Friday, May 30, 2008

Evelyn Sharp: A Special Homesteader of Her Time


By Lisa Roberts
Southeast Community College


How many of you wanted to fly when you were kids?

I 'm sure many of you have heard of Daniel Freeman? But have you heard of any female homesteaders? Evelyn Sharp was a special homesteader of her time.

I would like to pay tribute to Evelyn Sharp a woman whose family Homesteaded in Ord, Nebraska. I would like to honor Evelyn Sharp who was a homesteader in Nebraska, and a female pilot who started lessons in 1935 when she was 16 (Pappas, 2001) and later flew in WWII with the Women’s Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron (WAFS) (Bartels, 1996).

Evelyn Sharps first years as a homesteader.
The Sharp family moved to Ord, Nebraska in 1924 on land they claimed under the Homestead Act (Pappas, 2001). But the Great Depression forced the Sharp family to move into town and sell their farm in 1929 (Pappas, 2001).

Evelyn attended a two room school house that was a long way from her house. So she rode her horse Chalky to school. Evelyn’s days at Ord High School were spent enjoying athletics. Her favorite school activity was the Girls Athletic Association that met twice a week. She especially liked soccer . In 1937 when she graduated, she won the distinction of being the “best girl athlete” in her class. As Evelyn was growing so was her interest in flying (Pappas, 2001).

Evelyn Sharps first years as a pilot.
During the years that Evelyn studied aviation she began to figure out what she wanted to use her skills in flying for. Have any of you watched air shows? Those shows and tricks are what first spiked Evelyn’s interest in flying. Her first flying lesson was when she was 16 years old in 1935 (Pappas, 2001).

According to Pappas in the 2001 book More Notable Nebraskans Jack Jefford was a barnstormer, who first taught Evelyn to fly as a way to pay his room and board to her father for staying at their boarding house. At age 18 she was one of the youngest people to earn her commercial pilot’s license. She could now fly other people around (Pappas, 2001).

During Evelyn’s journey to get her first plane from Omaha NE the town of Ord NE chipped in money to help her pay. Her parents could not afford to buy her a plane, so her father John Sharp went around town and asked if anyone would chip in. The plane would benefit everyone not just Evelyn she could help others (Pappas, 2001).

In the fall of 1937 Evelyn and her father went to Omaha and picked up her first plane. She was the first to fly into Grand Island Airport when it opened. She entered the Lincoln School of Aviation in 1938 (Pappas, 2001).

She did many things from instructor to mail transporter until the WWII began. Once she joined the war, Ms. Sharp added many contributions; her thousands of hours of flying time were only one. Some of the planes Evelyn flew were much like the planes in the movie Flyboys about WWI.

Evelyn Sharps first years in the WAFS.
In 1942 Evelyn Sharp joined the WAFS. But the women did not receive the same pay or death benefits or insurance as the men. She had flown over 3,000 hours and was the most experienced pilot to join the WAFS (Bartels, 1996). Over 1,000 women pilots joined the WAFS to do transport, they were not allowed to go into battle. On April 3, 1944 Evelyn took off in a P-38 from Pennsylvania, headed out to California (Bartels, 1996).

She went through her check list as she started up the plane and received the ok to taxi down the runway. She lifted off the runway at 10:29 A.M. As soon as the plane lifted off, the left engine of the planed failed (Bartels, 1996).

According to Bartels in the 1996 book Sharpie the Life Story of Evelyn Sharp she had three places to land: in Harrisburg over homes, in Susquehanna a river, or try for Beacon Hill. The plane went down over Beacon Hill. The clock in the cockpit stopped at 10:30 A.M. Evelyn died in that mission in 1944.

Now that we have paid tribute to a Nebraska homesteader Evelyn Sharp lets review: she was a Homesteader since age 5, she was best girl athlete in her class, she was one of the youngest pilots to get her commercial license, and she was a transport pilot for WWII.
She achieved many things in a short time. Many of us, as kids, probably watched pilots, or barnstormers, much like Evelyn Sharp—if you have a dream go for it.

References:

Bartels, D.R.A. (1996). Sharpie the life story of Evelyn Sharp. Lincoln, NE: Dageforde Publishing.

Pappas, C. (2001). More notable Nebraskans. Lincoln, NE: Media Production and Marketing, Inc.

Links:

Homesteading Legacy Banners

Evelyn Sharp Bio

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