Monday, March 7, 2016

Rainy Afternoon Layover in Lexington, NE

George Wyman departed Maxwell, Nebraska, early on the morning of Tuesday, June 9, 1903. After eight miles of slogging along the wagon trail, he "took to the railroad."  Twelve miles over the tracks and it was back to the road for an hour, then back to the tracks.  At noon Wyman rode into Lexington along the Union Pacific RR tracks.  Enduring 50 tough miles since Maxwell, he was ready for a break.  Seeking out one of the local eateries, Wyman likely turned left up North Washington Street to the town center.

Emerging from the dining room, it began to rain so hard that Wyman concluded it would be "folly" to ride.  He decided to take advantage of the layover time to work on his motorcycle.  The batteries that powered his ignition coil were acting up and there was the usual attention needed for loose spokes, drive belt adjustments, tightening of nuts and bolts.  Under the shelter of an overhang, Wyman was working away when J.S. Bancroft, local motorcycle enthusiast, stopped to chat.  J.S. Bancroft was a well established businessman in Lexington.  He owned and operated an extensive automobile, motorcycle and bicycle sales-service operation at the corner of Grant and 5th Streets, one block over from N.Washington Street.  Bancroft rode a 2-1/2 horsepower "Columbia" produced by the Pope Manufacturing Company. He offered Wyman the use of his garage facilities to work on his motorcycle.  George was delighted to accept and the two talked "shop" well into the late afternoon.

Repairs complete, Wyman departed Lexington around 5 pm after the rain had stopped.  Again, the wagon trail that served as the main road out of town was impassable due to the rains.  Wyman rode along the tracks to Elm Creek, stopping for an evening meal.  At some point along the next 16 miles he experienced a fall, braking the ammeter on the motorcycle.  By the time he stopped for the night in Kearney at 8:20 pm he had traveled nearly 90 miles that day.   Below, is the account of his rainy afternoon layover in Lexington, in his own words.

"I left Maxwell at 7:15 a.m. on June 9, and followed the wagon road for the first eight miles. Then it got so sandy that I took to the railroad. I remained on the tracks for 12 miles, and then tried the road again. After an hour on it, the mud began to be so thick that riding was impossible, and I then returned to the railroad and stuck to it until I reached Lexington, where I had dinner. When I emerged from the dining room it was raining so hard that it would have been folly to have attempted to ride. My batteries required attention, and by chance I met J.S. Bancroft, who has the most complete bicycle and automobile repairing station that I saw between Cheyenne and Omaha. Mr. Bancroft stopped when he saw me at work on the batteries and invited me to his store.  He is a motor bicycle rider, using a 2 1/2-horsepower Columbia. I lost an afternoon in Lexington, but it stopped raining at 5 p.m., and I went over to the railroad and made a run of 20 miles in an hour and a half to Elm Creek, where I had supper. I was anxious to make all the mileage I could, so after supper I started again, and by 8:20 p.m. I had ridden 16 miles more and was at Kearney, where I put up for the night. I had a fall and broke my ammeter in this last stretch. I had the same experience with my watch back in Nevada. A note in my diary, made at Kearney reads:
        'There are some of the greatest pace followers of their size in the world in this region. A bunch tacked on to me back at Ogallala, and for two days I have been unable to shake them. It looks as if they will stay with me all the way into New York. The natives call them gnats. They bite like hornets.' "

G.A.Wyman, "Over the Rockies and the Great Divide to the Prairies", The Motorcycle Magazine, August 1903

Today, Lexington, NE has joined The George A. Wyman Memorial Project as a hosting community.  The Dawson County Historical Society and Museum is acting as the hosting authority to mount a Wyman Waypoint sign, Waypoint poster and site narrative at the Museum on Taft Street.  We spoke to Crystal Werger, Museum Director, about our desire to get an additional Wyman Waypoint sign mounted in the vicinity of the J.S. Bancroft garage location at 5th and Grant Streets.

The George A. Wyman Memorial Project thanks the citizens of Lexington for helping us bring the Wyman Story to their community.  Working together, we are....

"Linking the Past to the Present to Enrich the Future"