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Historical Newsletter

May / June 2005


"New old quilts," items from the collections of the International Quilt Study Center and the Nebraska State Historical Society, are now on exhibit at the NSHS Museum of Nebraska History as part of the Patchwork Lives exhibition. This is the third of four sets of quilts that will be rotated into the display through the spring of 2006.

Can't get to Lincoln to see the exhibit? Visit our online version at www.nebraskahistory.org/sites/mnh/patchwork_lives/index.htm for images and information as close as your computer.

Crazy quilt by Clarissa Palmer Griswold, Sioux County, 1886, 72 by 56 inches, Nebraska State Historical Society. Source: Dorothy Griswold Gayer, Lakewood, Colorado. Clarissa Palmer filed a pre-emption and a tree claim on land in Sioux County in 1885 and moved into her cabin in 1886. She drew inspiration for this crazy quilt from wildflowers she found on her claim. Palmer was the mother of Nebraska governor and U.S. senator Dwight Griswold.



On April 4 the Nebraska State Historical Society announced the winners of two $1,000 research grants to scholars conducting research into the history of Nebraska and the Great Plains. Recipients of the competitive awards for the 2005 grant cycle are Professor Mark Ellis, of the University of Nebraska at Kearney, and Tom White of Lincoln.

Ellis's proposal is titled "Life in the Big House: Convicts, Wardens, Contractors, and the Nebraska State Penitentiary, 1870-1890." Ellis will use state prison registers and reports, government records, governors' papers, and newspapers at the Nebraska State Historical Society to study the evolution of the penitentiary. His research will include the origins of the system, the use of convict labor, demographics of the prison population, and the nature of life behind bars from 1870 to 1890.

Tom White's proposal, titled "Frank H. Spearman - from McCook to 'Whispering Smith,'" will focus on the life and writings of Frank Hamilton Spearman (1859-1937), who lived and worked in McCook and Omaha as a banker and a writer from about 1887 to 1896. By the turn of the twentieth century Spearman had become one of America's most prolific and well-known writers of railroad fiction. Among his eighteen books and dozens of articles and short stories is Whispering Smith, a best seller in 1906. Whispering Smith was filmed three times, including a 1948 version starring Alan Ladd.

White, currently the editor of NEBRASKAland Magazine, will use the Historical Society's newspaper files, census records, city and county records, and railroad records. Additional research will be carried out in Red Willow County and in Los Angeles.

Terms of the grant require the recipients to produce scholarly articles appropriate for publication in Nebraska History, the quarterly journal of the Nebraska State Historical Society, or an equivalent publication, within a year. Funds for the grants are provided by the Gladys Marie Lux Nebraska History Education Endowment Fund and the Tom and Marilyn Allan Fund, both administered by the Nebraska State Historical Society Foundation.


The Nebraska State Historical Society will host an appreciation event for volunteers on Friday, May 6, 2005, at 1:30 p.m., at Nebraska Educational Telecommunications (NET), Terry M. Carpenter Center, 1800 N. Thirty-third Street, Lincoln. Event highlights include a tour of the newly renovated NET facilities, an opportunity to view short film promotions utilizing NET's new high definition technology, and refreshments. NSHS volunteers should park in areas marked "visitor parking."

The event is an opportunity for the NSHS to thank and congratulate volunteers who have contributed numerous hours of service to assist in carrying out the NSHS's mission. Volunteers are indeed one of the greatest resources of the NSHS.

DONALD F. DANKER, 1922-2005

Former Nebraska State Historical Society archivist and historian Donald F. Danker died February 14 in Topeka, Kansas. A native of Riverton, Nebraska, Danker received his Ph.D. at the University of Nebraska in 1955. From 1952 to 1963 he was the archivist at the Society. After one year on the faculty at Washburn University in Topeka, Danker returned to Lincoln as Society historian from 1964 to1967, when he rejoined the Washburn history department. He retired in 1988.

Danker authored or edited numerous articles for the Society's quarterly, Nebraska History, including several based on the Indian interviews of Eli S. Ricker. He also edited the recollections of Pawnee Scouts leader Luther North, entitled Man of the Plains, and Mollie: The Journal of Mollie Dorsey Sanford, both published by the University of Nebraska Press.


Richard E. Jensen, senior research anthropologist, Research and Publications Division, retired April 1 after thirty-five years with the Nebraska State Historical Society. He served successively as curator of anthropology, preservation archeologist, and deputy state historic preservation officer before joining the Society's Research Division (now the Research and Publications Division), created in 1987.

Jensen was the author or editor of numerous articles in Nebraska History through the years as well as books and book-length archeological reports. He was the author, with R. Eli Paul and John E. Carter, of Eyewitness at Wounded Knee (1991) and the editor of From Fort Laramie to Wounded Knee: In the West That Was (1997), by Charles W. Allen; Happy as a Big Sunflower: Adventures in the West, 1876-1880 (2000), by Rolf Johnson; and Wheel Boats on the Missouri: The Journals and Documents of the Atkinson-O'Fallon Expedition, 1824-26 (2001), with James S. Hutchins. He is also the editor of the Eli Ricker tablets, to be published this winter by the University of Nebraska Press in two volumes as Voices of the American West. He has edited the letters and diaries of missionaries to the Pawnee Indians from 1834 to 1847 that will also be published by the University of Nebraska Press.


Ann Billesbach has been named associate director for the Nebraska State Historical Society's Museum and Historic Sites Division. Ann has had a long tenure with the NSHS. She served as curator for the Willa Cather Historical Center in Red Cloud for ten years, was interim curator for the John G. Neihardt Center in Bancroft for four months, and for the past fifteen years has been head of Reference Services for the Library/Archives Division of the Society. She has served as a peer reviewer for the American Association of Museum's Museum Assessment Program for nineteen years and has given numerous talks about Willa Cather, serving as a panelist for C-Span's American Writers Series program on Cather in 2001.


High gas prices got you down? Thinking about canceling vacation? STOP! The Nebraska State Historical Society's museums and historic sites are just down the road, and we're inviting you to join us on a trip through Nebraska history this summer.

Operating hours from Memorial Day through Labor Day are:

Our hours may be extended, depending on funding, so check our website at www.nebraskahistory.org for the most up-to-date information or call our toll-free number at 1-800-833-6747.


The Library/Archives is revising its list of historical researchers for hire. This list is distributed to patrons when their requests go beyond the scope of research done by our staff.

We will be accepting entries for this list through June 3, 2005. If you are interested in being included, please provide your name and contact information (mailing address, e-mail, phone number, fax) and no more than a 100-word statement describing your qualifications, research experience, and areas of specialty. This information may include academic degrees, past employment, and major research projects or qualifications. Qualification statements of more than 100 words will not be included in this list. Please do not include fee information in this statement.

This list will be prefaced with a disclaimer stating that the Nebraska State Historical Society provides the lists as a service to patrons and that this does not constitute an endorsement of the researchers listed. Any agreement between researcher and patron is a personal contract between two private parties and does not involve the Nebraska State Historical Society

Send your completed entry to: Researcher List, Library Archives, Nebraska State Historical Society, PO Box 82554, Lincoln, NE 68501, or e-mail kanderso@mail.state.ne.us

The Library/Archives has received the collection of Congressman Doug Bereuter, numbering over six hundred boxes. This collection includes papers relating to the life, political career, and public service of Congressman Bereuter from the 1970s to 2004. Although the collection is restricted until January 1, 2015, researchers may seek access from the congressman prior to that date. Library/Archives staff above are Tom Mooney (left), curator of manuscripts; Dale Bacon, assistant curator of imaging services; and Andrea Faling, associate director, Library/Archives.


The Society Library/Archives Division will have a book sale October 6-8, 2005, at the Nebraska State Fair Park in Lincoln. The exact location and hours will be forthcoming.

By Cindy S. Drake, Library Curator

Chadron Through the Years: A History of Chadron, Nebraska, founded August 1, 1885, by [H. D. Mead], 1960. (Chadron Diamond Jubilee, 1885-1960)

A History of the Murdock Community, by Maxine E. Cline (Originally published in 1983 by Ms. Cline; updated by the Murdock Historical Society in 2004.)

James Bradfield Abbott Family Tree, by Marilyn Kunz Giles. (Family in Lancaster County.)

Katie Zoubek with Joseph Scheinost and George Esgate and Their Descendants: Plus Wesley Voris and George Taylor, Genealogy, History, Pictures, researched and compiled by Phyllis M. Bunnelle . . . (Czech American families in Boyd County.)

The Red Willow County Bicentennial Hall of Fame [by Lester Hall, chairman of the Red Willow County Bicentennial Committee, 1976].

Some Descendants of William Allcock: Tobacco Inspector of Caroline Co., Va. & Other Alcock Families, by Billie Lee Alcott-Rammelsberg. (Allcock and Buchholz families in Douglas and Lancaster counties.)

The Story of Two Homesteaders: Fritz and Ottelia Steffen, Gregory County, South Dakota, [compiled] by Boyd Seevers. (German-American families [Steffen and Roeder] in Seward and York counties.)

The Whitney Family of Connecticut, and its Affiliations: Being an Attempt to Trace the Descendants, as well in the Female as the Male Lines of Henry Whitney, from 1649 to 1878 to Which is Prefixed Some Account of the Whitneys of England, by Stephen Whitney Phoenix. (Family in Custer County.)


May 19: Brown Bag Lecture, "Old Baldy (a.k.a. The Tower)," by Greg Miller, NSHS preservation historian. In May 1804 Meriwether Lewis, William Clark, and the Corps of Discovery set out from their camp near St. Louis, Missouri, to explore the recently acquired Louisiana Territory continuing westward to the Pacific Ocean. By September 1804 the Corps reached the confluence of the Niobrara and Missouri rivers in present-day northeastern Nebraska. On September 7, 1804, they discovered a unique geologic feature and a scientifically new animal species. This program will discuss events leading to their discovery, what they found, and place its significance in the context of the entire journey. 12 noon, Museum of Nebraska History, Fifteenth and P streets, Lincoln. Free and open to the public.

June 16: Brown Bag Lecture, "History Mystery Sites and Clues," by Ed Zimmer and Jim McKee. Learn more about Lincoln's fascinating history and places with two of Nebraska's most entertaining historians. Ed Zimmer and Jim McKee will present the sites and clues that were featured in the Nebraska State Historical Society's History Mystery fundraiser. 12 noon, Museum of Nebraska History, Fifteenth and P streets, Lincoln. Free and open to the public.

Indian on horseback logo


Books for Mother's Day and Father's Day

Something for Mother

Something for Father


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


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Last updated 25 April 2005

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