Message in a bottle sheds light on history of home

Wednesday, February 25, 2015
Nicole Dewey with the bottle and note, on the remodeled porch of her home. (Courtesy photo)

McCOOK, Neb. -- If time could be saved in a bottle, then a home do-it-your-selfer has recently found 82-years' worth.

Shad Dewey and his 14-year-old daughter, Nicole, were ripping up the wooden porch planks of their home six miles northeast of McCook when Nicole spied a clear bottle laying behind the cement steps.

"She hollered at me that she found a bottle and I asked if it was a beer or whiskey bottle," Dewey recounted, with old bottles, along with nails and cans, frequently found at old homesteads. "Then she said there was a something in it."

Shad Dewey holds the note. (Lorri Sughroue/McCook Gazette)

With a pair of tweezers, his daughter carefully pulled out a rolled up note and smoothed it out, revealing flowery, cursive writing on yellowed lined tablet paper.

Together, they read the letter: "This farm owned by Mr. and Mrs. Del Pate from 1917 -- rebuilt in 1924 -- burned by fire Sept. 27, 1932 -- rebuilt and completed Jan. 1, 1933 by contractor Jake L. Klein, McCook, Nebraska."

The note was a complete surprise, Dewey said. "I would have expected to find a bull snake skin before that," he admitted, with a snake frequently found sunning himself near the porch every year.

The Dewey house before remodeling. (Courtesy photo)

But it was a piece of information that Dewey said he had wondered about since buying the farmhouse in 1999.

"It was interesting to know the history of the place, I was never really sure when the place was built," he said.

In talking to people, he knew it had burned down and because of the old wood found behind the house, figured there had been some kind of construction. But that was about all he knew.

He's been updating the three bedroom, 11⁄2 story home, that previously belonged to the grandparents of his wife, Fred and Mabel Potthoff, since he and his family moved in, replacing windows and siding along with other renovations. He hasn't been able to find out anything about the original owner, Del Pate, other than he was not related to a Pate that owned a hardware store in downtown McCook for many years.

The note from the past has spurred he and his family to create their own time capsule of sorts, a PVC pipe that they will fill with a written history of their own renovations in the home and place in the house.

It's also made him look at familiar objects with a new perspective.

"I'm not taking for granted anymore that it's just trash," he said of other old bottles he may find in the future.

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