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Historical Newsletter
May 1998


The Cooper Foundation of Lincoln has awarded the Society $30,000 over three years to establish, in partnership with Nebraska Wesleyan University, the Nebraska Institute. The Nebraska Institute will be an intensive, two-week program designed to instruct teachers in the social sciences and humanities how to use Nebraska history in their existing curriculum.

The Nebraska Institute will focus on three primary areas: teaching with documents, teaching with artifacts, and teaching with place. It will also emphasize critical and analytical thinking. The institute's goal is to enable Nebraska history and Society resources to be used in almost any area of study within the Nebraska school system.

This year's institute will be held the last two weeks in July as a pilot project with teachers from the Lincoln Public Schools. Subsequent institutes will be residential, and draw teachers from all areas of the state.


The Nebraska State Historical Society's 1998 History Conference and annual members' meeting will be October 2-3, in Valentine. Those attending will have the opportunity to participate in conference sessions, a canoe trip, tours of historic sites, book signings, and Valentine's local festival scheduled for the same weekend. History conference programs will focus on cowboy culture, windmills, Sand Hills archeology, Sand Hills photographers, and Fort Niobrara history.

The conference is open to the public. Conference details will be provided in future newsletters and members of the Society will be mailed registration materials at a later date. For further information contact Deb McWilliams at 402-471-4955 or 1-800-833-6747.


In honor and appreciation of History Day participants across the state, the Nebraska State Historical Society and Nebraska Wesleyan University will co-sponsor the second annual History Day celebration at the state capitol. On Friday, May 15, the capitol will be buzzing with activity as state History Day winners showcase their winning entries and receive last-minute advice from related professionals before competing this June at the National History Day contest in Maryland. History Day is equivalent to a science fair for history as students in grades six through twelve develop papers, mini-exhibits, performances, and media presentations around this year's theme of "Migration in History."

On May 15, entries will be on display or performed from 1 to 3 P.M. and an awards ceremony will be held at 4 P.M. in the capitol's rotunda. Secretary of State Scott Moore will be the master of ceremonies, and state senators will present special awards to each state History Day winner. Mark your calendars to meet the students and see the entries representing Nebraska this summer at national History Day.



Omaha businessman Charles E. Trimble is the new executive director of the John G. Neihardt State Historic Site in Bancroft. Trimble, 63, has operated Red Willow Institute, a national consulting firm specializing in assisting Native American nonprofit organizations. Born and raised on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, he is a member of the Oglala Sioux Tribe. Before forming the Red Willow Institute, Trimble served as executive director of the National Congress of American Indians. Earlier he was principal founder of the American Indian Press Association and served as its executive director. Trimble has also been president of the Nebraska State Historical Society and served on the State Historic Preservation Board. He now serves on the Omaha Landmarks Heritage Preservation Commission and the board of the American Folklife Center of the Library of Congress. He was recently presented with the Pioneer Award at the Nebraska Statehood Day dinner in the capitol rotunda on February 28, 1998.

Trimble says he is honored to become director of the Neihardt State Historic Site, which offers programs and exhibits focused on the life and writings of Neihardt, the late Poet Laureate of Nebraska, whom he met in the early 1970s. Among his goals are establishment of an endowed chair at Wayne State College and an endowed lectureship at Dana College. The Neihardt State Historic Site will also work with tribal colleges in the promotion and appreciation of Neihardt's works, Trimble says. Plans also call for collaboration with historic sites devoted to Willa Cather, Mari Sandoz, and Bess Streeter Aldrich.

Trimble, who lives in Omaha with his wife, Anne, succeeds Dr. John Schneider, who will end his sabbatical and return to Calvin College in Michigan.


This summer the Nebraska State Historical Society will offer five new workshops for children.

Ages six through nine: Bees, Bison, and Bluestem, June 8, 9, 10, 12. Learn about and experience our state symbols through projects, activities, and field trips to the state capitol and Pioneers Park.

Ages ten to twelve: Kids and Cameras, June 15, 17, 18. Build a pin-hole camera and find out how to decipher the stories photographs can tell.

Quilting on the Prairie, August 4, 6. Discover the secrets of pioneer quilting, create a pioneer quilting project, and meet modern quilters.

Adventures in Architecture, August 10, 11, 13. Learn about and experience Nebraska's architecture through activities, projects, and neighborhood field trips.

Haymarket Mystery, August 12. Investigate photographs, newspapers, maps, and old buildings to solve the mystery of what Lincoln's downtown district looked like in its "heyday."

Fees for these workshops range from ten to twenty dollars with special rates for NSHS members. For a brochure and registration information, call the museum office, 1-800-833-6747 or 471-4757 in Lincoln. Spend your summer in the past at the Nebraska State Historical Society!


Summer hours are beginning to take effect at the Nebraska State Historical Society's historic sites. Please note the hours for each site and visit them as you travel across the state.

Fort Robinson Museum, Crawford:
8-5 Monday-Saturday and 9-5 Sunday, Memorial Day-Labor Day.
8-5 Monday-Saturday and 1-5 Sunday, May and September.

Chimney Rock National Historic Site, Bayard:
9-6 Monday-Sunday, April 1-September 30.

Senator George Norris State Historic Site, McCook:
10-12, 1-5 Wednesday-Saturday and 1-5 Tuesday and Sunday, year round.

Thomas P. Kennard House, Lincoln:
9-12, 1-4:30 Tuesday-Friday and 1-5 Saturday-Sunday,
Memorial Day-Labor Day.

Willa Cather State Historic Site, Red Cloud:
8-5 Monday-Saturday and 1-5 Sunday, year round.

Neligh Mill State Historic Site, Neligh:
8-5 Monday-Saturday and 9-5 Sunday, Memorial Day-September 30.

John G. Neihardt State Historic Site, Bancroft:
9-5 Monday-Saturday and l:30-5 Sunday, year round.


The Fourth Annual Prairie Institute, "Rhythms of the Land," will be held at Red Cloud, June 8-12. This is a week-long class that may be taken for graduate or undergraduate credit through the University of Nebraska at Kearney. The interdisciplinary class combines paleontology, geography, history, and literature. One guest lecturer will even speak about astronomy. The registration fee includes a Cather tour, dig site fees, and a Prairie Dinner. Call or write the Willa Cather Pioneer Memorial, 326 North Webster, Red Cloud, NE 68970, 402-746-2653, for a flier.


By Cindy S. Drake, Library Curator

Homestead Research in Nebraska

The Homestead Act of 1862 became effective January 1, 1863. This act made land available "free" to those who would live on and cultivate a tract for a period of time, usually five years. Government land offices recorded these claims in tract books.

The Library/Archives has on microfilm the U.S. General Land Office Tract Books for Nebraska, which describe the acquisition of land from the federal government, the date, the legal description, the type of acquisition, and the final certificate number. In addition to homestead claims, the tract books also record filings under the Preemption, Timber Culture, and Kinkaid Acts, as well as land claimed with agricultural college scrip and military bounty warrants. An index (alphabetical by name of homesteader) for applications filed in selected counties in the western part of Nebraska is available, but for entries in other parts of the state, an approximate legal description of property is needed. These land records do not show owners of land after the initial acquisition from the federal government. This information is available from the registers of deeds in the individual counties where the land is located. The Library/Archives has deed records from a few counties, but these records are generally not indexed by name of owner.

If the researcher does not have the legal description for the homestead, early census records should help in locating the township or precinct where the homesteader was residing. Older maps from Nebraska (such as the 1885 Nebraska atlas or 1915 Official Railway Map of Nebraska) will show the named township along with range and township numbers. (Range is the east/west number and township is the north/south number.) Each township consists of thirty-six sections (one square mile each). With this information you refer to the U.S. Land Records Map for Nebraska in the Library/Archives Reference Room. This map gives the number of the land tract volume for every township in Nebraska.

After you know the correct volume, you proceed to the microfilmed volumes. Sometimes volumes are divided onto two separate reels of microfilm, but each roll is clearly labeled. The homestead entries span a two-page set, and each set is numbered. Once you are in the correct volume you locate the range numbers on the left page of the two-page set. The range numbers are in numerical order. Once the correct range number is located you continue to scan the columns until you locate the correct township number. Once you have the correct legal description, you will need to scan all thirty-six sections of the township (unless you know the section) for your homesteader. The homesteader's name will be given on the right side of the left page. Record all the information given in this entry, but the most important item is the final certificate number.

The Library/Archives does not have the actual homestead files. The information found in the tract books, such as the legal description and final certificate number, is required by the National Archives before they will search for the homestead files. These files include the land claimant's application and other documents submitted in making "final proof," which was necessary to receive a patent from the government. Documents may include affidavits from witnesses, verification of citizenship or intention to become a citizen, Bible records, marriage records, and so on.

There is no form on which to request the homestead files from the National Archives. Over ten years ago I requested my husband's great-grandfather's homestead file for land in Gage County. It took three months to receive a reply from the National Archives. They will first send you a form with a price quote to copy the contents of the file.

More information about land records may be obtained by requesting from the Library/Archives Reference Information Guide No. 7 titled "U.S. Government Land Laws in Nebraska, 1854-1904," by James E. Potter.

REMINDER: A prepaid fee of $5 is required to have the Library/Archives reference staff check the land tract records by mail. You must be able to provide the legal description, precinct name, or general vicinity in the county in order for the staff to conduct this search. Any prior research, such as a census record, would require another $5.

Material for this article was contributed by Cynthia E. Monroe, reference assistant, or assembled from NSHS reference guides.

By Cindy S. Drake, Library Curator

As noted in the April newsletter, we are seeking to supplement a limited state budget for purchasing new library titles. The following are also high priority titles we wish to purchase for the library with donated funds. Members are encouraged to donate funds toward the purchase, or they may purchase the titles and donate them to the Library/Archives. Please direct monetary donations to me with a note on your check specifying "L/A Wish List" to alert our accounting staff. Donated titles may also be directed to me with a note.

Catlin's O-Kee-Pa: Mandan Culture and Ceremonial The George Catlin O-kee-pa Manuscript in the British Museum, by Colin F. Taylor with foreword by Prof. W. Raymond Wood, Verlag Fur Amerikanistik, 1996, $90

Comparing Cowboys and Frontiers by Richard W. Slatta, University of Oklahoma Press, 1997, $25

Ghost Dancing the Law: The Wounded Knee Trials by John William Sayer, Harvard University Press, 1997, $30



Opportunities and training are available to individuals interested in volunteering at the Nebraska State Historical Society. Volunteers are needed in Lincoln in the Museum Store, the History Adventure Center exhibit, and the Thomas P. Kennard House. A camera operator is needed to assist with the filming of the NSHS brown bag lecture series.

Volunteers support the Society by working with staff and enjoy many benefits, not the least of which is the satisfaction of making a lasting contribution to the preservation of our state's history. Other benefits include a discount of twenty percent at all the NSHS museum stores, free parking validation for downtown Lincoln garages, valuable experience in a variety of fields, interaction with great people in an interesting atmosphere, and volunteer recognition activities.

For further information about these or other volunteer opportunities, contact Deb McWilliams at 402-471-4955 or 1-800-833-6747.


The Nebraska Indian Wars Reader, 1865-1877, a Bison Book original by the University of Nebraska Press, provides the first comprehensive look at the Indian Wars in this state. R. Eli Paul, anthology editor and NSHS senior research historian, has assembled a first-rate collection of eyewitness accounts and the most significant historical scholarship on the subject. The book includes several articles previously published in Nebraska History. Cost of the paperbound book is $15.

A theme issue of Central Plains Archeology (v.5, n.1), entitled Marine Shell Ornaments from the Plains, is now available. Gayle Carlson, NSHS curator of anthropology, is the author of one of the articles. Central Plains Archeology is a joint publication of the NSHS and the Nebraska Association of Professional Archeologists. Cost of the paperbound publication is $9.

For mail order for one or both, write NSHS Store, Museum of Nebraska History, P.O. Box 82554, Lincoln NE 68501-2554. Phone orders, toll-free: 1-800-833-6747; you will receive postage and handling information when you call.



The Gerald R. Ford Conservation Center has organized a series of monthly lectures focusing on the preservation of collections. Each program will provide historical context for a particular category of collectible, along with clinic appointments to identify objects or collections and evaluate their conservation needs. The lectures are free and open to the public; there is a fee for the clinic appointments.

The topic for the Saturday, May 16, lecture is "Family Papers," presented by Paul Eisloeffel, curator of manuscripts and audiovisual collections, and Ronna Rivers, paper conservator, both of the Society staff. The program begins at 10 A.M. at the Gerald R. Ford Conservation Center, 1326 South 32 Street, Omaha, NE 68105. For more information or to schedule clinic appointments call 402-595-1180.


Preservation Begisn at HomeMay 14: Lincoln Corral of Westerners. Program by Richard and Bilene Nemec about edible native roots and flowers. Ramada Plaza Hotel, 9th and P streets, Lincoln, 6:30 P.M. Call Margaret Allington, 402-488-5698 for reservations (required).

May 14-17: Nebraska Veterans Hall of Fame, Second Annual Armed Forces Day Display, Norfolk National Guard Armory, South First Street and East Grove, Norfolk. 9 A.M. - 5 P.M. each day. Contact Mike Dankert, 402-379-1011.

May 16: Collectors' Lecture Series, at Gerald R. Ford Conservation Center, Omaha. Topic: "Family Papers." For information call 402-595-1180.

May 21: Brown Bag Lecture, by Craig Christensen, president, Nebraska State Education Association, Lincoln. History of NSEA, formed in 1867. 12 noon, Museum of Nebraska History, 15th and P streets, Lincoln. Free and open to the public.

June 14: Medal of Honor marker dedication for Pvt. Robert D. Booker, 2 P.M., Rose Hill Cemetery, Callaway. Contact Bob Gavin, Custer County veterans service officer, 308-872-2071.

June 18: Brown Bag Lecture, by David Wells, independent historian, Omaha. "The Trans-Mississippi Exposition of 1898 in Omaha." 12 noon, Museum of Nebraska History, 15th and P streets, Lincoln. Free and open to the public.

June 20: dedication of "Buffalo Bill" statue, Wild West Memorial, Cody Park, North Platte. Contact Convention and Visitors Bureau, 800-955-4528.

June 20-21: Evelyn Sharp Days, Evelyn Sharp Field, Ord. Auto and airplane swap meet, crafts and flea market, music, horseshoe tournament. Contact Dorothy Andreesen, 308-728-5527.

June 20-21: Civil War Reenactment, Stuhr Museum, Grand Island. Contact Larry Geiger, 308-382-2229.

In observance of Memorial Day Society administrative offices and museum offices will be closed Monday, May 25. The NSHS Library/Archives will be closed Sunday, May 24, and Monday, May 25. Museum of Nebraska History exhibits will be open regular hours both days.

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Last updated 9 April 1998

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