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Nebraska Publications

Links of publications:

1) http://ruralinitiative.nebraska.edu/index.html
Go To Home Page – Select Energy Organizations & Businesses in Nebraska – Select Double R Guest Ranch

2) www.ritzhospitalitymag.com
(FOR LINK TO WEBSITE) Go to RHM ADVERTISER LINKS (BOTTOM OF PAGE) – GUEST RANCH – DOUBLE R GUEST RANCH

THE FOLLOWING ARTICLE WAS PUBLISHED IN THE RITZ HOSPITALITY MAGAZINE, ROCKY MOUNTAIN EDITION SPRING/SUMMER 2007

“About 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 Ranch.

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, workaday world.

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 creatures.

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


3) www.westnebraska.com


Select Lodging – Guest Ranches and then Double R Ranch


4) AAA Living Nebraska issue July/August 2006 pg. 25

“Double 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 if possible.

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 Highway 92.

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 posterity.

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 shelving.

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 works too.

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 also.

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 to come.”

-Pat Bridges
6) 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 of Mullen.
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.”
--Jim Bridges

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 Roth.

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, balanced due…$14.”
“Apparently there wasn’t any interest,” Jim said.

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 way home.

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 years later.

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 facilities.

“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 with it.

“We feel like we’re pretty well blessed,” Pat said.

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 the kids.
“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 people think.
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 said.

“All you can hear is your breathing,” Jim added.
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 help.
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 bill.

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 years.
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 all allowed.

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 grouse.

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 schoolhouse.

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,” Pat said.”

--Kerri Rempp


7) Hooker County Tribune Mullen, NE December 14, 1995
And
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 immigrants.

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, megabyte-ridden world.

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 founders.
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.


Pat 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. nebraska gust ranch, NE guest ranch
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,” Pat said.
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 1887.

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 children’s education.

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

Kids 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.
The 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.
Pat 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.
Adding 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.
Students 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 to enjoy!

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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