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A View From The Attic


Week of  07/03/2016

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                                                                                                                 The Thomas Hood Family

                                                                                                                          by Harry Wilkins

Thomas Martin Hood and his family were one of McPaul's longest residents. Thomas was the oldest son of Martin Hood, an Irish immigrant who settled in Gage County, Nebraska, in 1883, with his wife Ellen and six children. Thomas struck out on his own in his early 20s: he enrolled in a local telegraphy course in Diller and then in 1887, attended Ritner's Commercial College in St. Louis, Missouri, where he honed his Morse code skills. After teaching at the college for a short time, he started a career with the Burlington Railroad line, serving as a station agent in Missouri, Hamburg, Bartlett, Percival and in 1891, McPaul. Although Tom continued to hold a stake in the Hood farm in Nebraska, he settled into a routine as a full-time station agent and telegrapher in the small railroad town, processing passengers, mail, livestock, produce and freight.

 

Managing the depot required Tom to work long hours, but there was always time for a practical joke.  In late December, 1893, the Baker Comedy Company was moving through towns along the rail line and found they had an open night—they enquired if McPaul would be a suitable place for a performance. Tom wired back that McPaul had a population of 2,000 and a fine opera house; the actual population was closer to 100 with no venue for a performance. The company immediately sent a bundle of flyers which Tom posted in the few stores and along the fence lines leading out of town. There was likely surprise and a fair amount of anger when the troupe arrived but Tom told the manager "not to kick too hard until after the show was over." He led them to the McPaul school which was cleared for the performers—standing room was at a premium and "the house was packed to its upmost capacity," according to a local paper. The company cleared $20.00, which took pressure off Mr. Hood and his prank.

 

Mary Etta Fulton, a young teacher at the McPaul school, caught his eye and the two were married January 10, 1894. Mary eventually became the postmistress and opened a general store, in 1902. Tom and Mary raised three daughters in McPaul: Dora Mae (born 1902), Adah Junetta (born 1908), and Elaine Frances, arriving in 1914; the girls attended school in McPaul and Thurman. Tom ended his 25-year railroad career in 1914 and moved with his family to a farm he had purchased in 1910,  just east of town. With the economy booming in the 1920s Tom and Mary decided to expand the farm and purchased additional land in Fremont County and beyond. But the Great Depression hit hard—land was lost and the children remember milk from their cows being saved for sale in the store, bypassing the dinner table. Thomas Hood passed in 1939 but his wife, Dora and Adah stayed at the home place—Elaine married a Tabor man, Harold Wilkins, shortly after her father's death and was gone. Mary Hood died in 1954, leaving Dora and Adah to manage the farm while juggling work as teachers in Tabor, Bartlett and Pacific Junction. Adah lived alone after Dora's death in 1972, passing in 2003.  The family is buried in Thurman.