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George Edwin Overturf (1886-1949) and Nellie Allison McDonald (1888-1963)
A Native Nebraskan
George Edwin Overturf, Sr., was born at Elk Creek, Nebraska, in Nemaha County on 20 April 1886. He was the son of John Lake Overturf and Alzina Sheldon. With six brothers and four sisters, George was one of the youngest of a large family. Along with his siblings, he attended school in Nemaha County, but he did not care for it much (as one of his sons once said), and he was asked to leave the school when he was 14 because he was often a "problem," according to the authorities. He tended to get into fights with other boys who teased him about his size. After that, he stayed at home and helped his father work the farm.
Nellie, George's wife, described him this way: "George was a large man with dark curly hair, gray eyes, ruddy complexion, and inclined to be heavy, frequently tipping the scales at three hundred pounds during his lifetime, a characteristic inherited from his mother's side of the house. Of a genial disposition and easy acquaintance, he, like his father before him, put fair and honest dealing with his fellowmen first on the list of virtues and earnestly sought to instill such teachings in his sons."
A Great Story — and true!
A family story relates that one day when George was working the farm's only mule to turn the style for a motor to run, the mule refused to move, and so George hit it over the head with a whip which had a lead handle. The mule immediately dropped to the ground, and George feared it was dead and his father would make him pay for the mule. Before telling his father what he had done, he got some water and poured it over the mule. The mule suddenly stood up and worked all afternoon without another complaint!
A few years later, one of George's other brothers shot the mule when it would not do any work. He told his father that he would pay for it ($300 at that time), and he did. His father figured it was a good deal. The mule had given grief to everyone in the family for years.
Choosing a Life’s Work
When he was 22, George finally left home, still uncertain about what he would do, and spent one year at Cotner University in Lincoln, Nebraska, where he considered the ministry or missionary work. This did not work out, and a year later he attended Hastings Business College. His first job was bookkeeper at the German National Bank in Hastings, Nebraska. He went from there to the County Treasurer's Office for six years; the last year he was Deputy County Treasurer. He was Office Manager for Wolbach and Brach, a dry goods firm, for ten years. For a while, George was in the Retail Coal Business, managing the City Fuel and Feed Company in Hastings, Nebraska, in the early 1930s. It was a venture that lost him "quite a bit of money," mainly because of The Great Depression. In the last few years of his life, he bought a small farm and went back to doing what he had loved doing as a boy, and what his father had done all of his life: farm.
As a young man, George set out on a traveling adventure and wrote a letter to his older brother, C.E. (Charles Elmus) about his trip. Before he got married, he wanted to see the west: Arizona, New Mexico, California. He believed he would learn a great deal from the trip. He did indeed learn something, but it was not quite what he had expected. While in California, he was robbed of all of his belongings and was assisted by a church group to get to Oregon, where one of his brothers lived. There, he worked shotgun on a stagecoach until he made enough money to return home. He swore he would never leave Nebraska again, and he did not.
Meeting the Perfect Mate
George met Nellie McDonald while both were attending Hastings Business College. They married on 25 June 1910, in Hastings, Nebraska. It was a small wedding with only two witnesses present. Nellie wrote that she wore "a white linen dress and a bunch of sweet peas." They were married in the study of the Presbyterian Church — which burned on 25 September 1910, only three months later. After their marriage, they sent out an announcement to inform friends and family of their nuptials. An article also appeared in a Hastings newspaper, the Hastings Republican.
Nellie Allison McDonald was the daughter of Charles H. McDonald and Janie Allison. She was born on 10 February 1888, on the farm that her grandfather, James Allison, had bought in 1875. The farm is located in Menard County, near the Irish Grove. Nellie’s mother died when she was just five years old, and she was raised more by the Allisons — her grandparents and her Aunt Lizzie — than by her father, Charles McDonald.
Nellie says of herself, "I only stand five feet with my shoes on. As a young woman I weighed 90 to 100 pounds. Later, for many years, I weighed 116 or 118. I have brown eyes, straight brown hair, rather dark skin, and a dimple in my chin like my father and grandfather McDonald. I am the same height as my Grandmother Allison, who always said when I got as tall as she was, I was tall enough."
Life for Nellie before George
Nellie started school at Hunt School, a mile east of her grandparents' home in Menard County, Illinois. (Map at right courtesy of Wikipedia.) Her teacher was Asa Shumate. Later she went to Union School, built in 1869 and near Irish Grove, and took the seventh grade there. That was in the spring of 1899 and was the first time a seventh grade exam was given in Menard County. At 11 years old, Nellie was the youngest pupil in the county to take it.
Nellie had a Mr. Clements and a Mr. Stone for teachers. Nellie described Mr. Clements as "a medium-sized, rather sickly young man whom I think did not enjoy his job very much." Hall Stone was "a tall blonde young man and played his guitar accompaniment at recess and after school for school programs and literary meetings which we used to have often."
Nellie went to Greenview High School in the fall of 1904, and then went to Dixon Normal School in northern Illinois. She lived with Aunt Hala Miller, her father's sister, while attending school there. Because she had passed a teacher's exam in Menard County, she finished a two-year normal course in one year.
The next year, 1905 and 1906, Nellie taught at the Kincaid School, south of Greenview. She had eleven pupils there but also had to prepare for the 8th grade examinations. The following year, 1906-1907, she taught at Hedge Row School, the same school she had attended for 8th grade (the photograph at left is believed to be of Hedge Row School). She had about eighteen pupils and taught two years there.
In the summer of 1907, Nellie spent a month with her father's sister [Aunt Hala Miller] in Hastings, Nebraska. In August, 1908, she returned and attended Hastings Business College for about a year. Although Nellie was well qualified as a teacher, she had not found it an easy profession and always remarked to her sons, years later, that "some of those big boys" were a bit difficult to handle. She apparently decided that it would be easier to work with figures on paper than boys in a classroom.
Nellie stayed with Aunt Hala Miller's family in Hastings, and worked for the county superintendent whenever he needed her (mostly on Fridays and Saturdays). Since she had been a teacher, she could grade seventh and eighth grade papers and give teachers' exams, so she did this while she went to Business College. Her first job was with the Barnes Clothing Company in Hastings as a bookkeeper. She had stayed two or three weeks when she was called by the Business College office to see Silas Lyman, who wanted her help at the office of the Independent Telephone Company. She took the job and worked almost a year, 1909-1910, before she was married to George Edwin Overturf whom she had met at the Business College in the fall of 1908.
Marriage and a Family in Hastings, Nebraska
After George and Nellie were married, they lived at 839 N. Saunders in Hastings. In the spring of 1911, they bought a house at 9th and Bellevue. Lee Overturf, their first child, was born there on 30 January 1912, and Donald Sheldon Overturf, their second son, was born there on 10 July 1916. 2 They sold the house at 9th and Bellevue in the summer of 1917 and lived at Hastings and 9th until World War I was over. They bought again at 739 N. Bellevue, lived there for a while and then sold it. They bought a house at 839 N. Kansas (shown in photograph at right), where they lived for about twenty-two years. It was in the house on Kansas Street that their third son, George Edwin Overturf, Jr., was born on 16 November 1927.
George Overturf spent many years giving service to his community. During his lifetime, he held the following positions:
- Secretary to the Chamber of Commerce (1 year);
- Secretary of the Museum Association (15 years);
- Member of the School Board (6 years);
- Member of the City Council (2 years);
- Member of the Lions Club (20 years);
- Treasurer of the Presbyterian Church (2 years);
- Member of the Church Board of the Presbytery of the International Church Reserve (1 year); and,
- One of the first organizers of the Hastings City Museum (he was proudest of this).
During the years when George was active in many civic duties, his name frequently appeared in the local newspapers — often as many as two or three times a week. Nellie said, “He was well-liked by many who believed he had the best interests of the city at heart.”
Back to Farming
In August of 1942, George and Nellie moved to a small 40-acre farm on the south edge of Hastings in Adams County where they lived until George’s death.
In the photograph below, George and Nellie are standing with two of their sons and their wives and children on the front porch of their farm.
In the photograph above from left to right: Charlotte Overturf (Lee’s wife), Nellie Overturf, Lee Overturf (oldest son), George Overturf, George Overturf Jr. (youngest son), Josephine Hansen Overturf (wife of Don). The photograph was probably taken by their middle son and husband to Josephine, Donald Sheldon Overturf. In front are the two young daughters of Josephine and Donald Overturf: Kathie (on the left) and Karen. Based on the estimated ages of the two daughters, this photograph might have been taken in the mid-1940’s.
George died of a heart attack on 12 April 1949. He had been a well-known and popular man. Many mourned his death, and there were many articles about him in the local newspapers. George Jr. [age 22] was still at home when his father died, so he and Nellie stayed a year longer on the farm, selling it in March of 1950.
Life for Nellie without George
After selling the farm, Nellie moved to Houston, Texas, with her youngest son, George Jr., and where Lee (her oldest son) and his wife, Charlotte, were living. George Jr. went to school while in Houston, and Nellie worked for Grace Electric and the Hotel Plaza. George Jr. was called to active duty on 25 June 1950, for the Korean War, and Nellie and George Jr. returned to Hastings in September of 1950. Nellie lived and worked in Hastings from 1951 to 1955.
On 28 March 1955, Nellie married Charles Elmus Overturf, one of her husband's older brothers, the same brother that young George had written to prior to his big trip to the west coast as a young man. Charles, a widower, had a farm about three and a half miles east of Bird City, Kansas, and after their marriage, Nellie went to live with him there.
Nellie Allison McDonald Overturf died suddenly on 8 November 1963, in Bird City, Kansas. Her three sons gathered with their wives for her funeral. It was the last time that all three sons would be together.
[This page researched and written by Susan Overturf Ingraham, a granddaughter of George and Nellie. Last updated on January 9, 2016.]