Volume 24,No.1        Buffalo CountyHistorical Society     January-February, 2001

The Ludden Family
by Margaret Stines Nielsen

       Luther P. Ludden of Albany, N.Y. was sent to Lincoln in 1889 by the Evangelical Lutheran Church and shortly thereafter he established Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church. He moved his wife Margaret and family to a house just four blocks from the State Capitol, where the children grew up. He was later appointed Western Secretary of the Board of Missions. He was also interested in politics and held several state offices, including serving many years on the State Normal Board. It was during this time that the Board chose Kearney as the site of the new Normal School.

        The Luddens had four children, Peter, Carrie, Nellieand John, all of whom were born in New York and moved withthe family toNebraska. Carrie and John Ludden would become noteworthy figures in the Kearneycommunity and all of the children would forge a Kearney connection directlyor through their children.

        Carrie Ludden was born in Knox Co. N.Y. in 1881.She went to the University in Lincoln for three years before transferringto Kearney Normal in 1906 to begin a teaching career in biology. She startedas a laboratory assistant and worked her way up to the rank of professor,and occasionally acted as the head of the department "if they didn't havea man to take over." She was once assigned to make a map of the campus andlocate all trees and bird nests. Birding was her hobby and she gathered a"large variety of superb specimens". (1)

John E.Ludden 
Pioneer 4-H worker
Carrie E. Ludden 
Taught at collete for 48 years
        Carrie was best known for her correspondence withher students during World War II. It became almost an obsession withher,spilling over into her classes. One former student said, "Biology wasmorelike a geography class" as she talked about this student in India oranotherin France. In her day she also "put the zip in the Zip Club." Sheretiredin 1953, after teaching for forty-eight years, more than any otherfacultymember. Ludden Hall, a girls dormitory, was dedicated in her honorin 1961.She died on February 18, 1971.

        John Ernest Ludden was born in Albany County, NewYork on January 18, 1888 after his father had gone to Lincoln. After fourmonths Mrs. Ludden brought her family to Nebraska. John attended Lincolnschools and the University of Nebraska College of Agriculture, graduating in 1913. He taught in St. Paul where he met and married a fellow teacher, Addie Shanstrom. They would have three children, Addah Jane, John Shanstrom and Lawrence Perry. He came to Kearney Normal in 1915 to teach physical science, becoming head of the Agriculture Department later that year. John started a model farm at the end of eleventh street, and a large house was erected there. Students who lived there were expected to do the chores, althoughas Mr. Ludden would later recall, things did not always work out that way.(2)

        John was also the outside contact man for the Chamberof Commerce, attending meetings and going to Grange affairs on horseback.At that time Buda School became the first 4-H horse and colt club in thenation. John also traveled by train, distributing 4-H materials to all pointswest of Kearney. In 1916, Extension supervisors came out toexplain a summer4-H program to area youngsters. Two hundred signed up thefirst year andprograms grew to include vegetable gardens, canning, poultryand rabbits.The supervising committee included Mrs. C.D.V. Basten, H.D. Watson,the Superintendentof Schools and Mr. Ludden. In 1918 a decision was madeto hire a county agent.Paul Stewart was the first agent, and then John tookover in December of1919, serving for five years. On doctor&rsquos ordersto adopt a slower-pacedlife he moved to a farm which had been part of the1733 ranch. It had neverbeen tilled until John put the plow to the soil.This was also the firstland irrigated from the Kearney canal. The depressionyears were hard onJohn, Addie and the children. Daughter, Addah Jane LuddenHurst recalledher memories of the depression years.

In retrospect I do not know how our parents made it through the terrible depression. We always had a garden so we could eat, but theyears of crop failures were very grim indeed. Then there were the terribleduststorms, the tornadoes that swept through our place repeatedly. Oneyear, Iremember, the neighbors helping my father had just finished rebuildingthedairy barn and chicken house when another when another ... swept awaybothbuildings. That was followed two nights later by a break in the irrigationcanal north of our form that burst and rushed through the best cornfieldleavingcaverns in a once level field, large enough to hide a horse, andfertile topsoil was washed away. Thus began years of again rebuilding notonly barn andsheds, but the soil upon which our living depended. (3)
      John Ludden died on March15, 1978.He was survived by his three children, Addah, John and Lawrence,and ninegrandchildren and two great grandchildren.

       Addah Jane Ludden graduated from Kearney StateCollege and went to Washington D.C. where she worked for a wire service,now UPI, assigned to the Senate and on occasion the White House.In thosedays there were only a few accredited press and the stories fromthe WhiteHouse came from a few gathering in the Oval Office at the President's invitation.Her husband, Clyde Hurst, has a consulting firm which designsbuildings,shopping malls and university complexes all over the world. Theyhave threechildren: Margaret Bocek was secretary to President's Nixon andFord, aswell as to economist Alan Greenspan. Clyde III does all the electricalcontractingwork in Hurst and Associates. John invented annunciator panelsas requiredby the National Electrical Code for all public buildings. He andhis staffhave installed them all over the world.(4)

       John S. (Jack) Ludden also graduated from K.S.C.During World War II he was charge nurse in a surgical unit atShepard Field,Texas when he met Leola Hibberd of Gibbon. The couple weremarried when hewas on a three-day pass. He also served in Europe. After thewar he joinedLarry on the farm. Jack increased his operations, raised seedcorn, polledhereford cattle and operated a bull testing station. He was alsoa memberof the Board of Directors of the Dawson County Public Power District.Buthe was hit hard by the farm crisis of the mid-eighties and lost his farm.When things were at their lowest Eugene Ward, who was installing the organin St. Luke&rsquos Episcopal Church asked him to help. This led to a callfrom St. Luke&rsquos to become the sexton. Nancy Westerfield wrote thathewas the 'sexton-extra-ordinary who is computer-literate, sings a trainedtenor,does counseling ... has a teaching degree and is a master at plumbing,heatingand wiring." (5) Jack died of a massive heart attack on April 5,1995. Hewas survived by Leola and their three children, Kerry, a carpenterin Kearney;Nancy Goddard, a C.P.A. in Des Moines, Iowa, and Sue Smith, acomputer operatorin San Jose, California.

       Lawrence (Larry) Ludden graduated from KearneyState with a major in Industrial Arts. He farmed with his father for a time,moved to York, and in 1963 to Phoenix where he has been a successful landdeveloper and owner of Golden Heritage Homes. He has been past president of the Homebuilders Association of Central Arizona, past director of theNational Homebuilders Association and vice-chairman of the Arizona Chamberof Commerce. He has been a long-time UNK supporter, served on the FoundationBoard of Directors and was president of the Phoenix Alumni Club. He and hiswife, Del, provided a gift to establish funds for Industrial Education students.In 1989, he received the Distinguished Alumni Award. He has two children,Barbara Marks of Mission Diego, CA and Peggy Brooks of Scottsdale, AZ.

       The two other children of Luther and MargaretLudden - Peter and Nellie - also relocated to central Nebraska and forgedconnections to the Kearney area.

       Peter Leroy was born at Knox, NY in 1880. He ranchednear Halsey and had a farm near Holstein before coming to a ranch near Kearney."I did not like the deal, my wife didn't like itout west". They spent therest of their lives north of Ashland.

       Peter and his wife, Elsie, had nine children.They were living near Halsey when Mrs. Ludden, expecting her third child,decided to go to her parents home. They drove to Halsey where Mrs.Luddenboarded the train to ride with Luther Ludden who was returning to Lincoln.After visiting for a while Dr. Ludden left Elsie in the sleeping car..."onlyto be hastily summoned by the conductor." Dr. J.H. Penn received a wire tomeet the train at Ravenna. A daughter was born somewhere along the way andthe doctor left the train at Grand Island. Woman passengers helped care forthe baby, bundling her in wraps and furs. Mother and child went by ambulancefrom the station to the Ludden home in Lincoln. She was named Ruth Elmira.Elmira was the name of the sleeping car where she was born. (6) Ruth Elmiramarried Earle Webb in 1934. He taught shop in several schools and farmednearOdessa. They adopted three children. The couple was active in the BuffaloCounty Historical Society for many years.

       Luther Ludden's older daughter,Nellie graduatedfrom the University of Nebraska at Lincoln in 1908. She marriedClaude Aldenand moved to Kimball. (7) Nellie and Claude had three children:John W. Alden,Jean Alden Johnson and Mary Alden Kamm. A daughter of Jeanand William Johnson,Nellie's grandaughter, Marian Johnson, graduated fromKearney State Collegein 1970. Marian married Charles E. (Chuck) Payne ofKearney and the couplehave three children.
1. Philip S. Holmgren, Kearney State College 1905-1980.
2. Clipping from Kearney Daily Hub.
3. Letters from Addah Jane Ludden Hurst, August 14 and October 18, 2000.
4. Ibid.
5. The Nebraska Churchman February, 1990.
6. Lincoln newspaper clipping.
7. Her daughter, Jean Johnson was state president of the P.E.O. Sisterhood.


Interviews: Marian J. Payne, Leola Ludden, Marian and George Brown.
Letters from: Addah Jane Ludden.
Telephone interviews: Jim Rundstrom, Del Ludden.
Published sources, papers and clippings: Lincoln newspapers; Leola Ludden papers; Alice Howell clippings; UNK Alumni Foundation records; Philip S.Holmgren, Kearney State College 1905-1980 and Wallace Ludden and James Luddenand Descendants

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edited 3/11/2001
Revised 3/14/2003