NSHS Home  |  Research & Publications  |  Publications

Historical Newsletter

July / August 2004

Discovery of 1819-20 Engineer Cantonment Site to be History Conference Theme

Mark your calendars for October 8-9, 2004, the dates of the annual NSHS history conference and members' meeting. The conference will center on the recent discovery and archeological excavation of Engineer Cantonment, the 1819-20 winter camp of Maj. Stephen Long's party of scientists and army engineers. From the cantonment, located on the Missouri River north of present-day Omaha, the explorers traveled along the Platte River in the spring of 1820 to explore the Great Plains. Until NSHS archeologists confirmed its location in the spring of 2003, Engineer Cantonment remained one of Nebraska's most significant undiscovered historic sites.

As part of the conference, nationally recognized scholars will discuss early American exploration of the lands of the 1803 Louisiana Purchase. Gary Moulton will present "Lewis and Clark's Top Ten," and Roger Nichols will address "Scientific Exploration and Nebraska, 1819-1820." The conference will also include a bus tour to the Engineer Cantonment site, and a visit to Fort Atkinson, established in 1820 five miles north of the cantonment. NSHS members and volunteers will receive registration materials in the mail at a future date.

Teachers from Across the Nation to Attend Fort Robinson Workshop

Two sessions of "Shifting Power on the Great Plains: Fort Robinson and the American West," a teacher training workshop funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities, will include teachers from Massachusetts to Texas to Washington. The sessions will be held July 6-12 and August 2-8 at the Fort Robinson National Historic Landmark, just outside of Crawford. More than forty educators in each session will hear presentations by the NSHS staff and guest faculty from the universities of Nebraska, South Dakota, and Michigan and work with master teachers from Lincoln, Omaha, Scottsbluff, and Nebraska Wesleyan University. The workshop is one of only seventeen funded nationally as part of the NEH's Landmarks of American History workshop series.

Fall Tour to Retrace Lewis and Clark's Journey Along the Middle Missouri

Lewis and Clark statue Mark your calendar for September 16-17 and plan to join us for an exciting tour of Nebraska and Iowa sites and museums connected with Lewis and Clark's epic ascent of the Missouri River in the summer of 1804. Two hundred years later, we will be traveling in a luxury motor coach, not a keelboat and pirogues, and no rowing will be required. Nor will we hunt for food, which will be amply supplied as part of the tour package. The tour is open to NSHS volunteers, NSHS members, and non-members alike, and departs from Lincoln.

Day one will begin with a visit to the new Missouri River Basin Lewis and Clark Interpretive Trail and Visitor's Center at Nebraska City. Next, we will stop at the site of Engineer Cantonment north of Omaha, the 1819-20 winter camp of the Maj. Stephen Long exploring party, where the Society is conducting an archeological excavation. Society Archeologist Rob Bozell will show us the site and review the significance of what is the oldest Euroamerican site yet discovered in Nebraska.

Just up the road we will tour Fort Atkinson State Historical Park, located at the approximate site where Lewis and Clark counseled with the Oto and Missouri Indians on August 3, 1804. At Lewis and Clark State Park near Onawa, Iowa, we will experience how the Corps of Discovery traveled upriver by taking a ride in a full-sized replica of their keelboat. The day will conclude in Sioux City, with visits to the new Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center, the Sgt. Floyd Welcome Center and Riverboat Museum, and the Sgt. Floyd monument and gravesite. We will spend the night at the Marina Inn in South Sioux City, Nebraska, which overlooks the Missouri River.

Ponca State Park and its new Missouri National Scenic River Interpretive Center is our first destination on Friday. The park also provides a dramatic overlook at the unchannelized portion of the Missouri, which resembles the river as Lewis and Clark saw it. Then it's off to the Corps of Engineers Visitor Center at Gavin's Point, perched above the dam and Lewis and Clark Lake. We'll have lunch just down the road at the historic Argo Hotel in Crofton. We plan to be back in Lincoln by late afternoon.

You may request the tour registration material by calling 402-471-3272. The tour is limited to forty-four persons, first come, first served.

New Members

The Nebraska State Historical Society would like to recognize new members at the Contributing and Supporting levels over the past six months:

Kathleen Fowles, Grand Island;

Alfred Kortum, Gering;

Frances Connealy, Pender;

Rusty Eisenhart, Culbertson;

Terry Jensen, Neligh;

Susan Johnson, Lincoln;

Michael McDonald, Kearney;

Donald Pederson, Lincoln;

Rick Windle, Lincoln

NSHS-Commissioned Violin Featured at Recital

Wiebe violins

Violin maker David Wiebe (left) holds the violin he made for
LisaMarie Vana in 1997; she holds the violin commissioned
by the NSHS and completed in 2000.

The violin commissioned by the NSHS from Nebraska violin maker David Wiebe was the highlight of a fundraising concert at the Thorpe Opera House in David City on May 22. Violinist LisaMarie Vana, originally from Omaha, a former member of the Philadelphia Orchestra, performed at the benefit concert to support renovation of the National Register-listed property. The Wiebe violin was completed in 2000 and has been made available on loan for performances and exhibitions.

Fifth Fort Robinson Conference a "Booming" Success

Hotchkiss gun
The artillery demonstration featured original 1.65-in.
Hotchkiss guns. Courtesy of Jim Hatzell.

Despite a blustery April 22, complete with rain and snow showers to kick off the proceedings, April 23, the first full day of the Fort Robinson History Conference, dawned clear. It was a good thing too, because that was the day scheduled for the firing demonstration by Loomis's Battery, Michigan Light Artillery. The rest of the conference, which concluded with a Saturday evening banquet, also enjoyed fine weather.

Some 140 participants came to Fort Robinson to hear eight scholarly papers and a banquet talk on the theme, "A New Army for a New Century: Military Culture in Transition, 1890-1917." Dr. Edward M. Coffman gave the keynote address based on his new book, The Regulars: The American Army, 1898-1941, just out from Harvard University Press. Tours of Fort Robinson, the Warbonnet skirmish site, and the Museum of the Fur Trade, along with a 1910 army meal, the artillery demonstration, and an authors' book-signing reception were other highlights.

Thanks to the staff members of the Research and Publications, Museum and Historic Sites, Administration, and Historic Preservation divisions of the NSHS who contributed in many ways to the successful conference. Thanks, too, to our cosponsors, the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission and its Fort Robinson staff. Finally, we are grateful for financial support from Ron and Judy Parks of Papillion, the Dawes County Travel Board, and the Nebraska State Historical Society Foundation.

Excavations at the Fort Mitchell Site

Historic Preservation Division staff monitoring plow zone
soil removal at the Fort Mitchell site.

In response to a proposed Nebraska Department of Roads viaduct location study west of Scottsbluff, Archeology Division and Historic Preservation Division staff conducted investigations at the Fort Mitchell site (1864-67) this spring. Although the site is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, its exact location has not been verified by archeological testing below the surface. A Pony Express station also reportedly stood near the fort location, but has not been identified by archeological remains.

A surface concentration of artifacts was flagged and mapped in a cultivated field within the National Register site boundaries. Using the location of the artifact concentration as a starting point, a motor grader scraped away the plow zone soil in a series of trenches across the site. Artifacts on the surface and within the disturbed soil included bottle glass and ceramics from the mid-nineteenth century. Archeologists observed charcoal flecks about sixteen to eighteen inches below the surface. At about two feet below the surface fifteen square posts were uncovered. The post diameters vary from six to eight inches. In some cases, the square outlines of the postholes were visible. Burned earth and charcoal were also found with several posts. Artifacts recovered from the post level include bottle glass, ceramics, animal bone, and two hinges. Archeologists also observed small fragments of eroded adobe near one post.

This preliminary work has confirmed the presence of a mid-nineteenth century structure within the site boundaries with intact features. Archeology Division staff will conduct additional archival research and present these findings and recommendations in a report to the Federal Highway Administration and the Nebraska Department of Roads.


By Cindy S. Drake, Library Curator

American Lutheran Church, Filley, Nebraska: 1931-1993 [List of Births, and Baptisms, etc. since 1931], typed by Judy Vrtiska.
Arnold Harold Galvin: A Biography and Family History, by his son, Wayne W. Galvin. (Family in Lancaster County.)

Bertie and Me and Miles Too: Growing Up on a Nebraska Sandhill Ranch in the Early 1900s, by Billie Lee Snyder Thornburg. (Snyder family in McPherson County.)

Black Genesis: A Resource Book for African-American Genealogy, 2nd ed., by James M. Rose and Alice Eichholz, 2003.
Descendants of John (Blaw) Blue d. 1757, Somerset Co., NJ, compiled by William H. Blue. (Family in Otoe, Saunders, Lancaster, and Richardson counties.)

A Genealogist's Guide to Discovering Your African-American Ancestors: How to Find and Record Your Unique Heritage, by Franklin Carter Smith, 2003.

Kuska Family Reunion 2002: Breckenridge, Colorado, [prepared by Carmelee Tuma]. (Czech American families from Fillmore and Greeley counties.)

Our Family Tree: [Hitchman], [compiled] by Mary Jo Miller. (Family in Cass County.)

Reiff to Riffe Family in America. Ancestors and Descendants of Mennonite Reiff Brothers: Hans, John Jacob, & Abraham: Reiff, Reif, Rieff, Rief, Rife, Riffe Volume II, by Fred J. Riffe. (Family in Saline, Nuckolls, Gage and Phelps counties.)

Sylvia (Woten) Strufing's Scrapbook: A Collection of News Clippings from 1920 to 1960 Announcing Engagementsof Northern Gage and Southern Lancaster Counties, photocopied and donated by her granddaughter, Sandra L. Carter-Diff.

Tietsort (Tiesworth): Descendants of Peter Tietsort and his Wife Catherine Hoff ..., contributed by J. Keith Cook. (Family in Washington and Douglas counties.)


New Docent-Led Programs at the Nebraska State Historical Society's Museum of Nebraska History

The docents are developing four fun new activities and stories to expand the museum's offerings to thirteen docent-led programs, up from four offered in 2002 and nine offered in 2003. A handful of docents have taken the lead in making these new programs a reality for school groups visiting the museum.

Roars of laughter are the normal sounds you hear as the Lewis and Clark hands-on trunk program begins in the museum classroom. The program opens with the kids voting classmates in or out of the Corps of Discovery based on assigned responses to questions such as "What skills do you have?" "Do you drink alcohol?" "Do you tell the truth?" Those who make the cut are assigned a job and get to hold and pass around objects to use in that job. This group of soldiers then travels upstream to a council with the Oto-Missouri Indians (played by the parents), where Lewis and Clark give gifts, show off their technology, and communicate with sign language. Objects, stories, and role-play bring the details of Lewis and Clark's journey to life­including the laughter.

"How many of you think maps are really boring?" All of the kids raise their hands as the docents open with this question before touring the new exhibit, Putting Nebraska on the Map: Highlights from the Don Forke Map Collection. This docent program takes the boredom out of maps as kids use magnifying glasses and touchable map copies to discover the stories these maps tell about Nebraska's past, from the 1540 map of the world that barely shows North America to the 1880 map showing Nebraska organized into counties. "How has the story changed?" is the map-reading question that repeats as the students study six maps traveling through time. Hopefully, by the end of the tour, the boring maps have become exciting storytellers.

Field Study Guides - If you see a group of really focused, note-taking kids with their hands in the air, you are probably following a docent-led Field Study, the docents' first venture into inquiry-based learning. Before their visit, the students see digital images of museum objects, which represent topics they will cover in their tour of one exhibit at the Museum of Nebraska History. In the classroom, students talk about what they already know about this topic and then write down what they want to know in their Field Study booklets. During their tour at the museum, the docent helps the students answer these questions using objects on display and docent stories. The Field Study has been a big hit with docents and teachers and the students who truly "own" these tours.

Patchwork Lives - Why were quilts made? What were they made of? How were they made? On this docent-led program groups learn about how quilts are made and the history of quilting traditions in the United States and Great Plains. The quilts illustrating these stories date from the 1850s to the 1920s to one made in 1992 with patterns ranging from signature quilts to postage quilts to crazy and target quilts. These tours also feature an experienced quilter from the International Quilt Study Center to demonstrate hand quilting. For groups who want to extend the learning, a Making History Workshop is available where students make a paper quilt top to take back to their classroom or meeting place.

Hats off to the docents who make these programs possible. To schedule one of these great docent-led programs, please contact Jessica Stoner, 402-471-4757 or jstoner@mail.state.ne.us

Tune in on Cox Cable

Watch lectures from the NSHS History Forum/Brown Bag lecture series in the Omaha area on Cox Channel 23 at 5 p.m. every other Wednesday, beginning with the first Wednesday of each month.


July 11: 150th Anniversary Celebration, Prospect Hill Cemetery, Omaha. Guided tours, beginning at 2 p.m.; costumed reenactors at sites throughout the cemetery. For information contact Prospect Hill Cemetery, Thirty-second and Parker streets, Omaha, NE 68155; 402-556-6057.

July 12-16: Civil War class by Bright Lights for grades 4-6 at Rousseau Elementary School, Lincoln, with teacher Dave Thurber. Students will keep a journal and design a battlefield diorama, and wooden model of the USS Monitor. Parent drivers will take students to Omaha's Freedom Park, site of World War II ships and submarines. The cost is $90 for the fifteen hours. For more information: www.brightlights.org or 420-1115. Partial need-based scholarships are available; free buses that week from McPhee, Everett, and Saratoga schools for any student.

July 15: Brown Bag Lecture, "Paper Towns, Wildcat Banks, and Carpetbag Governors: Territorial Nebraska in the 1850s," by Jim Potter, NSHS associate editor/senior research historian. As part of the Nebraska State Historical Society's programming marking the 150th anniversary of the creation of the Nebraska Territory on May 30, 1854, Potter will look back at the political turmoil and economic instability of Nebraska's early years. 12 noon, Museum of Nebraska History, Fifteenth and P streets, Lincoln. Free and open to the public.

July 20: Lewis and Clark Trail Heritage Foundation, Mouth of the Platte chapter. "From my Great Great Great Grandaddy to Me," by Bat Shunatona, Oto/Missouria . Meet at 6 p.m. at Caniglia's Restaurant, Seventh and Pacific streets, Omaha. For information and reservations (required): mouthoftheplatte@aol.com or 402-571-2502.

August 1: Annual Neihardt Day celebration, John G. Neihardt State Historic Site, Bancroft. Annual board and members' meeting; poetry and music program, "I've Seen Rivers," by composer/folklorist Lemuel Sheppard; and readings from Neihardt's The River and I. Free and open to the public. For information call 888-777-4667 or neihardt@gpcom.net

August 14-15: Genoa U.S. Indian School reunion/celebration, Genoa. Dr. Raymond Bucko SJ from Creighton University will speak at the banquet; Ben Marra's Native American photographs commemorating Lewis and Clark will be on display; and Santee Sioux dances will be performed on Sunday. Native American tacos, jewelry, displays, and tours. For more information call 402-993-6636 or 402-993-6055 or e-mail nfcarls@megavision.com

August 19: Brown Bag Lecture, "A Slice of Life: Home Movies," by Paul Eisloeffel, NSHS curator of visual and audio collections. Nebraska's cinematic history goes back to the turn of the twentieth century. But since the 1920s, the state has been captured on film by amateurs, thanks to the advent of home movie photography. Take a look at the technology that made it all possible and marvel at examples of Nebraska home movies from the Society's collections. 12 noon, Museum of Nebraska History, Fifteenth and P streets, Lincoln. Free and open to the public.

Indian on horseback logo


Visit the Museum Store to learn more about Lewis and Clark's journey. The store is located at the Museum of Nebraska History, Fifteenth and P streets, Lincoln, or call 402-471-3447 for additional Lewis and Clark items.

Prologue to Lewis and Clark: The Mackay and Evans Expedition, by W. Raymond Wood.

The Lewis and Clark Journals: An American Epic of Discovery, edited by Gary E. Moulton.

Lewis and Clark on the Middle Missouri, by Gary E. Moulton.

Lewis and Clark on the Great Plains: A Natural History, by Paul A. Johnsgard.

Commemorative reproduction of Thomas Jefferson Peace Medal, often referred to as the "Lewis and Clark Indian Peace Medal." Limited edition and individually numbered, available in silver or copper.

Lewis and Clark note cards with botanical seals and envelopes. Each card shows one species of plant discovered on the expedition from 1804 to 1806. The set contains eight different species/card designs.

Lewis and Clark coloring and activity books, collector  cards, expedition spy glass, and scaled replica of expedition compass.

MUSEUM of NEBRASKA HISTORY, 15th & "P" Streets, 402-471-3447
10:00 - 4:30, Monday - Friday
1:00 - 4:00, Saturday and Sunday
Museum Store Catalog online


May / June Issue

Back Issues



NSHS Home  |  Search  |  Index  |  Top

Last updated 13 September 2004

For questions or comments on the website itself, email
Nebraska State Historical Society - P.O. Box 82554, 1500 R Street, Lincoln, NE 68501
Nebraska State Government Homepage
 |  Website Policies  |  © 2009 All Rights Reserved