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Kearney Industrial School

Kearney Hub – June 26, 1889 (with additional details on July 3)
Water supply for fire protection was to be installed to replace a cistern. Well, 10 fire hydrants, and tank which would hold 1000 barrels of water. There was to be a standpipe in each building with plugs on each floor. The tank would be on a tower. The system would provide all the buildings with water as well as provide fire protection.

Kearney Hub – July 3, 1889
Contract let for new steam plant

New workshop 4 stories high with full basement. Will connect with two existing buildings which will be wings

“A great number of the inmates of the school have escaped---the measles. There are only six cases reported and all are recovering rapidly.” The music director and the florist also came down with measles.

The band is not what it used to be because old members had served out their time at the school. There were only two left from last year. The new group had been training since April 1 and would perform on July 4th.

“Two hundred and fifty happy children will sit down to a bountiful repast tomorrow at the school….it is expected that a number of visitors from various parts of the state will be present.”

Miss Sophia Waugh was the new laundress. She formerly held that position at the School for the Deaf and Dumb at Glenwood, IA

H. A. Gerkee, a Hub compositor, was to work at the pump station at the school.

The old greenhouse was torn down and a new larger conservatory was to be put up west of the laundry building.

Three girls from Lexington were sent to the school

Kearney Hub – Sept. 2, 1889
On the issue of the new boiler house and workshop to be built, the bids were opened in Lincoln. Low bidder was J. O. King of Omaha. But the other bidders pointed out that his bid listed various parts of the job with costs for each. The rest had bid lump sums. So they did it over again. The others, knowing what his bid had been, bid lower. But King put in a bid under the name Gibbs Bros. that was lower yet and won the bidder again.

Dec. 14, 1889 –
Fish Commissioner May and State Hatchery Superintendent were to stop in Kearney to meet with Supt. Malalieu about putting two ponds “below the canal” dependent on making arrangements with the Canal company. One would be stocked with carp and the other with pike, bass and other game fish. Must have been a pond there already because 500 fish were put in that week.

Dec. 17, 1889
Two more recruits were brought in from Columbus.

Jan. 11, 1890
254 at the school. Three boys and a girl were brought in this week.
John Bennett, 16, sentenced to be at the school until he is 21, five years, can work his way out in 16 months with good grades in school and good conduct. The Hub thought he could do it and make a man of himself. He was from Buffalo country and had just been admitted there

Jan 20, 1890
A bell had arrived for the new workshop. Weighed 900 pounds and had about the same tone as the one on the school.

May 12, 1890
A tough 20-year old from Otoe Co. was brought to the school. He was accused of burglary in Nebraska City. He has been very disruptive. He talked one boy into trying to escape with him and resisted arrest when caught. They have kept him in irons and locked up. He jumped out a 3rd story window with handcuffs on. The superintendent is asking the judge to change the sentence and send him to the penitentiary where he belongs. He is tired of running a state penitentiary. That is not his business. Last month he released on good behavior and found homes for 15 boys and one girl. So far this month three girls and three boys have been discharged.

June 17, 1890
An Industrial School boy drown when he jumped off the bank of Kearney Canal into the deep end of “the second lake on Kearney Canal” on Industrial School property. His parents were unknown. He was sent to Platte county Nebraska from New York by the New York aid Society several years ago. He lived with a farm family in Columbus until 4 months ago when he was sent to the Industrial School.

Sept. 23, 1890
An 18-year old girl who had been at the Industrial School several years suddenly disappeared. She was gone so quickly, 10 minutes after speaking with the superintendent, that it was thought she had an outside assistance. “The girl is very beautiful in face and form, and the officers of the school fear she has been lured away to her own destruction. The police were notified and a strict search of the houses of shame was made…” They got word that made them think she might be in Grand Island.

May 13. 1891
The old water system was inadequate so the old wells were to be taken out and 4-5 new ones drilled. During that time the School would get its water from the Kearney Canal.

Apr. 20, 1891
Legislature appropriated funds to buy manual arts training equipment. They planned to get portable forges and tools for the machine shops, knitting and sewing machines and a printing outfit so they can publish their own little paper to send to parents and other schools.

May 2, 1891
Plants for sale (thousands)
Strawberry, tomato, sweet potato, cabbage, eggplant

June 4, 1891
Crops included 40 acres of sugar beets for a Grand Island factory.

1891 – New Girls Industrial School was established by the state legislature and being established at Geneva. To be ready by Dec. 1

Nov 9, 1891
A. T. Anderson took pictures of the buildings

Dec 14, 1891
The pumping station at the bottom of the hill by the canal burned.

Feb. 3, 1892
Anniversary Day [13th] would be on the 27th

Feb 27, 1892
Regarding the Geneva Industrial School for girls-
In selecting a superintendent the board of public lands and buildings have chosen J. D. McKelvey who has been for years at the Kearney Industrial School. Mrs. McKelvey has been chosen as matron and Chris Jesused of Geneva as steward. About seventy-five girls will be removed to the school from Kearney.

March 14, 1892
56 girls were to move the next day to Geneva. 11 would remain in Kearney.

March 15, 1892
57 girls were inmates. 55 were taken to Geneva. Father of one took her home yesterday. Other one was going to work for a lady in Kearney.

Kearney Hub – Dec. 20, 1893, p. 2 in a section of the second column headed “After Thoughts”

Where is your wayward wandering boy tonight? Is he roaming the streets or is he at home surrounded by good family influences? And if he has no home where is he? The county judge of Lancaster county told me on Monday that ten boys were there before his court on application to have them sent to the reform school. The Lincoln Call on Monday evening said: “That reform school at Kearney must be a very large institution, ‘said a gentleman yesterday, ‘or it would have been full long ago. Every day the papers tell of a lad, or two or three lads, that have been sent there from Lincoln, and if other towns do as this there must be several thousand unruly kinds somewhere in that country.” Many county judges are lax in this respect and will send boys to the school who should be kept home by parents who are too ready to shirk the responsibility of their keeping and moral training. Yet the school is mostly filled with incorrigibles – not waifs and street arabs, but sons of christian parents, business men and politicians, well-to-do mechanics and other good people who should apparently be able to bring up their children properly. The question is a serious one. The state is handling it as well as it is possible to handle it in a public institution, and the Nebraska industrial reform school is a model of its class, yet it must be evident to honest, earnest, thoughtful people the root of the evil is in the home or with the father or mother not suited for the most sacred trust reposed in man on earth – the rearing of a child.

Kearney Daily Hub, March 6, 1906

The State Industrial School [now known as the YRTC] had seed potatoes for sale.
Kearney Hub -
One of several boys sent to the Industrial School from New York was released and a place found for him near Atlanta in Phelps County

Kearney Daily Hub, Friday, July 15, 1910
36 sheriffs attended a state convention in Kearney the day before. In the afternoon they toured the city, the Industrial School, Watson’s Ranch, the Military Academy and Capital Hill in autos furnished by the Commercial Club. Then they watched a baseball game between the Kearney Kapitals and Hastings. Kearney won. In the evening there was a banquet in the Eagle’s Hall at the Opera House.

Kearney Daily Hub, April 18, 1912

Another boy to Hill School
Brought by auto from Alma – Arrived Late in the night

     Sheriff T. W. Carroll of Harlan County accompanied by W. R. Moore, chauffeur, brought Martin Reidy a 12-year-old boy, to Kearney and the industrial school late Wednesday night arriving I the city about midnight.
     Some trouble had been had with the car, making the arrival as late as it was. The employees the Kearney Auto company were called to repair it, which took them until nearly one o’clock . the sheriff left at day break, having business to attend to early in the day.

HUB Centennial Edition 1973 – about the Boys Training School
Oldest state institution in Kearney
Established by State Legislature in 1879 as The Nebraska State Reform School for Juvenile Offenders in conformity with Section 12, Article 8 of the Nebraska State Constitution
for children under 16.
Definition “The work of ‘this school is educational and industrial training, not penal, and the departments and superintendent should not have to curtail their work for the lack of necessary funds to educate, feed and clothe the inmates, build and strengthen faulty characters, and prepare boys to go out from the institution to become honorable citizens.’”
Appropriated $10,000 to establish and maintain the facility

1st boy – 8 years old, Fremont, stole a buggy whip
1st girl – 13 years old, Kearney

Kearney Bid – led by Nathan Campbell and F. G. Keens
320 acres of land on west side of Kearney [half section]

1880 – Constructed the first building, a 2-story brick building 40’ x 50’
1881 – Building completed and put into use.
Third floor added later
1887 – Used a Family System.
Two sections of girls @ 30 each were two families
Learned home making skills including knitting & crocheting
Four sections of boys @ 46 each were four families
Learned to make clothes & shoes, worked in bakery, engine room, office,
& were taught farm skills
Child entering received demerits and had to work them off through good behavior
Otherwise he stayed until he was 21, entry age was 18[?] & under
Amount of demerits depended on severity of the crime
Average took 26 months to work off
Lesser offense, less demerits took 16 months to work off
1890 – established a military band, played at parades & celebrations
1909 – communicable diseases had been a problem. Improved with the establishment of an
1913 – Major expansion – added 202 acres of flat land south of existing property
1920 – Large barn started – 142’ x l68’
1939 – School given name West Kearney High
Testing program proved boys were not feeble minded
Lacked subject matter knowledge, lacked skills, but not IQ
1940 – Commercial & industrial training plus farming, dairying & poultry raising
When a boy left he had to have a home to go to and should have a job
1965 – Farm land was rented out on 3-year leases
Gas station on corner of YDC road and Highway 30 opened
1974 – 3rd floor of original administration building constructed in 1880-81 was condemned
1975 – 2nd floor use discontinued when fire marshal said fire doors, costing $2,500 needed
1976 – Whole building condemned. Demolished by Skeen
Found that basement walls were 3’ thick
1985 – Service station closed
Facility used as a headquarters by Nebraska State Patrol

Philosophical Systems
1887 – (De)Merit System
Child entering received demerits and had to work them off through good behavior
Otherwise he stayed until he was 21, entry age was 18[?] & under
Amount of demerits depended on severity of the crime
Average took 26 months to work off
Lesser offense, less demerits took 16 months to work off
1937 – Merit system discontinued
Bond of Honor system – get special privileges
1974 – Positive Peer Culture

1879 – The Nebraska State Reform School for Juvenile Offenders
1887 – State Industrial School for Juvenile Offenders
1945 – Boys Training School
1972 – Youth Development Center – Kearney (YDC)
199? – Youth Rehabilitation & Training Center (YRTC)

Newspaper comment kept on file:
“There is question in our minds whether or not it would be a good idea to establish a reform school for parents rather than boys.”


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