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"WM Stansbury Building," Nelson, NE

Historic carved sandstone faces

William Stansbury, (1819-1909), came to Nebraska in 1871. He acquired land on Ox Bow Creek, 3 1/2 miles NE of Nelson. He owned half interest in the Blue Bluff Mill, located 4 miles NW of Angus, which he eventually sold to his nephew, Joseph. According to his newphew, "Uncle Billie" prospered. It was said, of Uncle Billie, he was very thrifty, "as tight as the bark on a birch." When his daughter, Talitha, a school teacher, tired of riding horseback and bought a cart, he remarked, "she wasn't satisfied until she got a cart, now just look at the grease it will take for that cart."

In 1899, at age 80, he built a large brick business building on Nelson's main street and made arrangements with an Edgar, NE, stonemason, James T. Donahoo, to carve 12 life-size sandstone faces and two owls onto the buildings north exterior wall. The building still stands today. Its most notable feature is that intriguing row of sandstone faces portraying local personalities, famous non-resident persons and three unknown characters.

There are only nine known names associated with the 12 faces. Matching six of the names to their carved likeness presumably occurred because of the wonderfully entertaining characteristics carved into each stone face. The six matched named faces are: One-Eye Riley, Indian Joe, Kissin' Jack (Jack Adamson), Admiral Dewey of Spanish American War frame, Teddy Roosevelt is the face wearing glasses and Parson Bob, who was Indian scout, foster father of Calamity Jane, friend of Wild Bill Hickock, Buffalo Bill and Diamond Dick (Dr. Richard Tanner of Norfolk). In addition to the three unknown characters, the other three known names that haven't been matched to a specific face belong to the Friendly Undertaker, the Dutchman, and the Auctioneer, Bill Welch. It's a mystery as to why these particular faces were selected to adorn the wall. According to prior newspaper articles, the faces are not talking and they are not telling.

Those who researched the building enjoy the story told about Kissin' Jack Adamson from Nora, whose stone face is frozen in a full pucker. He got his nickname from trying to kiss all the girls, who would let him, as he gave them a ride in his hack from Nora's two depots.