Cornelia “Granny” Weatherford was the longest resident of the North Omaha neighborhood starting at the end of Nicholas Street that was called Squatter’s Row.
Located between North 11th and North 13th, from Nicholas to Locust, Squatter’s Row was intact for at least 60 years. Granny Weatherford lived there the whole time. Weatherford, who claimed to be 104 years old, said she lived in Squatter’s Row starting in 1870.
The neighborhood, which wrapped around the Union Pacific’s North Omaha Railyard, was comprised of dozens of shanties. There was an area called Vinegar Flats and another called Blind Pig Alley.
Granny was notorious in her own times. In 1937, a federal guide published by the Works Progress Administration called Nebraska: The Cornhusker State referred to her for her longtime place in Squatter’s Row. In a 1938 article, Granny Weatherford said, “I’m about to cross the river.” The Lincoln Journal said she had been bedfast for a year and could only enjoy only an occasional cigar.
Articles said she claimed to smoke cigars and pipes since she was 8 years old, and that she drank liquor “from the time I could reach the table.” When she was 98, she was featured in newspapers for smoking the same pipe for 50+ years. From the time she said she was 101, newspapers around the country featured her with headlines like, “Old Lady Smokes Cigars,” “Aged Woman Enjoys a Stogie,” and other headings like that.
Her recipe for long life? According to a newspaper account, she frequently said, “Work like the devil, do your scrubbin’ and washin’ and let the rest take care of itself.”
When Granny Weatherford died on August 31, 1940, the paper reported that she was 109. Whatever her age, Granny was a tough lady, and part of what made North Omaha great!