Black Family of Merrick County, Nebraska

Earl Clifton Black and Bertha Peregrine Black were married in Fullerton, Nebraska, on February 6, 1916. In 1918, they moved to Merrick County and settled in the Fairview Community on a farm five miles north and two miles west of Central City.

They brought with them their one-year-old son, Willard. In 1918, Winona was born, and in 1921, another son, Merlin.

The Black family were lifelong members of the Methodist Church. Their social life revolved around Fairview Methodist Church, District #18 school, and visits with neighbors.

In reading diaries kept by Bertha Black for forty-two years, there is a reflection of the hard work that was done in the early years. They farmed with horses, milked cows, butchered their own beef and hogs, incubated eggs and raised chickens, picked corn by hand, made sausage and lard, canned beef and garden produce, made butter and baked bread. The children took turns operating the push-pull washing machine.

In 1924, nineteen dozen eggs were sold for $3.84, wheat for $1.40 a bushel, and a check for thirty-one hogs was $1,002.99. This was much better than what was to follow in a few years.

Earl Black was one of the first farmers to try ditch irrigating his corn. This was manual labor but brought good results.

On summer evenings when chores were done, Earl and his boys practiced baseball. This interest led to participation in the Saturday Baseball League. All around the county, horses were unharnessed Saturday noon with the shout of “Play Ball.” Sunday ball was frowned upon for many years but eventually won over.

Bertha’s great love for music kept the family together singing and playing instruments. She sang in the church choir and played the piano, helped organize an orchestra of young people in the neighborhood. In her retirement years, she composed music and taught her grandchildren how to play the piano. When thanked for babysitting her grandchildren, her reply was always, “Thank you for letting me keep them.”

The Blacks retired to Central City in 1960. Bertha’s poor health led to an early death on September 14, 1965.

Although missing his partner of forty-nine years, Earl made the most of the fourteen years left to him. He enjoyed his home and kept it neat and clean and was proud of his cooking ability. He loved family reunion times and visits with his daughter.

He enjoyed coming out to the farm and helping his sons. At the age of 83, he helped break an Arabian horse to ride. He was a daily visitor to the Senior Citizen Center, playing pitch with great vim and vigor. He took great pleasure in traveling with this group, the highlight being a trip to Hawaii with John Gorgen as his roommate.

Earl died on March 7, 1979. Surviving him in 1981: Willard and Celia (McCollister) Black, Winona and Ivan King, Merlin and Lois (Cantrell) Black, eight grandchildren, and twenty great-grandchildren. One grandson, Dale, son of Willard and Celia, died November 4, 1979.

Submitted by Mrs. Willard (Celia) Black


Merrick County Historical Society, History of Merrick County, Nebraska (1981), Volume I, Dallas, Texas : Taylor Publishing Company, 1981.

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