The Homeless in Kearney
Who was responsible?
Before Social Security,
ADC, Food stamps, WIC and other Federal programs
Caring for our own – County –
1. Townships – Sartoria Township budget to 1890 –
General fund, roads & bridges fund, poor fund
2. County Poor Farm
- Location: Go four miles east of
Kearney to Poole Road (Buda School corner). Turn north and go four
miles. The farm was located on the northwest corner of that
- Buildings on the farm constructed in 1889
- May 1891 – Poor farm opened a year ago. “a source of comfort to
several homeless and helpless people.”
- Presently 11 inmates:
o John Weaver, 82, from Kearney,
deserted by his son last winter
o Jacob Snyder, 76, from Gibbon
o Gus Holstrom, from Thornton Township, partially insane
o Five small children of Newton King, from Kearney, deserted by
their mother who eloped with an actor who appeared in Kearney.
[Newton King died in 1934 of apoplexy at age 75 and is buried in
the Kearney cemetery.]
o Three small children, family of Hamilton Brown, from Grant
January 1909 - report to the county board had six men and one woman
Feb 1910 – There were three inmates.
April 1920 – All patients and inmates had been removed to the W. T.
C. U. hospital
Cared for under a contract
between the county board and the hospital management
Closed about 1920 – County rented out
the land; sold in 1958 to help pay for new jail.
3. Nancy Hull & the WCTU hospital - [WCTU
hospital probably the first hospital in Kearney 
Mrs. Nancy Hull, wife of Dr. John C.
Hull, was an early [ca 1882] leader and "dominant spirit" of the
W.C.T.U. At her urging the members took an active role in aiding the
Mother Hull Home was incorporated in April, 1889
The women provided meals and clothing from their club rooms
1893 – They rented the Clifton House at 1809 Central Avenue.
First floor was used for a
meeting room and the W.C.T.U. library
Second floor became a hospital.
Dec. 1926 – Hub article about Mother
- [About that time it incorporated as a care home since there were
other hospitals in Kearney and most of their inmates were elderly.]
Not a charity institution, does
not replace the poor farm. It is a W C T U hospital.
But not all the inmates are sick.
Currently 13 inmates, only 2
are sick, the others are elderly. They also help younger
people, even children.
Costs $8/week for room, board,
laundry and care if needed.
Many pay their own way.
If they can’t, the county does at
the rate of $1.25/day [$8.75] and the hospital furnishes any
medicine they might need.
Not all county patients stay here. Some are able to work. These
are placed with families in need and the county pays them the
$1.25/day for care given.
Summer 1893 – Steps taken to organize
the Girls & Boys Aid Society branch in Kearney.
Summer 1895 – A Kearney branch of the Nebraska Children’s Home
Society was organized in Kearney. Most of the Kearney churches were
Sept 1901 – A homeless Syrian baby was taken to Omaha by a
representative of the Nebraska Children’s Home Society.
1914 – Finding homes for boys was more difficult to find than for
Oct 1922 – Superintendent of Neb. Children’s Home was in Kearney to
accept 8 children to take back to the home in Omaha.
Four (siblings in one family)
went with him,
Other four were taken by a relative who objected to having them
He/She left before the
Superintendent arrived, and took them to Sherman County.
60 children have been placed in
the home in the last 30 years [since 1892]. Of those, 39 were
placed in homes where they were adopted.
Aug 1929 – Suggested use for KMA
buildings and 40 acres of ground – Girls & boys home – Suggested by
county judge Easterling. City could buy the property.
[See Hub Feb, 24, 1894, p. 3 "Great Police Round Up"]
Feb. 24, 1894 - Ed Hill, 14, caught
abusing his stepmother and throwing furniture out the window.
before city police judge who sent him to County Judge Easterling
laid the case over to Wed. to secure witnesses and hear testimony.
March 1, 1894 – Ed Hill was turned loose by Judge Easterling and
told to go and sin no more.
May 1894 – Ed Hill was arrested for stealing a ride on the street
car last night. Boys had been doing this and warned not to. It was
thought this arrest would put a stop to it.
Jan 28, 1895 – Ed Hill, a good-sized boy without a home, who has
been a leader among other boys in wrong doing about Kearney, for
some time, was taken by the police Sunday for stealing coal from the
Jan. 30, 1895 – Ed Hill was sent to the Industrial School for
Men & boys mainly
tramps, hobos, bums, vagabonds
Many in Kearney because of the UP & Lincoln Highway
Kearney’s attitude – get them out of town
July 1890 – [typical] “Three tramps,
arrested as vagrants, spent the night in the dungeon, and were released
yesterday morning on the solemn promise that they would shake the dust
of Kearney from their feet.”
Arrested for vagrancy, spend night in
jail, work off their fine on a street crew
Choice of working or leaving town
Esp. in cold weather, city jail became
over night haven
May 1893 – “Five homeless wanderers found
refuge in the ‘hotel de Overmire’ last night.”
Feb. 1894 – “A couple of homeless houseless wanderers were given shelter
in the city lockup last night.”
March 1915 – Tramps are housed in lockup
during heavy storms.
16 were held there Monday night.
Police chief is letting tramps and
bums take refuge in the city jail during this period of heavy
He figures it is safer to have them
there than out on the streets where they could break in to
businesses or be a general annoyance on the streets.
Dec. 18, 1929 – Six homeless wanderers
were sheltered at the police station last night and five the previous
night in sub-zero temperatures.
[See Hub article, July 3, 1906, p. 3 "Recaptured After a Long Hard
1930’s – The Depression
Feb 1930 – Now the homeless wanderers who
seek shelter at the police station at night are headed in an easterly
direction. In Jan. most were headed west. Four to 8 come to the police
station every night.
Aug 1931 – Increased number of nomads along the highways.
A large army of unemployed, mainly younger men, stays on the move,
seeking shelter at police stations or Salvation Army headquarters along
Homeless families are in cars. They camp out and look to those living
along the roads for food and gas & oil for their cars.
Aug. 1932 – a homeless widow and her 6 children, ages 3-12, came through
They had walked from Dallas, TX
Trying to get to Washington state
where she has distant relatives. Going there because she does not
want to be “on the county”.
All she wanted was a place to sleep and some breakfast and they
would be on their way again. The only transportation she would
accept was a lift for a mile out of town in the morning.
August 1932 – much has been written about
the bands of youth wandering about the nation. Relatively few come
As many as 19 have registered in a night at the city jail.
They are boys ranging in age from 16-21
Most prefer hitch hiking but more and more are using the rails.
A check of an east bound freight train yesterday showed 37 such
They are not hobos or beggars.
They will take a job when available and accept a handout if they have