When Chadron’s first kindergarten was opened in the fall of 1893, the teacher, Miss Elizabeth “Bess” O’Linn, was hardly more than a student herself. The young children she taught, pictured above, included two of Addison E. Sheldon’s children, Philip L. (left) and Esther (right). Sheldon, who later served as secretary and superintendent of the Nebraska State Historical Society from 1917 until his death in 1943, lived in Chadron and published the Chadron Signal when this photo was taken.
Miss O’Linn was the daughter of early Dawes County settler Fannie O’Linn, a pioneering female attorney admitted to the Nebraska bar in 1885. The older O’Linn had also been a teacher and school principal at Blair and Tekamah before taking up the legal profession and was one of the organizers of the Northwest Nebraska Teachers’ Association. Her daughter taught kindergarten classes in Chadron and Whitman. After her marriage in 1900 to Clarence C. Smith, Elizabeth became active in civic organizations and served as Chadron’s first librarian after the Chadron Public Library was opened in 1917. – Patricia C. Gaster, Assistant Editor / Publications