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Clatonia church celebrating milestone

CLATONIA -- A historic Gage County Church that predates the town it’s located in is celebrating a milestone next week with a celebration for its 150th anniversary.

Member of the Salem United Methodist Church in Clatonia are inviting former members, clergy and anyone interested to a special event next Sunday to recognize the building, which has stood since the 1800s.

Church historian Larry Krauter has been a member of the church for all 78 years of his life, while his wife, Meredith, joined when they were married 53 years ago.

They said the first settlers in the Clatonia area were of German descent and came from Ohio after the Homestead Act was passed.

The settlers initially congregated in an old dugout before June 1868, when a log cabin was built to hold evangelistic meetings was constructed, according to documents the Krauters provided.

The cabin was replaced with a new, larger building in 1871, the third church in Gage County and the first in the county north of Beatrice.

“People were here before that and homesteaded the area here, but 1871 is when they originally built a small building,” Larry said. “According to the booklet, it tells where there was about 12 teams which would have been I’m assuming 12 wagons went to Lincoln and got the material to bring back. As small as those wagons were it couldn’t have been too big.”

The congregation outgrew the building, and an even larger structure was built in 1879. A parsonage was built in 1903, and two years later a west wing and tower, which still stands today, were added.

By 1915, church officials decided to add a basement to the church. The building was raised and a basement was excavated at a cost of less than $1,000.

Another addition was added in 1936, which is essentially the structure still standing today, though there have been numerous changes and upgrades over the decade. Even the landscape around the church, which was originally in the country on the edge of town, has evolved as Clatonia grew around it.

Electricity, air conditioning, a new roof and better accessibility are all areas that have been improved.

The building even has a lift inside to help members who don’t get around easily. The addition was a costly one for the small church, which depends on donations from members, but means a lot to those who need it, including the Krauters.

“You always wonder how you’re going to pay for things like that, but it if weren’t for that right now Larry and I wouldn’t be able to go to church,” Meredith said. “So far, we’ve managed all through donations.”

The church has a core group of members dedicated to keeping the doors open, though numbers have been shrinking, she added.

“We are declining like a lot of small churches,” Meredith said. “I think we’re down to 50-some members, but they’re tried and true. They’re very much interested in keeping the church up and going.

“Our youth group kind of faded out for a while and now are coming back. We go together with Wilber and they’re getting a pretty good, strong group going again.”

In recognition of the church’s history, a special service will be held Sunday, April 15 at 10:30 a.m. a meal will follow at the community center across the street, and after lunch members of the church will gather for an afternoon service where they share stories and discuss the church’s lengthy history, which members hope will continue in the decades to come.


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Beatrice Mini Golf on road to reopening

Beatrice Mini Golf is usually open for business by this time of year, but they’re delaying their grand opening in hopes of having a new clubhouse.

On March 17 Beatrice Mini Golf tore down their old clubhouse that was damaged by a heavy storm last June. Over the course of a day, the clubhouse—which was originally built in the 1970s—came down brick by brick to make room for a newer, bigger clubhouse.

The new clubhouse will be a bit bigger, around 24 feet by 14 feet, said owner Mike Gay. The prefabricated clubhouse will have a lobby and, for the first time in the history of Beatrice Mini Golf, one very important room.

“We'll have a restroom for the first time,” Gay said. “People have had to walk over to Arby's for years and years. The families will really love that.”

They’re still waiting on a building permit, but if everything goes as planned, they’ll be open for golf by the end of April, he said.

The new clubhouse will also feature a treat shop called Scoops and Sprinkles, he said. The shop will sell shave ice, ice cream and root beer floats. A little further down the line, they’re planning on having frozen yogurt as well, Gay said.

There’s still a ways to go before opening, he said. The storm that blew the roof off the clubhouse and damaged a few of the obstacles set them back a bit last year. A newly-built playhouse was completely demolished by the storm, but they’re hoping to have that back up soon.

As soon as the weather gets a little nicer, they’re putting up a new fence to replace the one the storm destroyed last year as well, Gay said.

“We're hoping to put murals on there,” he said. “It would be kind of cool, we've got some ideas for that.”

Following last year’s storm, that downed power lines and left the clubhouse with a makeshift plywood roof, Beatrice Mini Golf asked for donations to rebuild and the community pitched in. An online fundraiser garnered around $700 and donations from regulars pitching into a donation jar came to around $600, Gay said.

They’re just waiting on their building permit and for a few nice sunny days to get the clubhouse up, he said. But, even if everything is working against them, they’ll find a way to bring golfers back, he said.

“Usually we're open by now,” he said. “We're hoping to get open as soon as possible.”


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Trump, China escalate trade dispute as markets tumble

WASHINGTON — Unwilling to yield, President Donald Trump and China's government escalated their trade clash Friday, with Beijing vowing to "counterattack with great strength" if Trump follows through on threats to impose tariffs on an additional $100 billion in Chinese goods.

Trump made his out-of-the-blue move when China threatened to retaliate for the first round of tariffs planned by the United States. But for someone who has long fashioned himself as a master negotiator, Trump left it unclear whether he was bluffing or willing to enter a protracted trade war pitting the world's two biggest economies against each other, with steep consequences for consumers, businesses and an already shaken stock market.

"They aren't going to bully him into backing down," said Stephen Moore, a former Trump campaign adviser who is now a visiting fellow at the Heritage Foundation. He said the Chinese "are going to have to make concessions — period."

The White House sent mixed signals on Friday as financial markets slid from investor concern about a significant trade fight. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told CNBC he was "cautiously optimistic" that the U.S. and China could reach an agreement before any tariffs are implemented but added, "there is the potential of a trade war."

White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow told reporters the U.S. was "not in a trade war," adding, "China is the problem. Blame China, not Trump."

Trump's latest proposal intensified what was already shaping up to be the biggest trade battle for more than a half century. The U.S. bought more than $500 billion in goods from China last year and now is planning or considering penalties on some $150 billion of those imports. The U.S. sold about $130 billion in goods to China in 2017 and faces a potentially devastating hit to its market there if China responds in kind.

Global financial markets have fallen sharply as the world's two biggest economies squared off — the Dow Jones industrial average sank 572 points Friday.

Trump told advisers Thursday he was unhappy with China's decision to tax $50 billion in American products, including soybeans and small aircraft, in response to a U.S. move this week to impose tariffs on $50 billion in Chinese goods.

Rather than waiting weeks for the U.S. tariffs to be implemented, Trump backed a plan by Robert Lighthizer, his trade representative, and was encouraged by Peter Navarro, a top White House trade adviser, to seek the enhanced tariffs, upping the ante.

White House chief of staff John Kelly and Mnuchin concurred with the move, as did Kudlow, who traveled with the president to West Virginia.

China said negotiations were impossible under the circumstances but Trump officials said the president and his team remained in contact with President Xi Jinping and expressed hope to him of resolving the dispute through talks. White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the two sides remained in "routine contact."

In Beijing, a Commerce Ministry spokesman said China doesn't want a trade war — but isn't afraid to fight one.

"If the U.S. side announces the list of products for $100 billion in tariffs, the Chinese side has fully prepared and will without hesitation counterattack with great strength," spokesman Gao Feng said. He gave no indication what measures Beijing might take.

Trump has also pushed for a crackdown on China's theft of U.S. intellectual property, and he criticized the World Trade Organization, an arbiter of trade disputes, in a tweet Friday for allegedly favoring China. Trump asserted the WTO gives the Asian superpower "tremendous perks and advantages, especially over the U.S."

U.S. officials have played down the threat of a broader trade dispute, saying a negotiated outcome is still possible. But economists warn that the tit-for-tat moves bear the hallmarks of a classic trade rift that could keep growing. Worry is intensifying among Republicans, who traditionally have favored liberalized trade.

"The administration needs to be thinking about the unintended consequences and what are those ripple effects, those domino effects, and what are the retaliatory actions that are likely to be taken," said South Dakota Sen. John Thune, the Senate's No. 3 Republican, in an interview with KDLT-TV in Sioux Falls.

The standoff over the trade penalties began last month when the U.S. slapped tariffs on imported steel and aluminum. China countered by announcing tariffs on $3 billion worth of U.S. products. The next day, the United States proposed the $50 billion in duties on Chinese imports, and Beijing lashed back within hours with a threat of further tariffs of its own.

Further escalation could be in the offing. The U.S. Treasury is working on plans to restrict Chinese technology investments in the United States. And there's talk that the U.S. could also put limits on visas for Chinese who want to visit or study in this country.

Kudlow told reporters the U.S. may provide a list of suggestions to China "as to what we would like to have come out of this," and those issues were under discussion.