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“Utter Disregard for Peril”

Eyewitness Account of an 1870s Nebraska Roundup By David L. Bristow, History Nebraska By the mid-1870s Nebraska’s open-range cattle industry … was experiencing growing pains,” writes historian Jim Potter. In the Platte Valley and the Panhandle, people worried about the “introduction of Texas cattle to supply the Indian agencies, unregulated ‘round-ups’ that caused ownership disputes (in winter, long hair made brands hard to see), and bulls running at large year round.” In early 1875, cattlemen met in Ogallala to organize …

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When Omaha Was the Capital City

By David L. Bristow, History Nebraska Were it not for Francis Burt’s digestive problems, Bellevue might be Nebraska’s big city and Omaha its suburb. Francis Burt was Nebraska Territory’s first governor, appointed by President Franklin Pierce. (U.S. territories elected legislatures but not governors.) Burt arrived in Bellevue on Oct. 7, 1854. Why Bellevue? Towns were springing up all along the west bank of the Missouri River, but Bellevue was more established, having served as a trading post and Indian mission …

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Nebraska’s 155th Anniversary: The Story of My Pioneer Roots

They were immigrants who braved the unknown to carve out new lives in a strange new land among native inhabitants. They were about determination, perseverance, strong backs and an unwavering faith in their religion. They never recognized the impossible. They were tough. They fought and endured a Civil War. They loaded up their belongings and themselves in covered wagons and came here in search of a better life in which to claim land to farm, raise livestock, hunt, fish and …

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Rose Creek Mausoleum

Tucked away in a sandstone outcropping in Jefferson County is an oddity that will amaze anyone who visits: a rock-cut tomb carved by hand a century ago. Nelson McDowell was reportedly a colorful character. And if you visit the “mausoleum” he carved out of a sandstone cliff overlooking Rose Creek in Jefferson County, and later learn that it may have simply been a hobby to keep him busy and in good health rather than a place he intended to be …

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How the Republican River Got Its Name

Have you ever wondered how the Republican River got its name? Gov. Frank Morrison, a Democrat, used to tease his Republican friends by asking, “Is it because it’s so shallow or so crooked?” Jokes aside, the connection to the party seems obvious, doesn’t it? With few exceptions, Nebraska has been majority Republican since the Civil War. But look at the center of this 1839 map detail from Mitchell’s School and Family Geography. The Republican Fork had its name long before …

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Fort Robinson: Exceptional Horses and Fine Fish

The ponds that attract anglers to Fort Robinson State Park played part in a rich history. Historians often tell of Fort Robinson’s period of producing the trusty steeds of the cavalry as a remount depot for the U.S. Army in 1919-1945. The fort’s role in rearing aquatic species that bolstered the region’s fishing heritage during that era gets less attention. During the 20th century, Crawford and Fort Robinson became an integral location for producing the fish that found their way …

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Restoring the Blowout Penstemon

On Turner Enterprises’ Spikebox Ranch “Blowouts are sort of like anchovies — you either love them or hate them,” wrote the late Nebraskaland writer Jon Farrar. Among the blowout lovers are “ranch children who for generations have slid down a blowout’s steep sandy slope [and] artifact hunters who currycomb them hoping to find an 11,000-year-old Clovis projectile point exposed by the wind.” Among the blowout haters are “Most ranchers [who] wage war on their blowouts. To some, they are seen …

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Ash Hollow State Historic Park presents “Pioneer Song,” a performance by The Great Bear Folk Theater

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NORTH PLATTE, Neb. – Join Ash Hollow State Historic Park as they present “Pioneer Song” performance by The Great Bear Folk Theater on Aug. 29 from 4 – 5 p.m. MT. The theater group, consisting of a husband, wife and daughter trio, will be presenting an hour-long production, adapted from the play “Pioneer Song.” The play recounts the perilous journey many emigrants faced while traveling the Overland Trail in the mid 1800’s. The Great Bear Folk Theater, based out of …

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The Book of Names

Plain and unremarkable, the black binder usually sits on a small coffee table in Fort Atkinson State Historical Park’s visitor center. But inside, it contains a remarkable picture of Fort Atkinson: Its pages list the names of everyone known to have lived at the fort, along with details about them that can reveal personalities, backgrounds and their futures. Susan Juza, Fort Atkinson’s long-time curator and a passionate lover of history, began the project as a relatively new employee at the …

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Sketching Ash Hollow in 1851

Imagine sitting in a darkened theater watching a giant canvas on stage. The canvas is spooled at either end and advances like a giant scroll. Painted on the canvas are scenes of the Oregon Trail. A narrator describes the great journey that thousands of your fellow citizens are making. The giant scroll was called the Pantoscope, and it was big hit in Eastern theaters in the 1850s. Designed and promoted by entrepreneur J. Wesley Jones, it was based on sketches …

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