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A Mystery in the Library

Faye Cool
Broken Bow, Neb.
Vickie Burnett, Merna Librarian, stands next to the mystery quilt in its new home at the Brenizer Public Library.

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There is a mystery in the Brenizer Public Library at Merna, Neb. Not one between the covers of a book, but one that unfolds much like the plot of a mystery story.

The scene is a busy April afternoon at the library since it is Library Week. Librarian Vickie Burnett is multi-tasking: helping classes from the Anselmo-Merna grade school as they arrive to check out books, overseeing a schoolchildren’s art exhibit and keeping an eye on the refreshment table for all visitors during Open House. And then the telephone rings!

Vickie answers distractedly. The caller at the other end asks if this is Merna, Nebraska? Vickie voices an abrupt affirmative, thinking rather uncharitably that this is probably a salesman. The voice identifies herself as someone from Illinois. She explains that years ago she and several of her friends traveled southern Illinois and adjoining states visiting museums and shopping in antique stores.

In the midst of all the hubbub, Vickie is beginning to wonder where this phone call is leading. But, she listens patiently, and the caller continues.

Some twenty years before while browsing in an antique shop she doesn’t remember where now – she spied a white cotton block quilt covered – with many names embroidered in red. She thought it historically interesting, bought it, took it home, put it away and forgot it until now. Recently, while going through some of her long ago purchases this quilt intrigues her once again. A block embroidered F. D. Atkisson, General Merchandise, Merna, Neb., sends her on an internet search turning up the community of Merna, Neb., and the telephone number of Brenizer Library.

By now, Vickie’s attention has changed from a so-what attitude to one of concentrated interest. The caller wonders now if a group in the community might be interested in having the quilt and researching its history – if so, she would like to donate the quilt to them. When Vickie enthusiastically assures the caller the community would indeed be interested, the caller ends with the promise to send the quilt soon.

From that moment on, every visitor who comes to the library that afternoon hears the news. Later Vickie calls Dee Adams, a library board member and area history buff who will turn out to be a detective in this mystery.

When the quilt arrives a few days later, Vickie calls Dee again and the two women unpack it to find a 70 by 80-inch quilt of 46 blocks covered with 230 names embroidered in bright red thread. Thirteen blocks bear names of long ago Merna businesses. A center block lists two men’s names: a Reverend from Kansas and a Professor from Iowa. Thirty-one more blocks have names of whole families or groups of individuals. It is exciting to recognize names still familiar in the community, but their main concern is finding out when and why the quilt was made and how it got to an antique shop in Illinois.

The two women pour over the names of the businesses: W. G. Brotherton, General Merchandise; C. C. Cass, Merna Livery Barn; George Davidson, City Meat Market; Bank of Merna Transacts General Banking Business, Mac Johnson, Cashier; E. L. Gulick and Co., Groceries and Queensware; Jaquot and Kelly, Grain Dealers; Kelly and Duncan, Dealers in Hardware-Farm Implements; E. L: Ganning, Lumber Yard; A. A. Overman, Harness and Saddlery; W. J. Redman, Notary Publici Wilson Bros. Grain Dealers; J. E. Zane, Lunch Room; The Merna Reporter, edited by A. L. Lazenby.

The center block with Rev. J. M. Frame, Ottawa, Kan., and Prof. J. R. Jefferies, Des Moines, Iowa, plus that Merna Reporter block will turn out to be crucial clues to the dating of the quilt and the answer to why it was made. The detectives get down to work.

From a volume on the library’s shelves, Merna Heritage Memories Book, information is gathered: Merna was settled in 1878, had a population of 30. By 1890 the population had grown to 200. There were many thriving businesses, some of whose names are on the quilt. In 1891 A. L. Lazenby names his new paper – The Merna Reporter. Perhaps there are copies of it in the county museum in Broken Bow.

The curator at Custer County Museum tells a disappointed Dee there were no Merna Reporter copies on file there, but she does believe there are copies on microfilm at the State Historical Society in Lincoln.

Dee travels to Lincoln spending a day of discovery: In 1893 Editor Lazenby had sold the Merna Reporter and moved away. The whereabouts of those old copies of the paper remained unknown until in the year 2000 a number of them were found in an attic in Wyoming and sent to Lincoln.

Dee eagerly scans these old issues and the mystery begins to unfold. In 1892 Merna had four churches – a Baptist Church, a Lutheran Church, a Methodist Episcopal (M.E.) Church and a Methodist Protestant (M.P.) Church. It was common for traveling ministers and evangelists to visit prairie towns to preach and hold revival meetings. These events were often recorded in news stories as the following ones reveal.

There is a mystery in the Brenizer Public Library at Merna, Neb. Not one between the covers of a book, but one that unfolds much like the plot of a mystery story.

The scene is a busy April afternoon at the library since it is Library Week. Librarian Vickie Burnett is multi-tasking: helping classes from the Anselmo-Merna grade school as they arrive to check out books, overseeing a schoolchildren’s art exhibit and keeping an eye on the refreshment table for all visitors during Open House. And then the telephone rings!

Vickie answers distractedly. The caller at the other end asks if this is Merna, Nebraska? Vickie voices an abrupt affirmative, thinking rather uncharitably that this is probably a salesman. The voice identifies herself as someone from Illinois. She explains that years ago she and several of her friends traveled southern Illinois and adjoining states visiting museums and shopping in antique stores.

In the midst of all the hubbub, Vickie is beginning to wonder where this phone call is leading. But, she listens patiently, and the caller continues.

Some twenty years before while browsing in an antique shop she doesn’t remember where now – she spied a white cotton block quilt covered – with many names embroidered in red. She thought it historically interesting, bought it, took it home, put it away and forgot it until now. Recently, while going through some of her long ago purchases this quilt intrigues her once again. A block embroidered F. D. Atkisson, General Merchandise, Merna, Neb., sends her on an internet search turning up the community of Merna, Neb., and the telephone number of Brenizer Library.

By now, Vickie’s attention has changed from a so-what attitude to one of concentrated interest. The caller wonders now if a group in the community might be interested in having the quilt and researching its history – if so, she would like to donate the quilt to them. When Vickie enthusiastically assures the caller the community would indeed be interested, the caller ends with the promise to send the quilt soon.

From that moment on, every visitor who comes to the library that afternoon hears the news. Later Vickie calls Dee Adams, a library board member and area history buff who will turn out to be a detective in this mystery.

When the quilt arrives a few days later, Vickie calls Dee again and the two women unpack it to find a 70 by 80-inch quilt of 46 blocks covered with 230 names embroidered in bright red thread. Thirteen blocks bear names of long ago Merna businesses. A center block lists two men’s names: a Reverend from Kansas and a Professor from Iowa. Thirty-one more blocks have names of whole families or groups of individuals. It is exciting to recognize names still familiar in the community, but their main concern is finding out when and why the quilt was made and how it got to an antique shop in Illinois.

The two women pour over the names of the businesses: W. G. Brotherton, General Merchandise; C. C. Cass, Merna Livery Barn; George Davidson, City Meat Market; Bank of Merna Transacts General Banking Business, Mac Johnson, Cashier; E. L. Gulick and Co., Groceries and Queensware; Jaquot and Kelly, Grain Dealers; Kelly and Duncan, Dealers in Hardware-Farm Implements; E. L: Ganning, Lumber Yard; A. A. Overman, Harness and Saddlery; W. J. Redman, Notary Publici Wilson Bros. Grain Dealers; J. E. Zane, Lunch Room; The Merna Reporter, edited by A. L. Lazenby.

The center block with Rev. J. M. Frame, Ottawa, Kan., and Prof. J. R. Jefferies, Des Moines, Iowa, plus that Merna Reporter block will turn out to be crucial clues to the dating of the quilt and the answer to why it was made. The detectives get down to work.

From a volume on the library’s shelves, Merna Heritage Memories Book, information is gathered: Merna was settled in 1878, had a population of 30. By 1890 the population had grown to 200. There were many thriving businesses, some of whose names are on the quilt. In 1891 A. L. Lazenby names his new paper – The Merna Reporter. Perhaps there are copies of it in the county museum in Broken Bow.

The curator at Custer County Museum tells a disappointed Dee there were no Merna Reporter copies on file there, but she does believe there are copies on microfilm at the State Historical Society in Lincoln.

Dee travels to Lincoln spending a day of discovery: In 1893 Editor Lazenby had sold the Merna Reporter and moved away. The whereabouts of those old copies of the paper remained unknown until in the year 2000 a number of them were found in an attic in Wyoming and sent to Lincoln.

Dee eagerly scans these old issues and the mystery begins to unfold. In 1892 Merna had four churches – a Baptist Church, a Lutheran Church, a Methodist Episcopal (M.E.) Church and a Methodist Protestant (M.P.) Church. It was common for traveling ministers and evangelists to visit prairie towns to preach and hold revival meetings. These events were often recorded in news stories as the following ones reveal.

There is a mystery in the Brenizer Public Library at Merna, Neb. Not one between the covers of a book, but one that unfolds much like the plot of a mystery story.

The scene is a busy April afternoon at the library since it is Library Week. Librarian Vickie Burnett is multi-tasking: helping classes from the Anselmo-Merna grade school as they arrive to check out books, overseeing a schoolchildren’s art exhibit and keeping an eye on the refreshment table for all visitors during Open House. And then the telephone rings!

Vickie answers distractedly. The caller at the other end asks if this is Merna, Nebraska? Vickie voices an abrupt affirmative, thinking rather uncharitably that this is probably a salesman. The voice identifies herself as someone from Illinois. She explains that years ago she and several of her friends traveled southern Illinois and adjoining states visiting museums and shopping in antique stores.

In the midst of all the hubbub, Vickie is beginning to wonder where this phone call is leading. But, she listens patiently, and the caller continues.

Some twenty years before while browsing in an antique shop she doesn’t remember where now – she spied a white cotton block quilt covered – with many names embroidered in red. She thought it historically interesting, bought it, took it home, put it away and forgot it until now. Recently, while going through some of her long ago purchases this quilt intrigues her once again. A block embroidered F. D. Atkisson, General Merchandise, Merna, Neb., sends her on an internet search turning up the community of Merna, Neb., and the telephone number of Brenizer Library.

By now, Vickie’s attention has changed from a so-what attitude to one of concentrated interest. The caller wonders now if a group in the community might be interested in having the quilt and researching its history – if so, she would like to donate the quilt to them. When Vickie enthusiastically assures the caller the community would indeed be interested, the caller ends with the promise to send the quilt soon.

From that moment on, every visitor who comes to the library that afternoon hears the news. Later Vickie calls Dee Adams, a library board member and area history buff who will turn out to be a detective in this mystery.

When the quilt arrives a few days later, Vickie calls Dee again and the two women unpack it to find a 70 by 80-inch quilt of 46 blocks covered with 230 names embroidered in bright red thread. Thirteen blocks bear names of long ago Merna businesses. A center block lists two men’s names: a Reverend from Kansas and a Professor from Iowa. Thirty-one more blocks have names of whole families or groups of individuals. It is exciting to recognize names still familiar in the community, but their main concern is finding out when and why the quilt was made and how it got to an antique shop in Illinois.

The two women pour over the names of the businesses: W. G. Brotherton, General Merchandise; C. C. Cass, Merna Livery Barn; George Davidson, City Meat Market; Bank of Merna Transacts General Banking Business, Mac Johnson, Cashier; E. L. Gulick and Co., Groceries and Queensware; Jaquot and Kelly, Grain Dealers; Kelly and Duncan, Dealers in Hardware-Farm Implements; E. L: Ganning, Lumber Yard; A. A. Overman, Harness and Saddlery; W. J. Redman, Notary Publici Wilson Bros. Grain Dealers; J. E. Zane, Lunch Room; The Merna Reporter, edited by A. L. Lazenby.

The center block with Rev. J. M. Frame, Ottawa, Kan., and Prof. J. R. Jefferies, Des Moines, Iowa, plus that Merna Reporter block will turn out to be crucial clues to the dating of the quilt and the answer to why it was made. The detectives get down to work.

From a volume on the library’s shelves, Merna Heritage Memories Book, information is gathered: Merna was settled in 1878, had a population of 30. By 1890 the population had grown to 200. There were many thriving businesses, some of whose names are on the quilt. In 1891 A. L. Lazenby names his new paper – The Merna Reporter. Perhaps there are copies of it in the county museum in Broken Bow.

The curator at Custer County Museum tells a disappointed Dee there were no Merna Reporter copies on file there, but she does believe there are copies on microfilm at the State Historical Society in Lincoln.

Dee travels to Lincoln spending a day of discovery: In 1893 Editor Lazenby had sold the Merna Reporter and moved away. The whereabouts of those old copies of the paper remained unknown until in the year 2000 a number of them were found in an attic in Wyoming and sent to Lincoln.

Dee eagerly scans these old issues and the mystery begins to unfold. In 1892 Merna had four churches – a Baptist Church, a Lutheran Church, a Methodist Episcopal (M.E.) Church and a Methodist Protestant (M.P.) Church. It was common for traveling ministers and evangelists to visit prairie towns to preach and hold revival meetings. These events were often recorded in news stories as the following ones reveal.

There is a mystery in the Brenizer Public Library at Merna, Neb. Not one between the covers of a book, but one that unfolds much like the plot of a mystery story.

The scene is a busy April afternoon at the library since it is Library Week. Librarian Vickie Burnett is multi-tasking: helping classes from the Anselmo-Merna grade school as they arrive to check out books, overseeing a schoolchildren’s art exhibit and keeping an eye on the refreshment table for all visitors during Open House. And then the telephone rings!

Vickie answers distractedly. The caller at the other end asks if this is Merna, Nebraska? Vickie voices an abrupt affirmative, thinking rather uncharitably that this is probably a salesman. The voice identifies herself as someone from Illinois. She explains that years ago she and several of her friends traveled southern Illinois and adjoining states visiting museums and shopping in antique stores.

In the midst of all the hubbub, Vickie is beginning to wonder where this phone call is leading. But, she listens patiently, and the caller continues.

Some twenty years before while browsing in an antique shop she doesn’t remember where now – she spied a white cotton block quilt covered – with many names embroidered in red. She thought it historically interesting, bought it, took it home, put it away and forgot it until now. Recently, while going through some of her long ago purchases this quilt intrigues her once again. A block embroidered F. D. Atkisson, General Merchandise, Merna, Neb., sends her on an internet search turning up the community of Merna, Neb., and the telephone number of Brenizer Library.

By now, Vickie’s attention has changed from a so-what attitude to one of concentrated interest. The caller wonders now if a group in the community might be interested in having the quilt and researching its history – if so, she would like to donate the quilt to them. When Vickie enthusiastically assures the caller the community would indeed be interested, the caller ends with the promise to send the quilt soon.

From that moment on, every visitor who comes to the library that afternoon hears the news. Later Vickie calls Dee Adams, a library board member and area history buff who will turn out to be a detective in this mystery.

When the quilt arrives a few days later, Vickie calls Dee again and the two women unpack it to find a 70 by 80-inch quilt of 46 blocks covered with 230 names embroidered in bright red thread. Thirteen blocks bear names of long ago Merna businesses. A center block lists two men’s names: a Reverend from Kansas and a Professor from Iowa. Thirty-one more blocks have names of whole families or groups of individuals. It is exciting to recognize names still familiar in the community, but their main concern is finding out when and why the quilt was made and how it got to an antique shop in Illinois.

The two women pour over the names of the businesses: W. G. Brotherton, General Merchandise; C. C. Cass, Merna Livery Barn; George Davidson, City Meat Market; Bank of Merna Transacts General Banking Business, Mac Johnson, Cashier; E. L. Gulick and Co., Groceries and Queensware; Jaquot and Kelly, Grain Dealers; Kelly and Duncan, Dealers in Hardware-Farm Implements; E. L: Ganning, Lumber Yard; A. A. Overman, Harness and Saddlery; W. J. Redman, Notary Publici Wilson Bros. Grain Dealers; J. E. Zane, Lunch Room; The Merna Reporter, edited by A. L. Lazenby.

The center block with Rev. J. M. Frame, Ottawa, Kan., and Prof. J. R. Jefferies, Des Moines, Iowa, plus that Merna Reporter block will turn out to be crucial clues to the dating of the quilt and the answer to why it was made. The detectives get down to work.

From a volume on the library’s shelves, Merna Heritage Memories Book, information is gathered: Merna was settled in 1878, had a population of 30. By 1890 the population had grown to 200. There were many thriving businesses, some of whose names are on the quilt. In 1891 A. L. Lazenby names his new paper – The Merna Reporter. Perhaps there are copies of it in the county museum in Broken Bow.

The curator at Custer County Museum tells a disappointed Dee there were no Merna Reporter copies on file there, but she does believe there are copies on microfilm at the State Historical Society in Lincoln.

Dee travels to Lincoln spending a day of discovery: In 1893 Editor Lazenby had sold the Merna Reporter and moved away. The whereabouts of those old copies of the paper remained unknown until in the year 2000 a number of them were found in an attic in Wyoming and sent to Lincoln.

Dee eagerly scans these old issues and the mystery begins to unfold. In 1892 Merna had four churches – a Baptist Church, a Lutheran Church, a Methodist Episcopal (M.E.) Church and a Methodist Protestant (M.P.) Church. It was common for traveling ministers and evangelists to visit prairie towns to preach and hold revival meetings. These events were often recorded in news stories as the following ones reveal.

There is a mystery in the Brenizer Public Library at Merna, Neb. Not one between the covers of a book, but one that unfolds much like the plot of a mystery story.

The scene is a busy April afternoon at the library since it is Library Week. Librarian Vickie Burnett is multi-tasking: helping classes from the Anselmo-Merna grade school as they arrive to check out books, overseeing a schoolchildren’s art exhibit and keeping an eye on the refreshment table for all visitors during Open House. And then the telephone rings!

Vickie answers distractedly. The caller at the other end asks if this is Merna, Nebraska? Vickie voices an abrupt affirmative, thinking rather uncharitably that this is probably a salesman. The voice identifies herself as someone from Illinois. She explains that years ago she and several of her friends traveled southern Illinois and adjoining states visiting museums and shopping in antique stores.

In the midst of all the hubbub, Vickie is beginning to wonder where this phone call is leading. But, she listens patiently, and the caller continues.

Some twenty years before while browsing in an antique shop she doesn’t remember where now – she spied a white cotton block quilt covered – with many names embroidered in red. She thought it historically interesting, bought it, took it home, put it away and forgot it until now. Recently, while going through some of her long ago purchases this quilt intrigues her once again. A block embroidered F. D. Atkisson, General Merchandise, Merna, Neb., sends her on an internet search turning up the community of Merna, Neb., and the telephone number of Brenizer Library.

By now, Vickie’s attention has changed from a so-what attitude to one of concentrated interest. The caller wonders now if a group in the community might be interested in having the quilt and researching its history – if so, she would like to donate the quilt to them. When Vickie enthusiastically assures the caller the community would indeed be interested, the caller ends with the promise to send the quilt soon.

From that moment on, every visitor who comes to the library that afternoon hears the news. Later Vickie calls Dee Adams, a library board member and area history buff who will turn out to be a detective in this mystery.

When the quilt arrives a few days later, Vickie calls Dee again and the two women unpack it to find a 70 by 80-inch quilt of 46 blocks covered with 230 names embroidered in bright red thread. Thirteen blocks bear names of long ago Merna businesses. A center block lists two men’s names: a Reverend from Kansas and a Professor from Iowa. Thirty-one more blocks have names of whole families or groups of individuals. It is exciting to recognize names still familiar in the community, but their main concern is finding out when and why the quilt was made and how it got to an antique shop in Illinois.

The two women pour over the names of the businesses: W. G. Brotherton, General Merchandise; C. C. Cass, Merna Livery Barn; George Davidson, City Meat Market; Bank of Merna Transacts General Banking Business, Mac Johnson, Cashier; E. L. Gulick and Co., Groceries and Queensware; Jaquot and Kelly, Grain Dealers; Kelly and Duncan, Dealers in Hardware-Farm Implements; E. L: Ganning, Lumber Yard; A. A. Overman, Harness and Saddlery; W. J. Redman, Notary Publici Wilson Bros. Grain Dealers; J. E. Zane, Lunch Room; The Merna Reporter, edited by A. L. Lazenby.

The center block with Rev. J. M. Frame, Ottawa, Kan., and Prof. J. R. Jefferies, Des Moines, Iowa, plus that Merna Reporter block will turn out to be crucial clues to the dating of the quilt and the answer to why it was made. The detectives get down to work.

From a volume on the library’s shelves, Merna Heritage Memories Book, information is gathered: Merna was settled in 1878, had a population of 30. By 1890 the population had grown to 200. There were many thriving businesses, some of whose names are on the quilt. In 1891 A. L. Lazenby names his new paper – The Merna Reporter. Perhaps there are copies of it in the county museum in Broken Bow.

The curator at Custer County Museum tells a disappointed Dee there were no Merna Reporter copies on file there, but she does believe there are copies on microfilm at the State Historical Society in Lincoln.

Dee travels to Lincoln spending a day of discovery: In 1893 Editor Lazenby had sold the Merna Reporter and moved away. The whereabouts of those old copies of the paper remained unknown until in the year 2000 a number of them were found in an attic in Wyoming and sent to Lincoln.

Dee eagerly scans these old issues and the mystery begins to unfold. In 1892 Merna had four churches – a Baptist Church, a Lutheran Church, a Methodist Episcopal (M.E.) Church and a Methodist Protestant (M.P.) Church. It was common for traveling ministers and evangelists to visit prairie towns to preach and hold revival meetings. These events were often recorded in news stories as the following ones reveal.

There is a mystery in the Brenizer Public Library at Merna, Neb. Not one between the covers of a book, but one that unfolds much like the plot of a mystery story.

The scene is a busy April afternoon at the library since it is Library Week. Librarian Vickie Burnett is multi-tasking: helping classes from the Anselmo-Merna grade school as they arrive to check out books, overseeing a schoolchildren’s art exhibit and keeping an eye on the refreshment table for all visitors during Open House. And then the telephone rings!

Vickie answers distractedly. The caller at the other end asks if this is Merna, Nebraska? Vickie voices an abrupt affirmative, thinking rather uncharitably that this is probably a salesman. The voice identifies herself as someone from Illinois. She explains that years ago she and several of her friends traveled southern Illinois and adjoining states visiting museums and shopping in antique stores.

In the midst of all the hubbub, Vickie is beginning to wonder where this phone call is leading. But, she listens patiently, and the caller continues.

Some twenty years before while browsing in an antique shop she doesn’t remember where now – she spied a white cotton block quilt covered – with many names embroidered in red. She thought it historically interesting, bought it, took it home, put it away and forgot it until now. Recently, while going through some of her long ago purchases this quilt intrigues her once again. A block embroidered F. D. Atkisson, General Merchandise, Merna, Neb., sends her on an internet search turning up the community of Merna, Neb., and the telephone number of Brenizer Library.

By now, Vickie’s attention has changed from a so-what attitude to one of concentrated interest. The caller wonders now if a group in the community might be interested in having the quilt and researching its history – if so, she would like to donate the quilt to them. When Vickie enthusiastically assures the caller the community would indeed be interested, the caller ends with the promise to send the quilt soon.

From that moment on, every visitor who comes to the library that afternoon hears the news. Later Vickie calls Dee Adams, a library board member and area history buff who will turn out to be a detective in this mystery.

When the quilt arrives a few days later, Vickie calls Dee again and the two women unpack it to find a 70 by 80-inch quilt of 46 blocks covered with 230 names embroidered in bright red thread. Thirteen blocks bear names of long ago Merna businesses. A center block lists two men’s names: a Reverend from Kansas and a Professor from Iowa. Thirty-one more blocks have names of whole families or groups of individuals. It is exciting to recognize names still familiar in the community, but their main concern is finding out when and why the quilt was made and how it got to an antique shop in Illinois.

The two women pour over the names of the businesses: W. G. Brotherton, General Merchandise; C. C. Cass, Merna Livery Barn; George Davidson, City Meat Market; Bank of Merna Transacts General Banking Business, Mac Johnson, Cashier; E. L. Gulick and Co., Groceries and Queensware; Jaquot and Kelly, Grain Dealers; Kelly and Duncan, Dealers in Hardware-Farm Implements; E. L: Ganning, Lumber Yard; A. A. Overman, Harness and Saddlery; W. J. Redman, Notary Publici Wilson Bros. Grain Dealers; J. E. Zane, Lunch Room; The Merna Reporter, edited by A. L. Lazenby.

The center block with Rev. J. M. Frame, Ottawa, Kan., and Prof. J. R. Jefferies, Des Moines, Iowa, plus that Merna Reporter block will turn out to be crucial clues to the dating of the quilt and the answer to why it was made. The detectives get down to work.

From a volume on the library’s shelves, Merna Heritage Memories Book, information is gathered: Merna was settled in 1878, had a population of 30. By 1890 the population had grown to 200. There were many thriving businesses, some of whose names are on the quilt. In 1891 A. L. Lazenby names his new paper – The Merna Reporter. Perhaps there are copies of it in the county museum in Broken Bow.

The curator at Custer County Museum tells a disappointed Dee there were no Merna Reporter copies on file there, but she does believe there are copies on microfilm at the State Historical Society in Lincoln.

Dee travels to Lincoln spending a day of discovery: In 1893 Editor Lazenby had sold the Merna Reporter and moved away. The whereabouts of those old copies of the paper remained unknown until in the year 2000 a number of them were found in an attic in Wyoming and sent to Lincoln.

Dee eagerly scans these old issues and the mystery begins to unfold. In 1892 Merna had four churches – a Baptist Church, a Lutheran Church, a Methodist Episcopal (M.E.) Church and a Methodist Protestant (M.P.) Church. It was common for traveling ministers and evangelists to visit prairie towns to preach and hold revival meetings. These events were often recorded in news stories as the following ones reveal.

There is a mystery in the Brenizer Public Library at Merna, Neb. Not one between the covers of a book, but one that unfolds much like the plot of a mystery story.

The scene is a busy April afternoon at the library since it is Library Week. Librarian Vickie Burnett is multi-tasking: helping classes from the Anselmo-Merna grade school as they arrive to check out books, overseeing a schoolchildren’s art exhibit and keeping an eye on the refreshment table for all visitors during Open House. And then the telephone rings!

Vickie answers distractedly. The caller at the other end asks if this is Merna, Nebraska? Vickie voices an abrupt affirmative, thinking rather uncharitably that this is probably a salesman. The voice identifies herself as someone from Illinois. She explains that years ago she and several of her friends traveled southern Illinois and adjoining states visiting museums and shopping in antique stores.

In the midst of all the hubbub, Vickie is beginning to wonder where this phone call is leading. But, she listens patiently, and the caller continues.

Some twenty years before while browsing in an antique shop she doesn’t remember where now – she spied a white cotton block quilt covered – with many names embroidered in red. She thought it historically interesting, bought it, took it home, put it away and forgot it until now. Recently, while going through some of her long ago purchases this quilt intrigues her once again. A block embroidered F. D. Atkisson, General Merchandise, Merna, Neb., sends her on an internet search turning up the community of Merna, Neb., and the telephone number of Brenizer Library.

By now, Vickie’s attention has changed from a so-what attitude to one of concentrated interest. The caller wonders now if a group in the community might be interested in having the quilt and researching its history – if so, she would like to donate the quilt to them. When Vickie enthusiastically assures the caller the community would indeed be interested, the caller ends with the promise to send the quilt soon.

From that moment on, every visitor who comes to the library that afternoon hears the news. Later Vickie calls Dee Adams, a library board member and area history buff who will turn out to be a detective in this mystery.

When the quilt arrives a few days later, Vickie calls Dee again and the two women unpack it to find a 70 by 80-inch quilt of 46 blocks covered with 230 names embroidered in bright red thread. Thirteen blocks bear names of long ago Merna businesses. A center block lists two men’s names: a Reverend from Kansas and a Professor from Iowa. Thirty-one more blocks have names of whole families or groups of individuals. It is exciting to recognize names still familiar in the community, but their main concern is finding out when and why the quilt was made and how it got to an antique shop in Illinois.

The two women pour over the names of the businesses: W. G. Brotherton, General Merchandise; C. C. Cass, Merna Livery Barn; George Davidson, City Meat Market; Bank of Merna Transacts General Banking Business, Mac Johnson, Cashier; E. L. Gulick and Co., Groceries and Queensware; Jaquot and Kelly, Grain Dealers; Kelly and Duncan, Dealers in Hardware-Farm Implements; E. L: Ganning, Lumber Yard; A. A. Overman, Harness and Saddlery; W. J. Redman, Notary Publici Wilson Bros. Grain Dealers; J. E. Zane, Lunch Room; The Merna Reporter, edited by A. L. Lazenby.

The center block with Rev. J. M. Frame, Ottawa, Kan., and Prof. J. R. Jefferies, Des Moines, Iowa, plus that Merna Reporter block will turn out to be crucial clues to the dating of the quilt and the answer to why it was made. The detectives get down to work.

From a volume on the library’s shelves, Merna Heritage Memories Book, information is gathered: Merna was settled in 1878, had a population of 30. By 1890 the population had grown to 200. There were many thriving businesses, some of whose names are on the quilt. In 1891 A. L. Lazenby names his new paper – The Merna Reporter. Perhaps there are copies of it in the county museum in Broken Bow.

The curator at Custer County Museum tells a disappointed Dee there were no Merna Reporter copies on file there, but she does believe there are copies on microfilm at the State Historical Society in Lincoln.

Dee travels to Lincoln spending a day of discovery: In 1893 Editor Lazenby had sold the Merna Reporter and moved away. The whereabouts of those old copies of the paper remained unknown until in the year 2000 a number of them were found in an attic in Wyoming and sent to Lincoln.

Dee eagerly scans these old issues and the mystery begins to unfold. In 1892 Merna had four churches – a Baptist Church, a Lutheran Church, a Methodist Episcopal (M.E.) Church and a Methodist Protestant (M.P.) Church. It was common for traveling ministers and evangelists to visit prairie towns to preach and hold revival meetings. These events were often recorded in news stories as the following ones reveal.


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