The University of Nebraska Alumni Association honored a century-old Nebraska football win over Oregon State and featured photos, scrapbooks and historic memories of the Huskers' first-ever visit to the West Coast. The display is set up in the main lobby of Nebraska's North Stadium entrance, which is open to the public. Photo courtesy of Kevin Wright, UNL Alumni Association
Photo by Kevin Wright

The Legacy of Sam Kellogg's Century-Old Treasure Chest

By Randy York

The 'Last Train to Portland' Alumni Cover Story

Equipment Manager Describes Sign of the Times

By Randy York

If it is indeed true that one person’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things, give longtime Nebraska football season ticketholder Beth Lueth, an Iowa native, proper credit for bringing Sam Kellogg’s astonishing legacy to life.

While Nebraska’s football team visits Oregon in Eugene Saturday, Lueth will be on the family farm in Iowa, counting her blessings after discovering a treasure chest of photos taken when her grandfather was a Husker end and traveled to Oregon State for a non-conference game in 1916. 

The Huskers traveled on a Union Pacific train for that 17-7 win over Oregon State, and the trip took eight days of travel time. As perplexing as that might seem, understand that it’s true when journalists view life as an old-time rail journey that includes delays, sidetracks and a fair number of jolts along the way.

Lueth understands the historical nature of the fascinating train experience because her husband had to battle a barn roof fire while burning trash. Neither thought it was a big deal until her husband found an old trunk while repairing the roof in the barn’s attic. Inside the trunk was a full-fledged scrapbook in first-rate condition.

“It must have been there since the 1950s,” Lueth said. “My aunt had never seen it.”

Yes, Her Dad’s Name was Sam Kellogg, and His Dad’s Name Was Also Sam Kellogg

What a discovery it was, even though it was a bit perplexing because her grandfather was not the only person named Sam Kellogg. “My dad was named Sam Kellogg and his dad was named Sam Kellogg,” Lueth said. “Fortunately, my sister and I are not Sam Kellogg.”

Like the vast majority of Nebraska football fans, Lueth is a diehard season ticketholder who has missed only one home game in the last 30 years. She had to bypass Nebraska’s lopsided 1997 win over Iowa State in mid-November of Tom Osborne’s third team to win a national championship in a four-year period.

Why did she miss the game? Because the Hamburg, Iowa, high school drama coach said “I was in the play that fall. It was an afternoon game, and I couldn't risk missing the show that night. By intermission, my family arrived after the game. I usually scheduled my plays around away games, but that year it just couldn't happen. Even though I taught at the high school level for 29 years, that game was the only conflict.”

Lueth’s roots for farming and the family’s passion for growing corn traces the Kellogg clan back to 1857. “They purchased 500 acres of farm land for $1 an acre in Pennsylvania,” Lueth told me. “My daughter will be the fifth generation farming the land when she and her husband in the Air Force return from England in four months. My daughter will be a good farmer. She knows how versatile corn is because it feeds the world.”

Like others, Lueth marvels about the emphasis placed on a Nebraska game that required eight overall travel days via rail. “No fans probably went, and the coach’s wife was the chaperone,” Lueth said. “It helps you appreciate all the advancements in travel, uniforms and stadiums.”

The most intriguing fact to Lueth was learning how the 1916 trip was the first time for Husker players to see the ocean. “It was cold in October,” she said, “but they had to get in the water.”

Every Thanksgiving Celebrates a Big Red Gathering on the Lueth Family’s Iowa Farm

At the Lueth farm in Iowa, Nebraska football is more than one shining moment per season. “Since high school and college, we meet our friends downtown before the games,” she said. “On Thanksgiving, we host a family gathering at the farm. There are always football games in the yard either before or after dinner. The place is always jumping when 30 people gather around two TVs. We all laugh out loud when we say that babies cannot get in the way.”

Some glimpses from the past still bring smiles just thinking about them. “When I was younger, I can remember my dad hitting the footstool and yelling Run, Johnny, Run!” Lueth said. “He got excited every single time that (Heisman Trophy winner) Johnny Rodgers had the ball.”

Lueth marvels at the pictures her grandfather took and saved from the eight-day train trip to the West Coast and back to Lincoln. “He took a lot of photos and saved them all,” she said, admitting she’s intrigued about Nebraska’s possibilities in the years to come.  

“I enjoy watching Tanner Lee, our new quarterback, and I just love the atmosphere of Nebraska’s game day activities,” Lueth said.

The Iowa farmer, teacher and devout Husker fan/season ticket holder recognizes the tragedies the Huskers have experienced with the deaths of punter Sam Foltz last year and defensive coach Bob Elliott this summer.

“Our football team has persevered through many hardships,” Lueth said. “It makes us stronger and closer. To me, the fans, the players and the coaches are all part of one family. We all bleed red. Our fans are so nice to all visiting teams. We even play the opponents’ fight song. To me, that’s sportsmanship and I will say it makes me proud to be a Husker.”

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