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Edward Luce Inside the Stone House

Rare Look Inside the Stone House with the Luce Family

Superintendent Edward Luce at left

Copyright: Vestige Press 2012

Dr. Douglas Scott recently forwarded me an email from William Schneider of the Larimer County History Museum in Wellington, Colorado. Mr. Schneider needed help identifying a young man seen in two photos from 1954. What struck my interest was the fact that the photos were shot inside the Stone House (today’s White Swan Memorial Library) and included Edward Luce and his wife Evelyn. It is rare to find photos from inside the Luce home while he was superintendent of then Custer Battlefield National Monument.

Mr. Schneider explained in his email that he is documenting the history of an Indian carbine and artifacts from Lt. Col. Elwood L. Nye. Nye was a U.S. Army Veterinarian and his name shared in the famous Nye/Cartwright/Blummer Ridge of the battlefield.

I had no idea who the young man was, but I immediately thought of Robert Utley and Jerome Greene – they might know, so I sent them an email. Mr. Utley could not make an identification because he had completed his work as a “summer aide” (today’s interpreter of the battle story) two years previously, but he was able to explain that the location in the photo “was the dining room in the old stone house, with access to the kitchen just behind Evelyn.”

Mr. Greene replied with the details Mr. Schneider was hoping to find plus some. “I checked the monthly superintendent's reports and found the following notation for August 1954 under Visitors: ‘Colonel Elwood L. Nye, U.S. Army, Retired, now a professor at Colorado A & M College, Mrs. Frank Sibrava of Goodland, Kansas, and City Manager Dick Baker of Fort Collins, Colorado were at this area August 24-27, collecting data for an article on the battle.’ There is also this notation: ‘Mr. James S. Hutchins of Columbus, Ohio, formerly of the U.S. Army, Class of 1946, West Point Military Academy, was at this area from August 10 to 27, collecting data and photographs to be used in a book concerning cavalry equipment used by the cavalry in the Custer Battle.’ I think the young man might be Jim Hutchins. I knew him, and it kind of looks like him to me.”

In the photo L to R:

James S. Hutchins of Columbus, Ohio, formerly of the U.S. Army, Class of 1946, West Point Military Academy

Lt. Col. Elwood L. Nye

Evelyn Luce

City Manager Dick Baker of Fort Collins, Colorado

Superintendent Edward Luce

Photo Copyright: Vestige Press 2012

Thanks to my friends, I could now advise Mr. Schneider who the mystery man was but I was still perplexed as to where in the Stone House this dining room table was located. My earliest recollection of inside the house was from my first visit in June 1981 and my viewing of the NPS interpretive film, “Red Sunday”. We were seated in the area which would later be converted to John Doerner’s office. The TV was sitting on a stand near the back window in the area of today’s library.

L-R:  Luce, Nye, Hutchins, Luce, Baker

Copyright: Vestige Press 2012


Although there are drawings of the interior and changes to the Stone House over the years, those are located at the battlefield and I am not. Luckily, Dr. Scott – with Mr. Utley’s hint – figured it all out. Dr. Scott explained in an email, “I believe the fireplace is in Doerner's office and some of the stacks are just beyond it in what would have been the kitchen according to Bob Utley. I think that is where you would have seen Red Sunday. The area where the bathrooms are now, may have been a mudroom at one time. The back door area once had a cover that went to a large barn/maintenance building made of rock like the house.”

You can see a very early version of that “large barn/maintenance building” in this 1895 photo of the Stone House.


Copy in the White Swan Library files, courtesy of
the Montana Historical Society Collection.


A day after posting this report, Mr. Utley followed up with another email to me which included more details about the interior of the Stone House and Jim Hutchins:

The dining room in the Old Stone House was not big, and since the office and reception center were in the front room, it had to serve as a living room too. It had a couch against the wall facing the cemetery and another easy chair slanted toward the couch. The curtains hang from the top of the door leading into the kitchen. In the second picture I can definitely confirm Jim Hutchins. He was a longtime friend who ran the Plymouth dealership in Columbus, Ohio, until I induced him to apply for one of those federal scholarships of the time. He went to the University of Arizona for several years before dropping out to pursue his true love as a museum objects guy rather than a historian-writer. Jim graduated from West Point in 1946 and was assigned to the 27th Infantry, then on occupation duty in Japan. He decided he didn’t want an army career and opted out in May 1950—a month before Korea. The regiment deployed at once to Korea a month later and suffered terrible casualties. All the officers in Jim’s company were killed.

Thanks to Robert Utley, Jerome Greene, and Dr. Douglas Scott for all the pertinent details. And, a big thank you to William Schneider of Larimer County History Museum, Nye/Baker Archives for permission to publish these photos.

I'll see you on Last Stand Hill,

Bob Reece

February 26, 2012

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