Country Ladies Kensington

By Bob Williamson
Not all stories that have a title like this are fiction.  This is a true story about some history of a community between Dawson and Humboldt.  And some of us “oldies” who still live in this community still enjoy this legacy.

   One summer afternoon in 1907, Mrs. Martin D. Ulmer and her sister Mrs. Jacob S Heim, were visiting and among the general conversation, they remarked about the fact that they so seldom had the opportunity to visit their neighbors.  Their regret was real and they wondered what could be done about it.  A later conversation on the subject with other neighbor ladies, Mrs. Ed Leatherman, Mrs. Jake Snethen and Mrs. Wes Hummel, resulted in the organization of the “The Country Ladies Kensington.” These 5 ladies and Mrs. Wilber Burr, Mrs. Homer Deweese and Mrs. Clarence Allen were the Charter members.

   The original purpose of the club was purely social, furnishing the opportunity for friendly chatter, the exchange of recipes, piecing quilt blocks, mending and embroidery or any kind of handwork, keeping their hands busy while they visited.  Only gossip was frowned upon.  There were no officers, no dues, no formal programs and no refreshments.  They all had to cook supper for their families when they got home and refreshments were not wanted as that interfered with their visiting time.  Also, being a hostess was a much greater pleasure.  Food of a simple type for the children was provided by the hostess.

  The peak membership was around 30.  Anyone could belong. There were no restrictions, so long as they were country women and their older daughters.  Invitations were by word of mouth as usually someone in attendance gave the invitation for the next meeting to be at her home.  They met every two weeks.

   These were the horse and buggy days and members either walked or came by horse and buggy. This club was always well attended and much enjoyed by all.  Each summer, a big Club picnic dinner was held in some ones grove or yard where long tables could be set up for members and their families, everyone bringing food for the noon meal.  The men often played baseball after dinner and they had a good audience.

   In 1916 the Club was reorganized and the name changed to “Golden Rod Study Club”, a formal constitution adopted and officers elected, it also became a federated club.  Program books were made for each member and a topic for the program of each meeting, which were now held once a month.  The idea of no refreshments continued until much later time when it was changed.

   In 1919 there were 31 members, the largest membership they ever had and at this time they became members of the “Nebraska Federation of Women’s Clubs” and dues were $1.25 per member.

   During World War One they sent a large box of clothing for the French refugees and adopted a French war orphan for one year.   $36.50 was sent to him and the receipt is still in the possession of the Club.  Through the years other acts of charity were practiced by this group of ladies.

   In 1923, 24, and 25 the membership dropped to 18, the smallest membership to date.   With the Federated Organization the programs were more literary but the social element was kept alive.  The summer picnic was still held which included the families of each member; again in the yard of one of the members, as in days gone by.  In February the regular meeting called the “Winter Frolic” a noon or evening dinner for the special benefit of the husbands again being held in the home of one of the members.

   A number of years later the State Federation was dropped, town ladies were now welcome to join if they so desired.  The summer picnic and winter frolic were continued.  They then became a large club of 25 members and continued to be well attended.  In 2012 the neighborhood club will be well over 100 years of continuous meeting of this happy group.  All Charter Members, as well as all original members of the organization are now passed away, but their daughters and granddaughters and daughter-in-laws of those former members still carrying on and enjoying the association with each other,
  For your information the next “Winter Frolic” will be held at the home of Marilyn Ogle this February. 
(Parts of this article were taken from facts printed in the 1976 Dawson History, published by the Bicentennial Committee and DCIP organization of Dawson, Nebraska.  The book was compiled by Elma Heim Griffith for the bicentennial.)