husband,
were wanting to purchase the schoolhouse to restore and
preserve for historical purposes, so they presented it
to Elsie for that purpose. Dr. R. G. Roth, Elsie’s
father and Pat’s grandfather, had been instrumental
in the establishing of District #66 and the school to
serve the children of the district.
Elsie herself had taught at the school for two years after
completing Normal Training at Mullen High School. Pat
writes in her history of the school, “Having been
given this school was a source of great joy to Elsie and
one of her most meaningful experiences with the goodness
of country people.”
Elsie turned the title over to Jim and Pat as it would
be located on their land and they would do the renovation
work. The school board requested it be moved as they didn’t
want to keep up the school yard, so Jim O’Brien,
Chuck Anders and John Golden (Bridge’s (sic) hired
hand) assisted Jim in moving the school house 10 miles
south to its current place beside Marsh Lake. None of
them will probably ever volunteer to move any building
using a stack mover again, but they did eventually get
it in place on its new foundation.
then took over the renovation. The roof was in good shape
but everything else needed work. Pat peeled off all the
old wallpaper, then found most of the old paperboard was
rotten, so Jim and she tore it out and replaced it with
sheet rock and re-papered the walls. Pat also removed
the old finish from the board floor and replaced it with
a warm mahogany finish that included a few character spots.
She also replaced broken window panes, puttied, caulked
and painted the windows.
Everything, including desks, books, stove, maps, piano,
high jump, and two outhouses came with the school. Pat
is currently searching for a large yard bell or one to
hang by the front door; a flag and flag pole and a real
slate board to replace the green paper board. She would
also like to hook up the water pump and plant some trees
around the school.
to the local interest in the school is a roster of teachers
and students listed from 1924 to 1981. Teachers include
many familiar names. Grace Marsh was the first teacher
listed in 1924, with one student, Elver Lanum. Elsie Roth
then taught for 2 terms from 1925-1927. Other teachers
were Ruth Johnson (Huddle) 30-32; Thelma Ovenden 32-33;
Fern Andrews (Reigle) 33-34; Ione Howard 34-35; Harriet
Kime (Isom) 35-36; Amy Adel Dooley 36-37; Mabel Knapp
40-43; Sylvia Robinson 42-45; Waiva Phipps 46-47; Mrs.
Marvin Towne 47-48; Lela Daily 48-50; Mrs. Corwin Emmons
50-51; Margorie Reigle 56-57; Margorie Reigle Pearson
57-58; Shirley Cotant (Shears) 58-59; Mardell Huddle 59-60;
Grace Wiese 60-61; Betty Murphy 61-62; Pearl Marsh 62-76;
Grace Wiese again 76-77; Faye Boyles 77-81. School was
not held from 37-40 and 51-56.
are also listed, but you’ll have to visit the school
and look over the roster to read all the names as they
are too numerous to mention here. School size ranged from
one to ten students with six to eight students common
until the 70’s when the students dwindled to two
and 4 each year.
So whether it be to stir up some memories, browse through
the library, or let a child sit at an old desk and write
on a slate, instead of playing Nintendo, plan to visit
the little red schoolhouse north of Mullen. Jim and Pat
have done a great job of saving the school for everyone
EDITORS NOTE: This article is brought to you by the Hooker
County Tribune in cooperation with the Sandhills Tourism
Council. We will be bringing you a series of articles
about local points of interest. The Council meets each
Thursday evening at 7:30 at the Mini-Mart.
by Sue Pearman
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