History of Custer County, Nebraska: Ansley’s Merchants


The first merchant in Ansley was Edgar Varney, who moved his store over from Westerville and put it in charge of his son, T. T. Varney, in the early part of the year 1886. The same year, Thomas H. Blowers also moved from Westerville. About the same time, W. D. Fritz opened up the first hardware store, in the building with Edgar Varney. The following year saw the advent of E. H. Burrows, A. H. Shepard, Gaines & Hagin, and the Butler Brothers. Burrows continued in business up to the year 1912, when he disposed of his interests to E. L. Kelley and removed to Los Angeles, California. A. H. Shepard was in business up to 1916, when he disposed of his stock of goods to his son, Archie H., and his daughter, Myrtle C., and entered the post office. Gaines & Hagin ran their business until 1909, when they dissolved partnership, Hagin disposing of his interests to Gaines and, later, starting a new store, which he continued to run until 1913. Gaines continued at the old stand up to the time of his death, January 2, 1915. when his sons disposed of his stock of goods. Thomas H. Blowers, in the early part of the ’90s, traded his mercantile business for the milling interests of A. W. Hawk, who operated it with C. J. Stevens and I. Clark about ten years. Of the present merchants, C. J. Stevens started his present store in 1895. J. H. Kerr in 1899, F. P. Hawk in 1903, L. F. Landmesser in 1907, J. H. Varney in 1914, and Shepard & Shepard in 1916.

The first furniture and undertaking establishment in Ansley was run by Fred Gosselin, who opened it in 1889 or 1890. The R. G Applegarth Furniture and Undertaking Company have been in business since 1906. Mr. Applegarth died in the year 1916, since which time the manager, H. D. Reed, who has been with the company from the first, has had sole charge. Mattley & Hoover and C. J. Stevens both carry a line of furniture, while the former also do an undertaking business.

The first hardware dealer was W. D. Fritz, but the Butler Brothers and Gaines & Hagin also carried a full line of hardware and farm machinery. In 1902 W. S. Mattley began selling hardware and farm machinery, disposing of his business to his brother, Charles E., in May, 1914. In April, 1916, the firm became Mattley & Hoover, through the admission of C. B. Hoover. D. W. Thompson sold farm machinery from 1903 to 1913. The present dealers in farm machinery are J. D. Knapp and Hiser & Detwiler. Mr. Knapp has been in his present business since 1906 and Messrs. Hiser and Detwiler since 1914.

From the start, all of the general mercantile stores carried lines of clothing. Our present clothier is Roscoe G. Secord, who keeps a full line of men’s furnishing goods—hats, boots, shoes, rubbers, neckties, and collars. Our tailor, Otto Winter, who came in September, 1916, also takes orders for suits, besides doing a cleaning and pressing business.

The first milliner in Ansley was Miss Wilhelmina Mengel (now Mrs. M. C. Warrington, of Mason City), who opened a shop the year that the village was started. Then came Miss Nettie Worden (now Mrs. R. M. Hayslip). She was followed by Mrs. Mary Wakelin, and she by Miss Augusta Worden. Later the Worden sisters, then Mrs. Hoover and Mrs. Holman, entered the millinery business and conducted it for several years. The present milliner is Miss Mary Geeseman, who has been in the business since 1914. Others who have carried a line of millinery since the beginning of the town have been E. H. Burrows. A. H. Shepard, and C. J. Stevens.


The first blacksmith was C. M. Dorr, who came at the founding of the town, or soon after. A few months later, William Davis entered into business with him. This partnership continued for several years, when Davis sold out his interest to Dorr, who continued to run it for a few months longer. When he finally disposed of it to Joel F. Lannum. Later William Burdett went into the carriage and wagon business in the same building, hiring a blacksmith to do his iron work. Shortly after the location of Dorr, Charles Gessright opened up a wagon shop on the lot where the home of T. N. Southard now stands. Dana M. Saville was also a blacksmith here, removing from Westerville in May, 1904, and continuing in business until October, 1914, when he was forced to quit, by reason of ill health. The present blacksmith is George Gravley, who came to this place in 1914.

The first barber shop was run by A. H. Turpen. The present barbers are S. P. Varney and R. D. Breeden.

In the fall of 1886, A. W. Hawk and his son, C. W., bought from the Martin Brothers the Algernon flouring mill, which, in 1890, they moved to Ansley. This mill they later traded to Blowers & Clark. It finally came into the hands of C. J. Stevens, and it was burned in the year 1906.

Ansley’s first carpenters were O. M. Geeseman, Sid. Harris, Ed. Harris, Racine Wiget, Henry Klick, Jack Storey, Henry Hogg, and Al Hoover. The first baker was J. A. Mauler. He came in 1903 or 1904. He was followed in 1909 by F. Russell, who has been in the business ever since.

Joe Moore opened the first garage, in 1908. In 1915 Templin & Wozney built their large garage, at a cost of $6,500. This garage is now run by the Marsh Auto Company, composed of H. Guy Marsh, G. H. Holeman, and A. C. Van Horne. The garage of E. A. Butler & Son was erected in the fall of 1916, and, including stock and fixtures, represents the value of $20,000. E. A. Butler and his son, Harry, are salesmen for the Ford automobile company, of Detroit. The Hollenbeck garage, which makes a specialty of repairing cars, is run by the manager, C. R. Woolley. E. H. Norden runs a machine shop and makes a specialty of automobile repairing.

The first shoe repairer was Henry Abbey. Next came E. Clark, who sold his shop to Frank Mills, who in turn, in 1905, disposed of it to its present owner, Perry Foster, Hr. Foster also carries a full line of footwear.

A. J. Hookum has just installed a new Sano mill, with the capacity of fifty barrels of flour per day. The first meat market was run by Anthony Wilkinson. Others who have engaged in the meat business are John Davis, William Zimmerman, Clerk Hanna, O. H. Moomey, Wes. Moomey, Jake Paine, Norton Amsberry, Fred Simpson, E. B. Hyatt, George Hatfield, Will Garten, and A1. Govier. The present markets are the Ansley market, con ducted by Perry Lanum, and the Sanitary market, conducted by Fred Maulick.

The first to engage in the well business was George Haines, about 1889. Henry Wakelin and Al. Harvell also were engaged in this business in the early years of Ansley. E. A. Butler sold windmills and well material from the commencement of the town. Hiram Curtis has been in the business since 1897, moving into his new building in 1917.

In 1887, Joe Rambo opened the first livery barn, where Butler’s garage now stands. This building was later removed to the Lanum lots and is now one of the buildings belonging to Grand and John Lanum, who use it for a feed and sale stable. Others who have been engaged in the livery business are Alex. Moore, At. Sloan, James McMannus, Wallace Busic, F. P. and C.W. Hawk, Russell & Lanum, W. O. Phillips, and E. F. Hollenbeck.

D. A. Van Sant opened the first hotel in Ansley, the Commercial House, in August, 1886. It was afterward sold to Mrs. Eggleston, who ran it for a number of years. It is the building now occupied by Pat’s Cafe. The Central hotel was opened by Fritz & Michael, on the lot that lies just east of the post office. The Cottage hotel stood where Harry Mc Nulty’s restaurant now stands and was conducted for a number of years by Mrs. Alex Moore. Harry McNulty and Mrs. Edna Gaylord now conduct the two restaurants of the place, while our large rooming house is owned by Mrs. R. M. Hayslip. J. W. Comstock has been in the harness business continuously since the beginning of the town, in 1886 — first with a partner, Henry Abbey, and latterly, in 1907, with Fred Mills, since which the firm has been known as Comstock & Mills.

The jewelry business in Ansley was first represented by Henry Kirk, who came either in 1886 or 1887 and occupied a building near where the post office now stands. After three or four years, he disposed of his stock and left the town. He was followed by Elsa Harsin, who had his shop with Walter Theobald, druggist. When Charles Hare bought the Theobald drug store he also purchased Harsin’s jewelry equipment, and he continued to mend watches up to the time of his death. In the meantime a jeweler by the name of Snook opened a shop in the little building formerly occupied by S. P. Varney as a barber shop. He must have been a very good man, for although we have consulted a score of the old citizens, we have been able to obtain but three facts in regard to his life: he was a jeweler, a Seventh-day Adventist, and his name was Snook. When Charles Hare died, in 1905, A. L. Butler purchased the jewelry business, which he has conducted ever since.

D. A. Van Sant was the first drayman and the first to make a business of moving buildings. He moved the flouring mill of Hawk & Son from Algernon to Ansley, in 1890. The present draymen are Clyde Pinckley and Andy Case.

The Star Theatre is owned by Mrs. Joyce Wellman and is operated by her manager, William Burdett.

There are at present seven creamery agencies in Ansley. The David Cole Company, of Omaha, is represented by A. W. Kimball; the Lincoln Pure Butter Company by Norton Amsberry; the Beatrice Creamery Company by J. D. Knapp; the Kirschbaum & Sons Creamery Company, of Omaha, by Fred Maulick; and the Farmers’ Shipping Association, and the Fairmont Creamery Company by A. J. Hookom and William Mannen.


History of Custer County, Nebraska, A Narrative of the Past, with special emphasis upon the pioneer period of the county’s history, its social, commercial, educational, religious and civic development from the early days to the present time. 
William Levi Gaston, A. R. Humphrey
Copyright, 1919 by Western Publishing & Engraving Co.