Official Nebraska Government Website Nebraska State Historical Society

Historical Newsletter

May / June 2006


On Thursday, April 6, friends and dignitaries gathered at the Museum of Nebraska History to welcome two newcomers to Nebraska. The first was the Nebraska State Historical Society's new director, Michael Smith. The other was the new Nebraska quarter, featuring Chimney Rock. At the reception, both Nebraska Governor Dave Heineman and First Lady Sally Ganem expressed pride in the new quarter as a symbol of Nebraska's heritage and as a foundation for a bright future. In his remarks, Mike Smith offered a glimpse of his vision for the future of the NSHS, saying, "We need to study and make available . . . those times at which Nebraska's history was tightly linked to America's history." He also stressed the need to tell the story of the twentieth century. "My colleagues and I are determined that the generations who follow us will never have the occasion to ask, 'Has no one remembered those magnificent people?'"

Nebraska's first lady and co-chair of the Nebraska Quarter Launch Committee, Sally Ganem, and Ann Billesbach, the Society committee member, chat for a moment at the reception.

Governor Heineman with John Munn, director of the Nebraska Department of Banking and Finance and co-chair of the Nebraska Quarter Launch Committee, and Maxine Moul.

 From left to right, NSHS director Michael Smith, NSHS Foundation director Jackie McCullough, Nebraska governor Dave Heineman, Society board president Patricia Phillips, and Foundation president Steve Guenzel.  At the official launch event April 7 Mathew "Sitting Bear" Jones (Kiowa/Oto-Missouria) performed a gourd dance to honor those who have served their country in the military.

 Governor Dave Heineman proudly displays a new Nebraska quarter dollar.  Acting Director of the United States Mint David Lebryk officially launched the Nebraska State Quarter.


Just how many days does it take to get rid of thirty thousand quarters? Not many! While preparations for the launch of the Nebraska quarter have been underway for many months, the final assembly and distribution of the official launch souvenir set happened in the blink of an eye.

  Lana Hatcher with the newly arrived coins.  
The coins arrived in Lincoln on March 31: loose coins in canvas bags. Lana Hatcher, the Society staff member responsible for mail and parcel delivery, had the unenviable job of hefting the fifty-pound sacks out of their boxes and into secure storage.

Immediately the "25¢ S.W.A.T. Team" at Awards Unlimited, the vendor for the packaging, went to work assembling the commemorative sets. As they completed their assembly, NSHS staff and volunteers inserted the sets into special envelopes and boxed them for delivery to the various launch sites.

 The new NSHS director, Michael Smith, with the freshly minted Nebraska quarters.  Lori Moravic, Tim Moravic, and Mark Watson (with his back to us) were part of the "25¢ S.W.A.T. Team" that assembled the quarter sets.

  Staff member Ann Billesbach (center, pointing), who coordinated the Society efforts, explains the process to René Botts and Kelli Bacon. Seated to Ann's left is Polly Mohatt. Seated with their backs to the camera are Michelle Furby (left), John Lindahl, and Susan Krogh. Deborah Arenz brings in fresh boxes.  Dorothy Munson (left), Kris Riggs, and Deb McWilliams answer hundreds of phone calls as eager Nebraskans place their orders for quarter sets. 

Tasha Von Aschwege, Platte Valley State Bank and Trust in Kearney, rendezvoused with NSHS staff in York, Nebraska, to pick up quarter sets for the Kearney launch.
As quickly as the sets could be assembled and boxed they were delivered to the launch sites in Kearney and Gering. By Wednesday, April 5, all fifteen thousand commemorative sets were assembled and packaged. That same day the NSHS Museum Store was deluged with orders for the sets with the phones literally ringing off the hook.

By Monday, April 10, all of the quarter sets were gone, and there were still people clamoring for them. Everyone was shocked and delighted by the speed with which Nebraskans gobbled up the quarters. The proceeds from the sales will go to the Nebraska State Historical Society Foundation and will be used for innovative projects in education.

Thanks to the hard work of all of the state sponsors and volunteers across the state, the launch of Nebraska's quarter was an unprecedented success. But then, that success isn't surprising. This isn't a once in a lifetime event, because it will only happen once in history.

By Michael J. Smith, Director / Chief Executive Officer

Our most recent newsletter contained an announcement of my arrival to take up service to the Nebraska State Historical Society (NSHS) and, therefore, to the people of this great state. This has been a very busy time as I have worked to acquaint myself with the NSHS, its staff, volunteers, and board of trustees. I've also been visiting key people in state government. Just recently, I have begun traveling our roads to meet and visit with people from Omaha to Lyman.

I want to thank all who have welcomed my wife, Mary Ann, and me. You have all helped tremendously as we have worked through the challenge of moving and setting up housekeeping in a new place.

In thinking about it, however, it strikes me that moving to Nebraska is hardly a unique event. History tells us that! The earliest people to walk these rolling plains and rest in the shade of trees that line our streams came here following the herds of large grazing mammals that provided food and shelter. As time wore on, other Native Americans explored all parts of the land they referred to as "flat water," their view of the Platte, Nebraska's signature river. Europeans began showing up as time went by, seeking a place in the Indians' trading systems. Francis Parkman came from Boston to explore the Oregon Trail. Soon women and men seeking farmland or town-based business opportunities arrived.

That movement has never stopped. Germans from Russia, Swedes, Czechs, and others settled the state in the decades between the Civil War and World War II. Today we shop in Asian markets, eat at Mexican restaurants, enjoy the hip hop music of African American musicians living in Omaha and Lincoln, and contribute to the hustle and bustle of the many faces at the movie theater or in the aisles of the big-box outlet store. So moving to Nebraska has been, for part of every generation, the standard way to becoming a Nebraskan. Each generation, in turn, is but part of a long tradition.

The people of Nebraska have charged the Nebraska State Historical Society with gathering the histories of those coming to our state and preserving their stories in perpetuity. One of the first things I looked for upon my arrival in January was the story of twentieth century Nebraska. With each passing day, Nebraska loses some part of its history as those who made that history pass away or records and artifacts are lost.

From John J. Pershing, George W. Norris, and Willa Cather, to Warren Buffett, Johnny Carson, and Ted Kooser, twentieth century Nebraskans were found in high profile places. While these individuals might not be "the average Nebraskan on the street," they reflected important Nebraska traits including a passion for learning, integrity, common sense, and a first-rate work ethic.

We invite you, members and friends of the NSHS, to join with us in collecting and preserving the record of the century just passed. Photos, diaries, letters, business records, the buildings we live and work in, artifacts to include textiles, the tools of work, the equipment of the new computer age, arts and sciences, and more are needed at the NSHS to document the twentieth century and make it available for the future. Don't hesitate to get involved even if you, like me, are new to Nebraska. Sometimes the freshest set of eyes sees the most clearly.

Thank you and best wishes.

Ford Conservation Center, Omaha, May 20 from 10 to 4

Do you own a family heirloom, a time-honored treasure, or a wacky relic with an interesting story behind it? Would you like to know more about how to preserve it for the future? If so, the Nebraska State Historical Society may be able to help.

Conservators from the NSHS's Ford Conservation Center will conduct an Heirloom Health Clinic on Saturday, May 20, from 10 to 4 at the Ford Center, 1326 South Thirty-second Street, Omaha. They will examine objects, identify materials of which they're made, analyze previous care, and offer tips for storage and handling to maximize preservation. As appropriate, they will also discuss conservation treatment possibilities. Monetary value will not be assessed.

Their work is part of "Saving Our Treasures," a two-year project that will include a one-hour NET television documentary to be broadcast statewide, distance learning workshops, and more. The heirloom health clinic is part of the project's first steps to find historic objects with intriguing stories that should be preserved, and which might be featured in the upcoming television show.

If you'd like to make an appointment for a free health check for your heirloom, contact the Treasures project at 402-471-3270 or email to Nebraska Educational Telecommunications (NET) and the Nebraska Library Commission are also partners in the project. Funding is provided in part by a grant from the Partnership for a Nation of Learners program of the Institute of Museum and Library Services and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.


Two NSHS members were among individuals taped March 19 in Lincoln for possible inclusion in the "Saving Our Treasures" documentary.

NSHS Ford Conservation Center objects conservator Deb Long (left) uses a magnet to help identify types of metals in a "brass" doll bed belonging to NSHS member Janice Compton Allgayer, Avoca (right).

NSHS member Virginia Koehler Knoll, Lincoln (left), learns about preservation of her great-grandfather's military commission, signed by Abraham Lincoln, from NSHS Paper Conservator Dr. Sheila Fairbrass Siegler (center). At right is NET producer Kay Hall.

By Cindy Steinhoff Drake, Cemetery Registry Coordinator

Pine Ridge Area Cemetery


Last year the Nebraska Legislature passed LB211 that establishes a central data bank for the location of cemeteries, burial grounds, mausoleums, and columbaria in Nebraska. The Nebraska State Historical Society (NSHS) is charged with creating and maintaining a statewide registry available to the public. Cities, villages, townships, counties, churches, fraternal and benevolent societies, cemetery districts, and associations that own or maintain a cemetery, Native American burial ground, mausoleum, or columbarium will be asked to report the site to the state registry every ten years. Limited state funding to establish the registry expires June 30, 2007.

An online registration system will make it easy for cemetery owners to comply with the law. The location or address of each cemetery; a plat of the cemetery; names and addresses of persons owning, operating, or maintaining the cemetery; inception date; and applicable abandonment date will be entered online. This information is required only if reasonably available. Other historical information about a cemetery may be included with the registration. There are no penalties for failing to meet all of the registry requirements.

The intent is to document the locations of cemeteries and other burial sites and provide contact sources. Over the years the NSHS has developed or had access to electronic sources listing more than 1,600 cemeteries/burial sites in Nebraska. The format of the online registry is intended to incorporate earlier electronic sources into a useable format for the Statewide Cemetery Registry.

On May 1, 2006, registrants will be able to register online, or a form will be available at the website that can be completed online, copied, and sent to the NSHS by regular mail. A form will also be available for registrants who do not have access to the Web. The link that we plan to use at our website is
October 1 is the target date for completing registration; notices regarding progress of the registry will be posted via the link. A temporary staff assistant will receive data and contact various organizations and individuals to help locate entities that have not registered during the first five months. Funding is not available to travel; all contacts will be mainly by mail, phone, or e-mail.

Because of the limited funding and the time constraints involved with this project, the NSHS is asking organizations that deal with cemeteries for their help. The Nebraska Association of County Officials, the League of Nebraska Municipalities, and the Nebraska Cemetery Association, and all funeral directors, embalmers, and funeral establishments will be contacted. The NSHS will work with local historical and genealogical societies in soliciting registrations. We appreciate the support of individuals or organizations in notifying the proper contacts in their areas. Questions may be referred to the Nebraska Statewide Cemetery Registry, P.O. Box 82554, Lincoln, NE 68501 or

Some materials used for this article were abstracted from documents pertaining to LB211. To see the law as recorded in the Nebraska Statutes, Section 12-1401, visit



The Nebraska State Historical Society's need for a curator of government records ended in February with the arrival of Salvador Barragan to fill the long-vacant post.

Barragan, who holds master's degrees in history and theology and undergraduate degrees in history and business, comes to the Society from the Maryland State Archives, where he was responsible for public relations and implementation of the Maryland Land Record On-line System. He was also responsible for evaluating government records for completeness and their relationship to other documents in preparation for indexing.

In addition to his college and university degrees, Barragan has training and certification from the National Archives and Records Administration in digital imaging, e-mail, and risk analysis.

As curator of government records, Barragan will oversee collection development, appraisal, acquisition, description, storage, and other collection-management-related activities. In addition he will review records schedules to ensure that the State Archives receives the appropriate materials, and he will offer records management assistance to other state agencies.

In describing his expectations for his employment with the Society for the newsletter of the Nebraska Association of County Officials (NACO), Barragan wrote, "As governments tackle electronic records and their challenges, I hope to use the valuable experience that I obtained in Maryland to deal with the issues that Nebraska may have to confront. I know this may be a daunting task, but I feel with my exposure to electronic records, both in converted images and in those born digital, the Nebraska State Archives will be better able to serve government agencies throughout the state with their electronic needs."

Barragan can be reached at 402-471-4438, 402-471-4783, or by e-mail


As a new SpaceSaver storage system is installed in the State Archives, some records will be closed to the public June through August. The installation of the system requires that records be moved from their current location and temporarily inaccessible for research use. If you plan to visit the Library/Archives during this time, please contact Andrea Faling ( to confirm the availability of the records that you need.


In the March/April Historical Newsletter I mentioned that the Arphax Publishing Company ( had completed the Family Maps Land Patent Books for Garfield and Arthur counties. Since that date they have also published the volume for Hooker County. Micah Laaker donated the funds to purchase all three volumes for the NSHS Library in memory of her grandfather, Raymond Laaker of Sidney, Nebraska.

Thank you, Micah, for your donation.
Cindy S. Drake, Library Curator

By Cindy S. Drake, Library Curator

Ancestry of David Heineman, Governor of Nebraska, researched and compiled by the staff of the Family History Library of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. (Heineman and Larkin families in Richardson County.)

The Descendants of Peter Bachenberg: 15 February 1827-29 March 1903, by Joan Bachenberg Shurtliff. (Bachenberg family in Pawnee County.)

It's in the Blood: The Story of the Kilpatrick Brothers, by Chris Millspaugh and Jean Swartling. (Kilpatrick family in Gage County.)

Janssen Family History, by Ross Janssen (Janssen family in Sheridan County.)

[Lancaster County, Nebraska Probate Records, 1871-12/26/1886:With Partial Listings Between 12/27/1886 or 5/06/1891], by Gerald E. Sherard.

Marcus Andersen and Anne Margrete Jensine Christense: Their Ancestors and Descendants, [compiled by] Ann Ward Freehafer Andersen. (Andersen, Christensen, and Ferris families in Adams, Dixon, and Knox counties.)

No One Ever Asked Me: The World War II Memoirs of an Omaha Indian Soldier, by Hollis Dorion Stabler. (Stabler family in Nebraska.)

Seward County, Nebraska Probate Records, 1870-1877, by Gerald E. Sherard.

Short Stories by Stan, by Stan Moreland. (Moreland family in Cherry County.)

This Old House, by Stan Liedtke. (Liedtke family in Hall County.)

Train to Red Cloud: A Small Boy's Journey, by Barbara Heise Grooman. (Wells family in Webster County.)


May 18: Brown Bag Lecture, collector Dan Dryden's view of idiosyncratic artist Emery Blagdon. The lecture complements the new Museum of Nebraska History exhibit, Weird Nebraska: Strange Stories and Amazing Facts, on display through 2006. 12 noon, Museum of Nebraska History, Fifteenth and P streets, Lincoln. Free and open to the public.

June 9: Nebraska State Historical Society Board of Trustees Meeting in northeast Nebraska. For more details, visit

June 15: Brown Bag Lecture, "If We Could Just Print Our Own Money: Nebraska's Wildcat Banks," by Jim McKee. 12 noon, Museum of Nebraska History, Fifteenth and P streets, Lincoln. Free and open to the public.


From the Museum Store

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Visit the Nebraska State Historical Society Museum Store for great books and unique merchandise.

Receive your 10 percent NSHS member discount and receive free gift wrapping too!


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