could be Buffalo's crossing the platte

 Research Papers

Today is:

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 intersection.
- 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 Township

January 1909 - report to the county board had six men and one woman living there.

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 [1893]

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 needy.

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 Hull Home

- [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.

4. Children

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 represented.

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 girls.

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 go there

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"]


Ed Hill


Feb. 24, 1894 - Ed Hill, 14, caught abusing his stepmother and throwing furniture out the window.

     Brought before city police judge who sent him to County Judge Easterling

     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 train.

Jan. 30, 1895 – Ed Hill was sent to the Industrial School for stealing coal.

Transient poor

Men & boys mainly

     Called vagrants, 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 immediately

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 storms.

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 Chase"]

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 the way.

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 Kearney.

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 through Kearney.

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 passengers.

They are not hobos or beggars.

They will take a job when available and accept a handout if they have to.

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Revised: 02/07/2018