Official Nebraska Government Website Nebraska State Historical Society

Historical Newsletter

July / August 2005

Governor at Chimney Rock
Governor Heineman (at podium) with Senator Phil Erdman (left) of Bayard and Bayard Mayor Paul Leseberg


On June 6 Governor Dave Heineman made the formal announcement at Chimney Rock that he had decided upon this celebrated landmark to grace the quarter that is to represent Nebraska. He was introduced by Bayard Mayor Paul Leseberg. Mayor Leseberg's comments included Joseph Hackney's 1849 quote: "This is the most remarkable object that I ever saw and if situated in the states would be visited by persons from all parts of the world."

The governor then spoke about the importance of Chimney Rock to pioneers of the past and emphasized the potential to attract modern day "pioneers." He said, "My hope is that it will inspire another generation of Americans to head west, though this time their motivation is different. We want those travelers to stop, eat, learn, and stay and spend their money in Nebraska." He also said, "It's been a beacon of hope for those in search of better lives."

The program was held in the visitor center's new amphitheatre in full view of a stunning Chimney Rock bathed in the light of a sun that shines most gloriously in Nebraska. After the program, the governor was available for questions and photographs. An especially popular activity was taking pictures of Governor Heineman riding in Terry Murphy's covered wagon, provided by the Oregon Trail Wagon Train. The city of Bayard sponsored a reception inside the Ethel & Christopher J. Abbott Visitor Center, and Bayard city staff members decorated the visitor center with numerous copies of the final design.

When the design and decision-making process started well over a year ago, Gordon Howard of Bayard said, "If you put everything important in Nebraska on the quarter, it would be four feet tall. You have to choose one symbol and the best symbol is Chimney Rock."

The Ethel & Christopher J. Abbott Visitor Center at Chimney Rock is open daily in the summer, 9-5, excepting state holidays. Admission is just $3 for adults, but FREE for NSHS members, so come on out and see what our governor and 350,000 pioneers saw and enjoyed.


Effective July 21, 2005, Director and State Historic Preservation Officer Lawrence Sommer will retire from the Nebraska State Historical Society. Larry has served as director since July of 1992. Prior to his arrival in Nebraska he was director of the Montana Historical Society, and he formerly worked as a private historic preservation consultant, as assistant director of planning for the city of Dubuque, Iowa, and as director of the St. Louis County Historical Society and Lake Superior Railroad Museum, both in Duluth, Minnesota.

While NSHS director, Larry worked to finalize the construction and opening of the Ethel & Christopher J. Abbott Visitor Center at the Chimney Rock National Historic Site near Bayard, as well as the Gerald R. Ford Conservation Center in Omaha. A state-of-the-art digital imaging lab was developed at the Ford Center, placing the NSHS in the forefront of digital imaging of photographs and other historical collections. He also oversaw the reconstruction of the Cheyenne Outbreak Barracks at Fort Robinson, the development of the public records archives facility at the K Street Records Center in Lincoln, and the offices, laboratories, and collections storage for the NSHS archeology and historic preservation divisions in the Lincoln Children's Museum building.

Throughout his thirteen-year tenure Sommer emphasized statewide public service and responsiveness to all constituents, greatly improved the stewardship of the Society's historic sites, encouraged the creation of innovative partnerships with a wide variety of other agencies, and worked to get legislation passed in 1994 designating the Society as an independent state agency.

During Larry's administration, the Society celebrated its 125th anniversary and sponsored numerous special and ongoing public programs, such as the biennial Fort Robinson History Conferences, "The Way West" symposium with Ric Burns, and fundraisers featuring Ken Burns. Special issues of the Society's quarterly, Nebraska History, featured articles on Czech history and William Jennings Bryan in connection with exhibits at the Museum of Nebraska History on those themes. Several new books, ranging from The Nebraska Indian Wars Reader to a two-volume history of Fort Robinson, have also marked a revitalized publications program.

While working to minimize the impact of state budget cuts on staff and programs in recent years, Sommer reduced the Society's dependence on state tax funding and increased earned income tenfold.

Along with developing a great staff he regards his most important accomplishments to be the settlement of years of litigation over the repatriation of human skeletal remains with the Pawnee Tribe of Oklahoma and having the Society involved in the effort to pass a constitutional amendment and subsequent legislation to encourage historic preservation in Nebraska.


Keep open the dates of September 29-30 and plan to join us for an exciting tour of Missouri museums and sites. We will be traveling in a luxury motor coach, with admissions and meals included in 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 1861 Battle of Lexington State Historic Site in Lexington, Missouri. On our drive through the town of Lexington, we will glimpse a cannonball from the battle imbedded in a column at the courthouse. After a stop at the visitor center, we will tour the Anderson house, which served as a Union hospital during the battle, along with much more as part of the walking tour. Next, we will stop at the Fort Osage National Historic Landmark on the Lewis and Clark Trail at Sibley, Missouri. Today's Fort Osage is a reconstruction on the original site, and was noted as a good location for a fort by Lewis and Clark. Fort Osage was a U.S. government "factory" for trade with Indians.

On the second day we will tour President Harry S. Truman's Museum in Independence, where you will see a replica of the Oval Office and numerous displays focusing on his presidency. The day will conclude with a stop at the Liberty Memorial in Kansas City. The Liberty Memorial is dedicated to those who served in World War I and has been recognized by Congress as "America's National WWI Museum." Following lunch at one of Kansas City's best barbeque restaurants, we will be on the way back to Lincoln.

Tour registration materials or additional information may be requested by calling 402-471-3272. The tour is limited to fifty persons, first come, first served.


History Detectives will begin its third season on PBS, with one of its eleven episodes focusing on a Nebraska site. Episodes present three, twenty-minute segments, and are devoted to solving historical mysteries, or searching for facts behind folklore, family legends, and interesting objects.

The History Detectives production crew has been in Nebraska filming Engineer Cantonment, the 1819-20 winter camp of Major Stephen Long's party of scientists and army engineers. The cantonment site is located north of Omaha. From there the explorers traveled along the Platte River in the spring of 1820 to explore the Great Plains. Until the NSHS archeologists confirmed its location in the spring of 2003, Engineer Cantonment remained one of Nebraska's most significant undiscovered historic sites.

History Detectives is expected to air this fall. Watch the NSHS website,, for further details about the show airing on PBS.


Save the evening of Friday, October 14, and plan to attend the Nebraska State Historical Society's event, "Friday Night with Fred Astaire," in cooperation with the Mary Riepma Ross Media Arts Center in Lincoln. The annual members' meeting and the NSHS awards will also be presented as part of the evening's activities.


The Douglas County Historical Society is proud to publish the first of two volumes of the Barker letters, Their Man in Omaha, a 2005 Midwest Book Awards nominee. The books are a compilation of letters written in the 1860s by immigrant Joseph Barker to his family that had returned to England. He remained in Omaha to manage his family's property and business interests when Omaha was in its infancy. The first volume of the collection of letters covers the years until 1868, when Barker returned home to England for a short time.

"The Barker Team" editors are Dr. Del Weber, Barry Combs, Bob Marks, and Don Snoddy, who undertook the two-year endeavor of transcribing the one thousand pages of handwritten letters. The collection was donated to the Douglas County Historical Society in the mid 1990s by Charles W. and Mary C. Martin, who found the letters a half century ago in the attic of the family home in Omaha. More recently, following their deaths, their son Chuck and daughter Julie Martin Videon of Bozeman, Montana, initiated the publishing of the collection with funds donated by their immediate families. Matching funds have been provided by the Peter Kiewit Foundation to complete the $110,000 project.

Their Man in Omaha will be available for $49.95 at the Douglas County Historical Society at 402-455-9990; online at the society's website,; and at the Bookworm in Omaha. A second volume will be published in late 2005. The Best of Barker excerpts from Their Man in Omaha may be viewed on

Dr. Sheila Fairbrass Siegler   
Dr. Siegler



We are extremely pleased to announce that Dr. Sheila Fairbrass Siegler has joined the staff of the Gerald R. Ford Conservation Center of the Nebraska State Historical Society. Dr. Siegler will serve as the head of the paper conservation laboratory. She has more than thirty-two years of experience in paper conservation and a Ph.D. in chemical engineering in addition to her Masters and Bachelors level academic qualifications. Dr. Siegler has significant teaching, publication, and editorial experience. Her background includes many years as paper conservator at the Tate Gallery in London and as a private conservator both in London and in the United States. She was the director of the Paper Conservation Accreditation Program for the United Kingdom and was accredited herself in 2000. She is interested in training and teaching, treatment of our paper collections, and research in conservation topics.


The National Park Service's Midwest Regional Office on the Omaha riverfront, the Nebraska State Historical Society's Gerald R. Ford Conservation Center near the Gerald Ford Birthsite, and Historic Prospect Hill Cemetery partnered with the National Park Service's National Center for Preservation Technology and Training (NCPTT) to conduct a Midwest regional workshop on the conservation of gravestones and other monuments commonly found in cemeteries. The workshop was held May 24-26 in Omaha.

Eleven nationally known instructors presented three days of intensive instruction packed with hands-on sessions on the assessment, cleaning, repair, protection, resetting, and maintenance of cemetery monuments of stone and metal. Historic Prospect Hill Cemetery served as the laboratory for this fascinating workshop, which attracted more than twenty participants from as far away as Nepal.

Conservators Deborah Long and Julie Reilly of the Society's Ford Conservation Center participated as instructors.



The State Historic Preservation Office has selected Custer and Dundy counties for the 2005-06 Historic Buildings Survey. A contracting firm has been selected, with work anticipated to commence in late summer of 2005. Consultants will drive every public road in the counties, both rural and in town, and survey all the historic properties fifty years old and older that still look much as they did when they were first built.

This year's survey will also include two special projects. The consultants will write a National Register of Historic Places nomination for the Broken Bow Commercial Historic District. Additionally, consultants will perform detailed research on the Solomon Butcher photographs that were taken in Custer County. A significant number of the photographs have a family name associated with them. The researchers will work at the county courthouse, attempting to tie the names to a legal description in order to assign the photographs to an approximate quarter-section location. The locations will then be entered into a Geographic Information System database with the photographs attached.

The survey will be completed by September 2006.



The Society Library/Archives Division book sale will be October 6-8, 2005, in the Beef Pit Building at the Nebraska State Fair Park in Lincoln. Tentative hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. all three days. Books will be priced from $.25 and up, with most in the $1 to $15 range. Watch for updated information on our website and the September/October Historical Newsletter. For further information contact Cindy S. Drake, library curator,

By Cindy S. Drake, Library Curator

Boy Howdy!! Was I Lucky!! by Ross E. Boyer. (Boyer family in Box Butte and Morrill counties.)

Descendants of Conrad Meyer and Louise Staffhorst [compiled and edited by Roderick B. Nolte from information provided by Sharon Montgomery, Elinor Baade Brown, Peggy Schmidt et al.]. (Nolte, Meyer, Kemper, and Baade families in Lancaster County.)

Dog Soldier Justice: The Ordeal of Susanna Alderdice in the Kansas Indian War, by Jeff Broome. (Ziegler, Daily, and Ulbrich families.)

Dreams Across the Divide: Stories of the Montana Pioneers, edited by Linda Wostrel. (Doney family.)

Frank and Barbora (Busek) Scheinost and their Bohemian Ancestors: Genealogy, History, Pictures, researched and compiled by Phyllis M. Bunnelle, assisted by Phillip R. Bunnelle. (Czech-American family of Scheinost and Korbel in Saline, Brown, Boyd, and Valley counties.)

Letters From Nebraska, Sod House Pioneers: Furnas County, Nebraska, by Dr. Leo L. Lemonds. (Forsythe family in Furnas County.)

Newspaper Obituaries of Descendants of Samuel Sibert and Lucy Gregory Sibert, compiled by Evelyn I. Lovell. (Sibert family in Nuckolls County.)

The Scherzberg Ranch Centennial, A Brief History, 1904-2004: June 20, 2004, Celebrating the Scherzberg and Scherbarth-Garska Family Reunions; 100 Years in the Sandhills and the Calamus Valley of Loup County Nebraska [compiled by Kevin P. Brown].

Tracy Family History . . . the Moon line . . . Wallace line . . . Barracks Troops . . . , written by James E. Tracy. (Moon, Wallace, Jennings, and Benton families.)

The True Life: Wild West Memoir of a Brush-Popping Cow Waddy, by Charley Hester. (Hester family in Dundy County.)


The Homestead National Monument of America and Southeast Community College-Beatrice campus will host a national symposium July 29-30 at SCC-Beatrice. Participants will learn about federal land records, courthouse documents, immigration records, oral history, and military pension files, and how to use these records for historical and genealogical research.

The keynote speaker is Cyndi Howells, owner and webmaster of Cyndi's List of Genealogy Sites, a website that includes a categorized index to more than 241,550 online resources. Other speakers are Barbara W. Sommer, Marian L. Smith, Clair Bettag, Sharon Tate Moody, Christine Rose, Craig Scott, and Mary Kay Quinlan.

Cost for the two-day genealogy symposium is $89, which includes all presentations. Tuition for a one-day participant is $69. The cost of the July 29 special dinner at the Homestead National Monument of America, which includes the meal, book signing, and entertainment, is $15.

To register or for more information, contact Kelly Morgan, 402-228-3468, ext. 244, or 1-800-233-5027, ext. 244. E-mail Symposium brochure and registration form are available on the SCC website at


July 10: Sunday at the Museum Series, performance by Michael Jacobs, contemporary Native American musician. 2 p.m., John G. Neihardt State Historic Site, Bancroft. Free and open to the public; reception following. For information contact the Neihardt Site at 1-888-777-4667 or

July 21: Brown Bag Lecture, "Pvt. August Scherneckau's Civil War: A Soldier's Diary of the First Nebraska Volunteer Regiment, Missouri, Arkansas, and Nebraska Territory, 1862-1865," by Jim Potter and Edith Robbins. August Scherneckau was the only man from the German settlement at Grand Island to serve in the First Nebraska Regiment during the Civil War. He recorded his experiences in detail for the benefit of friends and relatives back home. Potter and Robbins will discuss how Robbins located the diary in Oregon, where Scherneckau moved after the war, and their work to translate and edit it for publication. Excerpts from the diary will highlight its value as the best account of a Nebraska soldier's Civil War service to be discovered thus far. 12 noon, Museum of Nebraska History, Fifteenth and P streets, Lincoln. Free and open to the public.

August 7: Fortieth Annual Neihardt Day celebration, featuring the Discovery String Band, storyteller Bob Dyer, and more. Lunch available from 11:15 to 1:30, program begins 1:30, John G. Neihardt State Historic Site, Bancroft. Free and open to the public. Bring lawn chairs. For information contact the Neihardt Site as above.

August 18: Brown Bag Lecture, "Nebraska Aviation History," by Vince Goeres. Using photographs and information gathered for a soon-to-be-published book, Goeres will take us on a trip through the fascinating world of Nebraska aviation. 12 noon, Museum of Nebraska History, Fifteenth and P streets, Lincoln. Free and open to the public.

Indian on horseback logo


Books for summer fun and learning:


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


May / June 2005 Issue

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