Included in the album of photographs from Hemingford High School was a portrait of Edith L. Melvin. I thought she was one of the students, but, in fact, she was their teacher.
Edith Lucy Melvin was born to Emery L. Melvin and Alma Ellen Savage Melvin on November 24, 1891. When Edith was born, the family was living in Cedar, Nebraska, and she grew up there. The 1920 U.S. Census shows her living in Willow Grove, Nebraska, where she was working as a teacher.
On the webpage for Hemingford High School, where I found the group photo of this class, Edith appears on other class pages as well, listed as the principal of the school in 1929 and 1930, and she also taught orchestra and chorus.
In 1930, just over 1000 people lived in Hemingford, Nebraska. It was decidedly a farming village, and the town itself was not even one square mile. The first home were sod houses.
Sod home in Hemingford
Sod home in Alliance, a nearby town
The town’s website notes, “In 1930, 1,893 carloads of potatoes were shipped from Hemingford and the town was known as the “Potato Capital of the World.” Who knew? An absolute mecca of commerce in this little village!
Despite living in the hub of potato activity, it seems Edith wanted to reach for other things. City directories for the years from 1931 to 1938 show her living in Lincoln, Nebraska, where she was working in the registrar’s office at the University of Nebraska. Several articles in the Lincoln newspaper during that time, naming Edith in connection with various social events, usually include some sort of musical event or women’s organization. I gather Edith probably had a real affection for young people, since her career path to this point kept her in touch with students and their education.
In 1941, a newspaper article noted her resignation as the assistant registrar at the University, as part of reorganization under new leadership at the University.
After that, there isn’t much documentation on Edith, until May 1960 notes from the Board of Elections in Santa Barbara, California, which mention her as a clerk for Judge Whipple of the Board. I was unable to find any information on why she moved to California.
Edith had eight siblings: Etta (1890-1967); Rollin (1894-1980); Clarence (born 1896); Clarence (born 1897); Veva Isabelle (1899-1994) (married Christian F Nauenburg and moved to Colorado and then Santa Barbara, California); Harold (1901-1992); Donald (1904-1974); and Florence (1910-1952). I suspect Edith must have moved to Santa Barbara to be near her sister, Veva, who had a son, Harold Melvin Nauenburg. Harold married Gwenneth Nadine Blair and they had three children. Perhaps this was the family that Edith was able to enjoy, since she did not marry or have any children of her own.
Santa Barbara Genealogical Society records reflect that Edith died in December 1977, was cremated, and her ashes interred at the Santa Barbara Cemetery.
I suspect Edith was a very interesting lady – a music teacher and high school principle, who later worked at a major university and was involved in several social societies and musical organizations, and ended her working career for the Board of Elections in California. Perhaps her truest legacy was her connection with the students who came into her path. A truly death-defying legacy – good for you, Edith!