Stewart L. Abel of Merrick County, Nebraska

I am Stewart L. Abel, born on October 6, 1924, at Central City, Nebraska [EN: born to Harvey D. Abel and Edith Peterson]. I went to District #50 and graduated from Central City High School in 1941. I really did not have any great interest in becoming a dentist, but there was a pretty dark-haired little girl from Polk County who was working for Dr. Allen, and you would be surprised how many times I needed to go to the dentist during 1943 and 1944. She was the daughter of C.E. Norris and Stella Cowgill Norris. We were married on November 5, 1944. I farmed for myself until 1960, when we moved to Columbus, Nebraska, and I entered into the life insurance business. It is a very challenging and rewarding profession, not just in the financial aspect of the business, but one of true self-satisfaction of helping others. When I was a child growing up on the farm, most everyone was poor, but we did have the security of every neighbor helping in time of need. The road that went past my folk’s farm place had never been graded, the proverbial “Cow Trail.” I remember the old brick paving in the towns — the concrete Highway U.S. 30 when it was constructed.

My first school teacher was Marie Booth from Clarks, Nebraska. I have so many memories of District #50 that I feel that I could almost write a book about the 40 kids going to country school at that time. Some of the families were: Jennings, Lyons, Cranes, Sims, Madison, Butts, McConnells, Hurings, Ellers, Packers, Zichek, and Houston. I remember my very first Christmas Program at District #50; Miss Booth let me give the welcome to everyone. I recall the unrest in our community when District #50 raised their teacher’s salary to the grand sum of $35.00 per month.

Another memory of District #50 was the many people who were most unhappy when we put a pump inside the schoolhouse, and you can imagine what happened when we put inside plumbing in that building for the kids to use.

My father attended District #50, and later served on the board there. My two sisters, my brother, and I all attended District #50, and I served on the board there from 1948 until 1960.

My wife, Zetha, and I still have 160 acres of the original 360 purchased by Turner Abel in 1896. We hope to be able to build a house on the farm in the not-too-distant future. We started 5 years ago getting the trees started that we wanted for a windbreak for our homestead. We have planted many shrubs, shade trees, and of course, a grain bin.

The economics of the 1930s were different than today. I remember working many days from daylight until after dark for $1.00 per day. I worked for John Hannappel, Lon Thomas, and Roy Clement. It was quite a thrill when wages went to $2.00 per day, and then for a moment, look at today.

It would be nice if each generation would keep a record of economics, droughts, hot and cold, wet and dry, good crops, and the bad ones, remembering that human problems come and go, but events in history can repeat themselves. I believe the land must be preserved for the next generation to use, and it will become very valuable as we look to the future.

Our roots are very deep in our farm in Merrick County, and it is my hope and desire that the vision that William Abel had over 100 years ago, will be carried on by the future generations.

My wife and I have some circumstances that we think are most unusual. Turner Abel, the preacher, recruited many families to move to Merrick County. One of these families was the Cowgill family from Saline County. Stella Cowgill was one of that family, and as a young single girl in 1897, she helped my grandmother take care of my father, Harvey Abel, when he was born. Stella Cowgill was to become the mother of my wife, Zetha. Also, my father’s Aunt Hannah Abel Myers married Harrison Myers, and Harrison Myers was an uncle to C.E. Norris who was my wife’s father.

Stewart Abel Sons

The 5th Generation of Abels coming from Merrick County started on July 19, 1946, with the birth of our oldest son Roger. He attended District #50 school for his 8 grades of elementary schooling, and graduated from Columbus High School, and the University of Nebraska at Lincoln. He also met a cute little Swedish girl at the University, and they were married on November 9, 1974. They have two little girls: Sarah Beth Abel born on May 14, 1977, and Christina Ann Abel, born on January 11, 1981. Thus, the Sarah Abel who married William Shively has a namesake. Roger and Vicki Hakanson Abel live near Elkhorn, Nebraska.

Our second son, Danny was born on August 12, 1949, and also attended District #50 school. Danny was married to Jenny Kniefel on January 22, 1971, but is now divorced. Danny is living in Lincoln, Nebraska. Our youngest son, Gary, was born on October 23, 1954. He lived with us on the family farm until 1960, but he did not attend the District #50 school. He is now working for General Electric Corporation and living in North Hollywood, California.

The family story started in Merrick County in 1879 when William and Esther Abel came to Clarks and lived in the same house that my wife and I lived in back in 1944 when we first got married. These courageous people shared a dream for a better future, and where it will end, only the Good Lord knows for sure, but herein is a little bit of information about the past that I hope will be helpful to the future generations.

Submitted by Stewart Abel.


Persinger, C. E., A History of Merrick County, Nebraska: From “the Beginning” to 1895, Dallas, Texas : Taylor Publishing Company, 1981.

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