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Historical Newsletter

March 1999


James Denney of Omaha (l.) and Helen Stauffer of Kearney took their seats as members of the Society Board of Trustees in January. Both were elected to three-year terms, Denney from the Second Congressional District and Stauffer from the Third Congressional District.

James Denney is a retired writer-photographer for the Omaha World-Herald's Sunday Magazine of the Midlands. He led the drive to raise funds for the Society's Ethel and Christopher J. Abbott visitor center at Chimney Rock National Historic Site, opened in 1994. He has also been active in historical organizations in Omaha and Douglas County.

Helen Stauffer is a retired professor who taught Great Plains literature at Kearney State College (now UNK) for more than twenty years. Her publications include Mari Sandoz, Story Catcher of the Plains and Letters of Mari Sandoz. Stauffer has also served on the Nebraska Humanities Council, the Nebraska Hall of Fame Commission, and the Mari Sandoz Heritage Society.


Jane Graff, chair of the Nebraska State Historical Society nominating committee, is seeking candidates for election to the Nebraska State Historical Society Board of Trustees. Candidates must be members of the Society and must contact Graff by June 1, 1999.

Comments and suggestions may be sent to: Jane Graff, Route 3, Box 137A, Seward NE 68434-9558.


The Great Plains Music and Dance Festival and Symposium will take place in Lincoln April 5-11. Performances will include Gospel choirs, Kansas City jazz, a Mexican-American Conjunto band, Native American drum and dance groups and contemporary blues and rock bands, a community band, modern composers, a Czech band, German folk music, a modern dance group, contemporary opera excerpts, and West Texas music. Some of the performances require advance tickets or payment at the door, but several performances are free and open to the public.

The symposium will be April 9-10 at the Cornhusker Hotel, and paper topics will correlate with the performances. The registration cost of the symposium is $60 and includes a luncheon and performance by Jimmie Dale Gilmore and Butch Hancock. Folklorist Roger Welsch will give the keynote address Friday, April 9, at 6:30 P.M. in Kimball Hall. His talk on the role of music and dance in the lives of Plains peoples will be free and open to the public.

Additional sponsors include the Canadian Consulate, the Cooper Foundation, Duncan Aviation, the Heartland Arts Fund (a joint venture of Arts Midwest, the Mid-America Arts Alliance, and the National Endowment for the Arts), the American Historical Society of Germans from Russia Foundation, LAFTA (Lincoln Association for Traditional Arts), the Lied Center for Performing Arts, the Nebraska Arts Council, the Nebraska Humanities Council, the Nebraska State Historical Society, Pla Mor Ballroom, School at the Center Project, UMB Bank, UNL College of Fine and Performing Arts, UNL Office of the Chancellor, UNL School of Music, UNL University Program Council and UNITE, and the Woods Charitable Fund.

For more information or to receive a performance schedule or program registration, contact the Center for Great Plains Studies, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, 1213 Oldfather Hall, P.O. Box 880314, Lincoln NE 68588-0314. Tel: 402-472-3082. Webpage: http://www.unl.edu/plains/1999symp.htm.


One performance of note at the Great Plains Music and Dance Festival will be a recital dedicating the violin built for the Society by world-class violin maker David Wiebe of David City, Nebraska. The Wiebe violin will be used in a performance by Nebraska-born violinist LisaMarie Vanna, who will play a program including works by Bach and Dvorak. The free recital will take place at Kimball Recital Hall on the university campus on Thursday, April 8, at 8 P.M., and will be followed by a reception at the Museum of Nebraska History.


On June 20, 1999, Fort Laramie National Historic Site, a unit of the National Park Service, will celebrate the 150th anniversary of the arrival of the United States Army and the establishment of the military post. The event is expected to consist of a major encampment of re-created frontier army units from the 1849 to 1890 period, historic military bands, and a variety of activities and programs. Plans for the celebration will be finalized by March 1999.

For preliminary information, contact Fort Laramie National Historic Site at 307-837-2221, or write Fort Laramie NHS-150 Years, HC 72, Box 389, Ft. Laramie WY 82212.



The Nebraska State Historical Society Foundation recently donated a number of artifacts collected by former State Senator Ross Rasmussen to the museum. Rasmussen, a current member of the Foundation's Board of Trustees, received his commission as a first lieutenant from the University of Nebraska ROTC in 1943 and later served with the Eighty-seventh Infantry Division in Europe. In 1945 this unit played an instrumental role in freeing the prisoner-of-war camp at Tamback and the concentration camps at Ohrdruf and Buchenwald.

One of the donated items, a Model 1911A1 .45 caliber pistol, came with a particularly interesting story. According to a recent letter from Rasmussen, following the Battle of the Bulge the Eighty-seventh Infantry Division encamped near the Siegfried Line at Rodenhof Farm. German forces had recently occupied the farm and had maintained an explosives cache there. After losing the area, the Germans were intent on destroying the stockpile of explosives. Their persistent efforts were successful as shellfire detonated the explosives. After the initial blast, the area of the cache burned for three days.

An American jeep trailer containing land mines was stored in the same building as the German explosives and had been severely damaged in the fire. Even though it still contained unexploded mines, Lieutenant Rasmussen cleaned out the trailer, which the army had written off as a battle loss. He was informed that he could claim whatever he found there. To his surprise, he found three unused U.S. .45 caliber pistols in a box on the trailer, one of which he kept for himself.


The exhibit Keeping the Faith: William Jennings Bryan's Campaigns for the Presidency, currently on view at the Museum of Nebraska History, will close on March 31, 1999. Watch for news of the upcoming exhibit, Dearly Beloved: Nebraska's Wedding Traditions, featuring wedding gowns, gifts, and decorations from the Society's collections, which is scheduled to open late this spring.


The Museum Store has a variety of John Falter lithographic prints for sale. These prints are from Falter's "Jazz from Life" series, part of the exhibit at the Museum of Nebraska History, Drawing on the Beat: John Falter's Jazz Portraits, which is on display through 1999. Prints are approximately 15 x 11 inches. Signed prints from this unnumbered edition are $65. Unsigned prints are $40. Portraits of several different musicians are available. Please contact the Museum Store for more information: 1-800-833-6747 or 402-471-3447


The Neihardt Spring Conference will be held Saturday, April 24, at the John G. Neihardt State Historic Site in Bancroft. This year's conference theme is "Sense of Place" and features N. Scott Momaday, renowned Native American author; John Carter, NSHS curator of photographs; and presentations from the four writing competition winners of the first Neihardt/Black Elk Scholar's Program from Red Cloud Indian School, South Dakota. For more information, contact the Neihardt Center, P.O. Box 344, Bancroft NE 68004-0344; tel: 402-648-3388.


On June 5, 1999, the Society and the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission will collaborate to observe the sesquicentennial of the 1874 establishment of Camp (later Fort) Robinson. Programs will include flag-raising ceremonies, firing and equestrian demonstrations, special exhibits, band concerts, and speakers. All events will be at Fort Robinson State Park near Crawford, and will be open to the public. Additional details on the June 5 program will be forthcoming.


By Cindy S. Drake, Library Curator


"Atlases are bound collections of maps. Atlases may also include charts and illustrations, tables, and detailed explanations of the maps featured." Historical atlases for counties throughout the United States can be useful in searching for the homes of your ancestors.

Historical atlases are often called plat books because they featured land ownership plat maps. (A "plat" is a map or chart of a piece of land.) Various companies in the Midwest published historical or county atlases during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries with individual maps of each town or township (precinct) and special maps of villages and urban areas. Many of these atlases included local history (statistical information and biographical sketches) and patrons' directories (with portraits, sketches, and lithographs). A major source that lists all known pre-1900 plat maps and plat books for the states of Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, Wisconsin, and the Great Lakes and Northern Great Plains regions is Checklist of Printed Maps of the Middle West to 1900 by the Newberry Library, 14v. in 12. (Boston: G. K. Hall, 1981-83).

The earliest landowner atlases in Nebraska were published in 1884 for Burt and Washington counties. Approximately 150 of these atlases were published for Nebraska counties during the next forty years. Most of these early atlases in the NSHS Library/Archives collection have been microfilmed, and are available for interlibrary loan. Later original editions are not available for interlibrary loan. The library is updating the finding aid to the Nebraska atlas collection and making it available on the Society's website. We plan to include an index to the microfilmed atlases currently being prepared by a volunteer. Landowner atlases are still published in Nebraska for use by real estate companies and others. Although not as elaborate as early atlases, they are useful for genealogists. The Historical Society is always anxious to accept donated copies of these current atlases, as well as any others that might be missing from the collection.

The 1885 Official State Atlas of Nebraska by Everts and Kirk is the first major atlas published for Nebraska. It was reprinted in 1976 by the Eastern Nebraska Genealogical Society and includes a 10,000-name index compiled by Margie Sobotka. Usually one page is devoted to each county and another to major towns in that county. Although landowner names are not given, ranges and townships are clearly marked. Symbols designate post offices, schools, churches, and cemeteries. Current Nebraska atlases include: Nebraska Atlas & Gazetteer . . . (Freeport, Maine: DeLorme, 1996) and "Big Red" Atlas of Nebraska (South Sioux City, Nebraska: Western Cartographers, 1984).

Several sources were used for this article including The Source: A Guidebook of American Genealogy, Revised Edition (Salt Lake City: Ancestry, 1996) and "The Map Collection" by Michael J. Fox (revised by Michael Edmunds) in Genealogical Research: An Introduction to the Resources of the State Historical Society of Wisconsin (Madison: State Historical Society of Wisconsin, 1979).

Correction to August 1997 article on Nebraska State Gazetteers: The last year we have in this series is 1917, not 1916. Thank you to Brenda Busing, who read this issue on our website and brought the error to my attention.

Genealogy Tip of the Month

If you are looking for a comprehensive listing of libraries, archives, genealogical societies, historical societies, government agencies, and vital records offices that have materials of value to genealogists, check out The Genealogist's Address Book by Elizabeth Petty Bentley. Genealogical Publishing Company publishes this title and the fourth edition was published in 1998. Also, each year the May/June issue of Everton's Genealogical Helper has a "Directory of Genealogical Libraries."

New Acquisitions of Interest to Genealogists

Colorado, D.A.R. Member and Ancestor Index, compiled by the Colorado State Society, N.S.D.A.R., 1990.

It's a Long Way From Tipperary, by Emmett C. Hoctor. (Family in Douglas County).

Ord Weekly Quiz: Valley County, Ord, Nebraska, Located in the Beautiful North Loup River Valley . . . Events in the Lives of the Pioneers Who Settled Here January 25-December 30, 1892, by Patricia J. Turek.


Since the beginning of the new year, I have been checking eBay (the online auction house) and Alibris (out-of-print online bookstore) for Nebraska-related items to add to our Library/Archives collection. In this short time we have either been outbid or found titles to purchase that exceeded our budget. I am going to start notifying our members of these titles to see if anyone has them in his/her collection and would donate or sell them to us. Our acquisition committee has some guidelines on the amount we will spend to purchase an item, based on the content and value to our collection.

Thoughts in Prose & Rhyme, by R. H. Langford (of North Platte, Nebraska). East St. Louis, Illinois: East St. Louis Pub. Company, 1904.

Golden Rod and Dialect Poems, by Idael Makeever. Privately published, Stromsburg, Nebraska, 1898.

Poemry, by J. Simmons Davis. Omaha, NE: Woodson Press, 1943.

The Little Daisy Salad Book, by Marian Weber. Privately published, Minden, Nebraska, 1923.

The Ladies of the Congregational Church of Wisner, Nebraska [Cookbook]. Published before 1925.

We would also accept a donation of a copy or funds to purchase Railroads in the Heartland: Steam and Traction in the Golden Age of Postcards, by H. Roger Grant. This title is available at $33.45. We are still accepting donations to purchase the two parts of the 1999 Supplement to the Passenger and Immigration Lists Index. Contributions or donations should be directed to my attention at our address. The title that you wish us to purchase should be clearly indicated with your monetary donation.


The 34th Annual Northern Great Plains History Conference will be October 6-9, 1999, at Kelly Inn, St. Cloud, Minnesota. The program committee requests proposals for papers and sessions on all areas of history. Please send a one-page summary of the proposed paper and a brief vitae by March 31, 1999, to the program chair: Edward J. Pluth, Department of History, St. Cloud State University, 720 Fourth Avenue South, St. Cloud MN 56301. Tel: 320-255-4905 or 255-3165; fax: 320-529-1516; e-mail: epluth@stcloudstate.edu

The OCTA Convention 2000 will be presented by the Oregon-California Trails Association August 7-12, 2000, in the greater Kansas City area. The theme is the role this area played in the westward movement from the 1820s to the 1860s. The length of each paper should be about forty minutes. Abstracts are requested by September 1, 1999. For more information contact Mary Conrad, 3900 N. 55th St., Kansas City KS 66104; tel: 913-287-4405.

The 24th Annual Interdisciplinary Symposium of the Center for Great Plains Studies will be held in Lincoln, April 6-8, 2000. The theme is "Bison, the Past, Present, and Future of the Great Plains." Interested contributors should submit proposals or abstracts of 150-200 words with cover letter and vita by July 1, 1999 to Dr. Charlene Porsild and Dr. Ken Winkle, 1213 Oldfather Hall, P.O. Box 880314, Lincoln, NE 68588-0314; tel: 402-472-3082.


Astaire Film Series: Holiday Inn (February 14); Easter Parade (February 21); Band Wagon (February 28); Daddy Long Legs (March 7); Silk Stockings (March 14). Films at 2 P.M., Museum of Nebraska History, 15th and P streets, Lincoln. Free and open to the public. Seating is limited.

Sunday Afternoon at the Rock: (February 14); Historical Clues from the Fort Robinson Record, by Tom Buecker (February 21). Presentations at 1:30 P.M. at the Ethel & Christopher J. Abbott Visitor Center, Chimney Rock National Historic Site, two miles south of Highway 92 on Chimney Rock Road, Bayard. Free and open to the public. Seating is limited.

March 11: Lincoln Corral of Westerners, "Chief Red Cloud and Crazy Horse," by R. Eli Paul, senior research historian, NSHS. Meet at Holiday Inn, 9th and P streets, Lincoln, 6:30 P.M. Call Margaret Allington, 488-5698, for reservations (required).

March 11-13: Forty-second Annual Missouri Valley History Conference, Regency West Motel, Omaha. Sponsored by the Department of History, University of Nebraska at Omaha, Omaha NE 68182-0213.

March 18: Brown Bag Lecture, "The Paper Trail at Fort Robinson," by Tom Buecker, curator Fort Robinson Museum, Crawford. 12 noon, Museum of Nebraska History, 15th and P streets, Lincoln. Free and open to the public.

March 18: Omaha Corral of Westerners, "Maladies and Medicine in the Frontier West," by Dr. James Wengert. Meet at Venice Inn, 6920 Pacific St., Omaha, 6 P.M. Call Bob Savage, 391-3252, for information or reservations (required).

April 8: Lincoln Corral of Westerners, "Sarah and George Joslyn of Omaha," by Dennis Mihelich, history professor, Creighton University. Meet at Holiday Inn as above.

April 8: Dedication recital for the Society's David Wiebe Violin, 8 P.M., Kimball Recital Hall, UNL. Free and open to the public.

April 15: Brown Bag Lecture, "Seeing Old Photographs With New Eyes: Computer Imaging as Time Machine," by John Carter and Jill Koelling, Library/Archives Division, NSHS. 12 noon, Museum of Nebraska History, 15th and P streets, Lincoln. Free and open to the public.

April 15: Omaha Corral of Westerners, "The Horse: Footprints in History," by Warren Rodgers, Stuhr Museum of the Prairie Pioneer. Meet at Venice Inn as above.

June 5: Observance of the 125th Anniversary of the establishment of Fort Robinson, Fort Robinson State Park, Crawford.

June 12-19: Tour of Nebraska's Historic Sites. Wayne State College is offering an eight-day tour of Nebraska's historic sites, which includes lodging, transportation, and some meals, costs $650 for no credit and $800-$850 for undergraduate or graduate credit. For more information, contact Prof. Don Hickey at 402-375-7298 or dhickey@wscgate.wsc.edu.

February 1999 Issue

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