NSHS Home  |  Research & Publications  |  Publications

Historical Newsletter

October 1999


The Society presented several awards for historical achievement at its annual history conference September 25. Dr. Joseph G. Agonito of Syracuse, New York, received the James L. Sellers Memorial Award for his article, "Young Man Afraid of his Horses: The Reservation Years," which appeared in the fall 1998 issue of Nebraska History. A panel of historians from Nebraska Wesleyan University selected the article from among those published in the 1998 volume of the quarterly.

The Robert W. Furnas Award for outstanding contributions to the Nebraska State Historical Society went to the Lozier Foundation of Omaha, which assisted the Society in opening the digital imaging laboratory at the Gerald R. Ford Conservation Center in Omaha. The laboratory ensures the preservation of priceless photographs and documents, and enables the recovery of information that could not be extracted by earlier technologies.

Several organizations and individuals shared the Nebraska Preservation Award for the Lincoln African American Documentation Project. The co-recipients were the Lebanon Lodge No. 3, F. & A.M., Prince Hall affiliation; Kathryn E. Colwell; Mt. Zion Baptist Church; Quinn Chapel A.M.E. Church; Newman United Methodist Church; and Christ Temple Mission.

Patrick Kennedy of Omaha received the Asa T. Hill Memorial Award for outstanding contributions to Nebraska archeology. Kennedy researched an early African American community in Nemaha County and assisted with archeological fieldwork at a rural site once occupied by black families.

The Addison E. Sheldon Memorial Award for outstanding contributions to the preservation of Nebraska history went to Bertha Calloway of Omaha. She was recognized for her years of service to the NAACP and the Great Plains Black Museum, and for her contributions to the understanding of African American culture in Nebraska.

In addition to the named awards, outgoing Society trustees Walter M. Duda, John Weihing, William C. Pratt, and Burdette Cooley were recognized for their dedicated service to the Society during two, three-year terms on the board.

(image) Quinn Chapel A.M.E. Church and Parsonage, 1225 S. Ninth Street, Lincoln.


The 1998-99 annual report of the Nebraska State Historical Society has been posted on the Society's website (www.nebraskahistory.org). To request a printed copy of the report (supplies are limited), call 402-471-4746.


The Plainsman Museum in Aurora is working with the Higby Mortuary and a vault company to prepare a time capsule to be buried at the museum after January 1, 2000. Each community in Hamilton County has been invited to furnish documents, photographs, historic items, and clothing to place in plastic boxes, 26 x 21 x 12 inches in size. The vault is 7 x 3 feet. For information or opportunities on how to assist, call the Plainsman Museum at 402-694-6531.


The Gage County Historical Society Harvest Festival will be held Sunday, October 17, beginning at 11 A.M., at the Elijah Filley Stone Barn two miles south of Filley. A corn harvest will feature hand picking with horse-drawn wagons and corn shelling. Also included: gift shop, children's games, pumpkin carving, bake sale, lunch on grounds, afternoon fiddle music, harvest market, and antique farm equipment. The Filley Stone Barn, built of limestone in 1874 by Elijah Filley and area farmers, will be open to the public. For information call the Gage County Museum in Beatrice, at 402-228-1679.


Spans in Time: A History of Nebraska Bridges has just been published by the Society and the Nebraska Department of Roads. The book reviews the history of Nebraska bridges from the earliest temporary spans built by overland emigrants to the modern steel and concrete bridges of the twentieth century. Among the featured bridges is the unique pontoon bridge that crossed the Missouri River at Nebraska City.

Constructing permanent bridges over major rivers required engineering skills and financial resources that small communities could rarely muster. Although railroads had both the resources and the incentive to build substantial bridges when their tracks reached the riverbank, railroad spans did not always provide passage for horse-drawn and pedestrian traffic. Ferries, either small steamboats or flatboats propelled by ropes or cables from the shore, offered limited capacity and sometimes inconvenient schedules. In the winter, rivers could often be crossed on the ice, a risky business indeed when the temperature or water level fluctuated.

Although Congress had chartered the Nebraska City Bridge Company in the early 1870s, by summer 1888 only the new Burlington railroad bridge spanned the Missouri River there. City leaders were receptive, then, when Col. S. N. Stewart of Philadelphia proposed to build a pontoon toll bridge if the community would subsidize its construction.

The pontoon bridge, estimated to have cost about $18,000, opened to much fanfare on August 23, 1888. Not only was it claimed to be the first such bridge across the Missouri River, but also the largest draw bridge of its kind in the world. The pontoon section crossing the main channel was 1,074 feet long, with a 1,050-foot cribwork approach spanning a secondary channel between an island and the Iowa shore. The roadway, including two pedestrian footways, was twenty-four-and-one-half-feet wide. Opening the "draw" (the V-shaped portion that could swing open for boats or flowing ice) provided a 528-foot-wide passage. Tolls for round trip crossings were set at fifty cents for double teams, forty cents for single teams, a quarter for a horse and rider, a nickel for pedestrians, and from ten to two cents each for horses, cattle, sheep, and hogs. The bridge was considered a significant engineering feat and was featured in articles published in the Scientific American and Harper's Weekly.

While the bridge operated successfully during ice-free months or when the river was not unusually high or low, the capricious Missouri soon created problems. Ice tore loose some of the pontoons in February 1889, although they were captured and replaced. In July heavy rains raised the river and forced the bridge to close temporarily. In January 1890 several pontoons sank, and a month later ice again carried away part of the structure. High water in the summer of 1890 closed the bridge for thirty-five days. It became increasingly clear that a permanent wagon bridge was still needed, and in the spring of 1890 the city fathers began planning an election to vote bonds to build one. Stewart responded by threatening to remove the pontoon bridge.

Voters approved the bridge bonds in July; the courts initially upheld them against a series of legal challenges mounted by the Burlington Railroad. The Burlington claimed it had acquired the Nebraska City Bridge Company's original charter to build the railroad bridge and therefore, the railroad was entitled to the bonds. In the face of these developments, Stewart may have concluded that the pontoon bridge's days were numbered. He must have grown tired, too, of the constant labor and expense required to keep it open. In early November 1890 he announced that the bridge had been sold to parties in Atchison, Kansas. On November 13 the pontoons were sent down the river toward the bridge's new home. A month later, the U.S. District Court ruled the bridge bonds were invalid. Nebraska City was back where it had started.

In 1891 the Burlington laid planks beside the tracks across its railroad span so it could be used as a toll bridge for non-railroad traffic. For nearly forty years, wagons, horsemen, pedestrians, and motor vehicles shared the bridge with the trains of the C. B. & Q. Nebraska City's dream of a permanent vehicular bridge was finally realized on October 14, 1930, with the opening of the Waubonsie Bridge, constructed by the Kansas City Bridge Company. Long gone, but not entirely forgotten, was the innovative pontoon bridge that had briefly seemed the answer to the Missouri River problem.


Angela Dresch of Primrose was the recipient of a Nebraska State Historical Society Certificate of Achievement acknowledging her scrapbook titled Mother Nature vs. Primrose, May 8, 1965 at the 1999 Nebraska State Fair. Angela prepared her scrapbook for the "Explore Your Heritage" 4-H project. Along with a certificate Angela received a one-year complimentary Society membership.


Your October Historical Newsletter is sent with a new catalog from the Society's Museum Store. The catalog includes books (including many published by the Society), as well as gifts relating to Society historic sites or collections. The catalog also lists guides and videos for several of the Society's historic sites. The proceeds from your purchase help support future NSHS programs and exhibits.



The State Historic Preservation Office has contracted with Mead & Hunt Inc. to complete a Nebraska Historic Buildings Survey of Wayne and Cuming counties. Fieldwork for the survey will take place in the fall of 1999, and public meetings to inform county residents about the survey will be held in October. For more information, call the Preservation Division at 402-471-4787.



The following list consists of interesting titles from or about Nebraska we were pursuing through online auction houses, rare book dealers, and donation requests. For various reasons we were unable to acquire them for our library collection. If you are aware of the availability of other copies of these titles please contact Library Curator Cindy S. Drake at 402-471-1786 or mail to: nshs05@www.nebraskahistory.org

Ancestree Climbing in the Midwest: Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska, by E. Evelyn Cox, 1979. (Although this book is outdated, we would like a copy for our library to add to other Nebraska research books compiled by Mrs. Cox.)

Annual Report City of Alliance Nebraska for the Calendar Year 1934, also one for 1935. (We have 1923, 1933, 1937, 1941, and 1945.)

The Arts of Costume and Personal Appearance, by Grace Margaret Morton, 1943. Published by John Wiley & Sons, Inc. New York. (Ms. Morton was an associate professor of Home Economics and head of Textiles and Clothing Division, University of Nebraska.)

Cooking With Peace, by Peace Lutheran Church, Waverly, Nebraska, 1993.

Corn-Farm Boy, by Louis Lenski, 1954. Published by J. B. Lippincott Company, Philadelphia.

Correct Store Equipment for Variety Stores, from Store Kraft Mfg. Co. in Beatrice, 1915.

Disaster 1952, by Dick Harris and Bob Donovan from WNAX radio. (Thirty pages of photographs about the Missouri River flood in South Dakota, Nebraska, and Iowa area).

Einspahr Family Tree, by Byron B. Einspahr, 1990. Published by Gateway Press.

Favorite Recipes St. Paul's Evangelical Lutheran Church, Plymouth, Nebraska 100 Years 1880-1980, compiled by Members of the Church.

Fremont City Directory. (We do not have the year 1961 in our collection.)

George Doll's Seed and Nursery Company Victory Garden Catalog, 1942 Spring edition, Columbus, Nebraska. (We do not have any catalogs from this company.)

Hereford Family Favorites, a Collection of Favorite Recipes From the Members of the Nebraska Hereford Auxiliary, 1979.

Homes of Comfort, from Adams & Kelly Co., Omaha, Nebraska, 1930. (We have reference to Volume C, but we do not have any of their volumes of house plans.)

Illustrated History of Lincoln County, Nebraska, and Her People, two-volume set published in 1920 by The American Historical Society. (We have one copy of this set and would like an additional copy for our collection.)

Looking at the World Through the Scientist's Eyes, 1942. Published by Warp Publishing Company, Minden, Nebraska.

Meat Tops the Menu, presented by the National Livestock and Meat Board at the 1936 University of Nebraska-Aksarben Livestock Show.

Official Program of the Fourth Annual Fairbury Chautauqua, August 1908, Fairbury, Nebraska.

Parks' Songs of the South, Number 1. For male voices, published by the J. A. Parks Company, York, Nebraska, 1896.

Phantom Homestead, by Otis Dunbar Richardson, 1975.

Pioneers Dream in 1882. History of the city of McCook, Nebraska, from 1882 to 1932, published by the McCook Daily Gazette.

Primer of Parliamentary Practice, by Awana H. Slaker, State Parliamentarian, Nebraska Federation of Women's Clubs, 1936. (We have a 1927 edition.)

Omaha Board of Trade Annual Reports. (We have reference to the fourteenth report, which was for the years 1890-91. We do not have any of these reports in our collection.)

Saint Margaret Mary's Autograph Cookbook, collected and arranged by the Guild and Altar Society, 1937.

Sonderegger Nurseries Garden Catalog, 1930, by Sonderegger Nurseries and Seed House, Beatrice, Nebraska. (We have 1929, 1935-39.)

Special Song Book of the Buffalo Bill's Combined Wild West Great Pawnee Bill's Far East. (Sixteen-page songbook, 1910-12, containing tunes from their show.)

Standard of Perfection for Domesticated Land Fowl & Water Fowl, published for & by The American Poultry Association, Buffalo, New York, and printed by Jacob North, Inc., Lincoln, Nebraska, 1969 edition.

Successful Hairdresser, by Kathryn Wilson. Published by the California School of Beauty Culture, Omaha, Nebraska. (We have a reference to the 6th edition.)

Twenty-Second Automobile Directory, Kearney County, Nebraska, 1958, by the Minden and Axtell Merchants and Professional Men.

Wilson Family History and Genealogy. Printed in the early 1950s by the Nebraska Beacon Print, sixty-four unpaginated pages. (No stated author.)

Winging It! by Jack Jefford, 1990. (Reference to barnstorming days in Nebraska.)

Wonderful Dolls of Paper Mache, by Jo Elizabeth Gerkin, 1970. Published by Doll Research Associates, Lincoln, Nebraska.

We are still seeking donated copies of Lincoln City Directories from 1996 to the present. Donations are still being accepted for an additional $235 to purchase the 1999 Supplement to the Passenger and Immigration Lists Index, Part II. Please indicate this title with your monetary donation. Thank you.


The Library/Archives Division maintains six small exhibit cases in the main hallway of the Society headquarters building at 1500 R Street. These changing exhibits highlight documents and photographs from the Library/Archives collections. Current exhibits are: That Time of Mental Awakening: Willa Cather's University Years; A Nebraskan Goes to NATO: General Alfred M. Gruenther; The Rest of the Story: The Halls of Hallmark; and Music from the Soil of the American Midwest: Howard Hanson. Additionally, two exhibits describe services and materials offered by the Library/Archives.


The 43rd Annual Missouri Valley History Conference will be held March 9-11, 2000, in Omaha. Proposals for individual papers or sessions in all areas of history are welcome from advanced graduate students, junior and senior scholars, public historians, and independent scholars. Proposals, consisting of a cover letter, abstract or abstracts (for session proposals), and curriculum/curricula vitae, should be sent by November 15, 1999, to Dr. Oliver Pollak, program chair, Missouri Valley History Conference, Department of History, University of Nebraska at Omaha, Omaha NE 68182. Fax: 402-554-2794. E-mail: Oliver_Pollak@unomaha.edu

The Society for Military History will sponsor several sessions at the 2000 MVHC. Proposals for these sessions should be sent directly to Dr. Kevin K. Carroll, Department of History, Arizona State University, P.O. Box 872501, Tempe AZ 85287-2501. Fax: 602-965-0310. E-mail: kcarroll@asu.edu


October 10: Sunday at the Museum series, "Hell on Women and Horses," on Nebraska ranching life, by Lyn DeNaeyer, poet, writer, and purveyor of "horse sense." 2 P.M., John G. Neihardt State Historic Site, Bancroft. Sponsored by Nebraska Humanities Council.

October 14: Lincoln Corral of Westerners, "Paper Trail at Fort Robinson," by Tom Buecker, curator of the Fort Robinson Museum. Meet at Holiday Inn, Ninth and P streets, Lincoln, 6:30 P.M. Call Margaret Allington, 488-5698, for reservations (required).

October 13-16: Czechoslovak Genealogical Society International. Genealogical/cultural conference in Lincoln. For information call 612-595-7799 or check website at http://CGSI.org.

October 14-16: Midwest Archives Conference/Society of Rocky Mountain Archivists. Joint meeting in Lincoln. For information, call Paul Eisloeffel at 402-471-4750 or e-mail pje@www.nebraskahistory.org.

October 21: Brown Bag Lecture, "Multnomah Plantation, the Home of Major John Dougherty: An Exercise in Historic Archeology," by Mark Kelly, attorney/archeologist. 12 noon, Museum of Nebraska History, Fifteenth and P streets, Lincoln. Free and open to the public.

October 21: Omaha Corral of Westerners, "John Neihardt Humor," by Robin Neihardt. Meet at DC Centre, 7117 Jones Circle, Omaha, 6 P.M. Call Bob Savage, 391-3252, for information or reservations (required).

During the Columbus Day holiday weekend, the Society Headquarters Building (Library/Archives) will be open Saturday, October 9, and closed Sunday and Monday, October 10 and 11. The Gerald R. Ford Conservation Center will be closed Saturday, October 9, through Monday, October 11. The Museum of Nebraska History will be open regular hours Saturday and Sunday, October 9 and 10, and closed Monday, October 11. The Society's Historic Sites, except Cather and Neihardt, will be closed Monday, October 11.

In observance of Veterans' Day, administrative and museum offices, the Library/Archives Division, the Museum of Nebraska History, the Gerald R. Ford Conservation Center in Omaha, and the Historic Sites, except Cather and Neihardt, will be closed Thursday, November 11.

September 1999 Issue

Back Issues


NSHS Home  |  Search  |  Index  |  Top

Last updated 8 October 1999

For questions or comments on the website itself, email
Nebraska State Historical Society - P.O. Box 82554, 1500 R Street, Lincoln, NE 68501
Nebraska State Government Homepage
 |  Website Policies  |  © 2009 All Rights Reserved