- Associated Press - Sunday, June 17, 2018

GERING, Neb. (AP) - After more than a year of preparation, the Gentry home is now open to the public.

The home is unique in the area because most homesteaders of the 1890s were made with sod. The Gentry home was made from logs transported from the Wildcat Hills.

Don Gentry said he hopes people who visit will enjoy his family’s home, their history and the importance of such a unique home in the Panhandle. Gentry was honored to have his family history on display and is eager to share stories of his ancestors. He also hopes visitors get an idea of what it was like to live here in the 1890s.

“Hopefully, people understand how hard it was here,” he said. “There was no electricity or running water.”

The Scottsbluff Star-Herald reports that at the end of May 2017, the Gentry log home was transported across town from Oregon Trail Park to its new home at the Legacy of the Plains Museum. After a tense moment where it was thought the home might tip over on the uneven road, the Gentry home was ready to be spruced up.

The roof and chinking needed to be redone and the home had to be placed on a foundation.

“By the time we got the repairs done, it was fall,” said Amanda Gibbs, director. “We wanted to get the family together and get them involved and remember their heritage.”

The day after moving the home across town, staff discovered a family was already living in the home. Gibbs said a family of squirrels had been living in the chimney.

“They were not happy about being relocated,” she said.

Don Gentry said the move of the house and opening it up to the public was a long time coming.

“It took us a heck of a lot longer than we thought to get it here,” he said.

Gentry‘s grandfather built the home after coming to the area to homestead on Nine-Mile Creek.

“He came here with no money and the only way he earned money was he borrowed a horse and plow from his to-be father-in-law Daniel Johnson,” Gentry said.

Johnson’s homestead is located on what is now Western Nebraska Regional Airport property.

According to records at the museum, the log house once belonged to Benjamin Franklin Gentry, the first county clerk of Scotts Bluff County. It was built with logs taken from the Wildcat Hills by the Bay State Cattle Company as a schoolhouse in Wright’s Gap on the Banner County side.

Built in 1889 or 1890, it was used for 20 years before being abandoned, at which time Gentry - with the help of Will Ripley - moved the house, log-by-log, across the North Platte River to a plot of land one and a half miles east of Minatare.

Years later, Don Gentry‘s father, Bill, received the family homestead when Gentry‘s grandparents divided up their property among their four children. Bill enjoyed horses and knew he needed more land and sought to sell the property.

Shalco Land and Cattle Company purchased Gentry‘s homestead and the house was to be torn down. The Gering Courier ran an article in the Thursday, Oct. 17, 1968, edition where W.F. “Bill” Smith said he wanted the house removed before his first major Angus sale on Nov. 9.

In the Star-Herald article, “Gering couple honored for heritage,” Diana Sherman wrote, “space must have gotten cramped because the original cabin only had two rooms. The front room served as a bedroom, living room, sewing and writing room, and the other as a kitchen.”

A photo of the original Gentry home hangs on the kitchen wall. In it, you can see the log home originally had two bedrooms. A door on the side of the house was originally a bay window. The chimney is not original. It was made from left over bricks from Gentry‘s uncle, Harold, who had used bricks from the Minatare sugar factory to build his house.

When the house was moved to the park, the stucco and siding were torn off to make it look, once again, as an authentic log house. It was also furnished with pieces from the pioneer days. The original house was 31-by-32 feet, but was reduced to 18-by-31 feet at Oregon Trail Park. Spare logs were used to fill in its gable roof and replace others that were rotted or damaged.

Around 50 years ago, the roof was replaced and other repairs were made on the home. An undated photograph from the Gering Courier shows park workers Clyde West and John Hennings placing thick butt shingles on the roof.

Many of the items in the home are of the time period, but are not Gentry family items. Those that are give a view into the life of the Gentry family, such as drawings by Ben Gentry, who was required to take calligraphy classes while attending Valparaiso Business School in Indiana.

“Very few of us have inherited that gene,” Alice Gentry Kenitz said.

Other family items include a steamer trunk used by Max Gentry and his family when they traveled to China in the 1920s and 1930s as missionaries, a marble-top table, which was a first Christmas gift from Ben Gentry to his wife, Cora, and a Round Oak cook stove that was originally in a cabin on Bill Gentry’s Bead Mountain Ranch.

Don Gentry said the idea along the road where the Gentry home now rests is to have other homesteads in between the Gentry home and the Weideman house. Plans are still in the works to move the old sod house from Oregon Trail Park to the museum.

“All of that takes time and money,” Gentry said. “If we had money, we could do it a lot faster.”


Information from: Star-Herald, http://www.starherald.com

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