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Historical Newsletter

September / October 2004

"Engineer Cantonment and Great Plains Exploration in the Early Nineteenth Century" is Conference Theme

The Nebraska State Historical Society will present its 126th History Conference and Annual Meeting October 8-9, 2004, in Omaha, at the Gerald R. Ford Conservation Center. The conference will center on the recent discovery and archeological excavation of Engineer Cantonment, the 1819-20 winter camp of Maj. Stephen Long's party of scientists and army engineers. From the cantonment, located on the Missouri River north of present-day Omaha, the explorers traveled along the Platte River in the spring of 1820 to explore the Great Plains. Until Nebraska State Historical Society archeologists confirmed its location in the spring of 2003, Engineer Cantonment remained one of Nebraska's most significant undiscovered historic sites.

Gary Moulton of UN-L, editor of the Lewis and Clark journals, will provide the luncheon address entitled, "Lewis and Clark's Top Ten." Other speakers and topics include Roger Nichols, University of Arizona, "Scientific Exploration and Nebraska, 1819-1820"; Hugh Genoways, UN-L, "Nebraska's First Biodiversity Assessment"; and Rob Bozell and Gayle Carlson, NSHS archeologists, "Archeological Investigations at Engineer Cantonment: The 1819-1820 Winter Quarters of the Long Expedition."

An afternoon bus tour will take participants to see the site of Engineer Cantonment, and learn about what has been found and future plans for the site. At Fort Atkinson participants will tour the reconstructed post, originally established by the army in 1820 at Lewis and Clark's "Council Bluff," where the explorers met with the Otoe and Missouria Indians on August 3, 1804. Registration materials will be mailed to NSHS members.

Behlen Family Presents Gift to the NSHS

Behlen House photograph
The Nebraska State Historical Society has received a significant gift that will expand the interpretation of historic sites into the mid-twentieth century. On July 7 Ruby Behlen of Columbus and her family announced the donation to the Society of their 1958 family home, listed on the National Register of Historic Places. In acceptance of the Walter and Ruby Behlen State Historic Site, Director Lawrence Sommer said, "The Nebraska State Historical Society is honored to be entrusted with this remarkable example of twentieth century architecture that so visibly reflects the ingenuity and innovation of one of Nebraska's great modern-day pioneers."

Walter Behlen established the Behlen Manufacturing Company in 1936. It created many innovative products over the years, including corrugated farm gates and steel mesh corncribs with motorized dryers, but the most notable and ubiquitous innovation was the frameless, corrugated metal building. Now found all across the Midwestern landscape, Behlen buildings replaced smaller frame buildings on many farms.

The Behlens built their 1958 home of Behlen corrugated panels. Walt Behlen had long advertised that his metal building materials were so adaptable that anything could be built with them. Constructing a luxurious home of Behlen panels and using rich materials such as rare Burmese teakwood and Mount Shukson granite, as well as designer treatments, illustrated the product's versatility. A world-renowned architectural firm, Leo A. Daly of Omaha, was hired to design the luxurious showpiece.

Acquisition and development of the Behlen House is a unique three-way partnership, with Ruby Behlen, widow of the late Walter Behlen, and her family, a task force of Columbus community leaders, facilitated by the chamber of commerce, and the Nebraska State Historical Society joining forces to make the house a resource for the people of Nebraska. A special open house for the Columbus community was held August 14 and 15. Plans for use of the house are under development.

Amendment One and Historic Preservation

Amendment One is a proposed constitutional amendment that will go before Nebraska voters in the November general election. The intent of this amendment is to clear the way for the Nebraska Legislature to enact future legislation allowing a temporary hold to be placed on the property tax assessment of historic properties. As it will appear on the ballot, the measure does not allow a historic property to be taken off the tax rolls-only the increased assessment attributed to improvements made by a property's renovation or restoration would be placed on hold, and only for a limited time. Legislation to place Amendment One on the ballot was introduced in the last session of the Nebraska Legislature by Senator Don Pederson of North Platte.

Amendment One resulted from extensive public input. As early as 1995, the Nebraska Legislature's Task Force on Historic Preservation recommended policy to address historic preservation. The drafting of Amendment One followed a series of legislative studies to analyze effective ways to encourage preservation. The findings recognized that Nebraska was the only state that did not have some kind of legislation to assist owners in the preservation of historic properties. Some thirty-seven states have adopted similar policies, finding that this type of property tax relief is an effective way to encourage investment in historic buildings, older neighborhoods, and commercial areas, both rural and urban. An additional finding is that this type of legislation is revenue-neutral and not reliant on state funding sources.

Friends of Amendment One, a group supporting the ballot initiative, can provide additional information. The steering committee includes George Haecker of Omaha and Keith Blackledge of North Platte, co-chairs; Helen Boosalis and Jim Seacrest of Lincoln, co-treasurers; and Maxine Moul of Lincoln, secretary. Friends of Amendment One can be reached at P.O. Box 83107, Lincoln, NE 68501-3107, by e-mail at amendmentone@acgusa.net, or by telephone at 402-475-0727.

Ethel and Christopher J. Abbott Visitor Center Celebrates Tenth Anniversary

Some one hundred and fifty years after emigrants first started using Chimney Rock as a landmark on their journey west, the Nebraska State Historical Society opened the Ethel and Christopher J. Abbott Visitor Center to the public at Chimney Rock National Historic Site. Ten years have now passed, and 370,000 people have filed through the doors of the visitor center. On Saturday, September 11, and Sunday, September 12, in conjunction with Bayard Pioneer Days, we will celebrate the visitor center's tenth anniversary by waiving admission and by offering a ten percent discount at the visitor center's store. On Sunday, September 12, from 2 to 4 p.m., we invite the public to help us celebrate by enjoying birthday cake and lemonade.

Nebraska State Historical Society Receives National Award

The Nebraska State Historical Society received a Certificate of Commendation from the American Association for State and Local History for special programs interpreting Nebraska's African American history including the conference, "Another Nebraska: A Look at our Black Heritage," held April 26 and 27, 2003, in Omaha; and the exhibit, Recovered Views: African-American Portraits, 1912-1925. The exhibit is touring nationally through ExhibitsUSA, a division of the Mid-America Arts Alliance.

The AASLH awards program was initiated in 1945 to establish and encourage standards of excellence in the collection, preservation, and interpretation of state and local history throughout America. The awards for 2004, representing 104 organizations and individuals, will be presented September 30 at a banquet during the organization's annual meeting in St. Louis, Missouri.

Nebraska State Historical Society Receives Rising Star Award

The NEBRASKALand Foundation recently presented the Nebraska State Historical Society with its Rising Star award. The award acknowledges the addition of the Walter and Ruby Behlen State Historic Site in Columbus to the list of the NSHS historic sites (see article above). The award was created in 1999 "to recognize outstanding tourism attractions, public or private, which have made a significant expansion to an existing attraction or have established a new one-thereby adding value to the overall tourism effort."

The NEBRASKALand Foundation was organized in 1962 to enrich the lives of all Nebraskans. The foundation is the official, nonprofit corporation to assist state government and its residents by contributing to the social, historic, cultural, and economic well-being of Nebraska.

Rededication of the Fort Calhoun Lewis and Clark Monument

One hundred years ago the Nebraska State Historical Society and the Nebraska Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) helped dedicate the Fort Calhoun Lewis and Clark monument that commemorated the centennial of the historic 1804 council with the Otoe-Missouria. Jay Barrett, a predecessor of current Society Director Lawrence Sommer, noted one hundred years ago, "This first council with the Indians was full of meaning. In the course of international diplomacy this republic inherited the fruits of two and a half centuries of discovery and exploration and established relations with the western Indian tribes." The monument was rededicated as part of the Lewis and Clark Bicentennial events held late in July. Sommer recapped the speech Barrett made one hundred years ago.

For over a century the NSHS and the Nebraska DAR have collaborated on many historic preservation, publication, and other educational projects, including the original dedication and the rededication of the Fort Calhoun Lewis and Clark monument. The NSHS shares with the Nebraska DAR the objectives of historic preservation, patriotism, and education.

State Historical Society Director to Serve on New Nebraska Capitol Commission

Under the provisions of LB 439, the Nebraska State Capitol Preservation and Restoration Act, signed into law this spring, a reorganized Nebraska Capitol Commission will be responsible for overseeing preservation, restoration, enhancement of, and long-term planning for the State Capitol and its grounds. The commission will consist of the governor, speaker of the Nebraska Legislature, dean of the College of Architecture at UN-L, one representative of each congressional district appointed by the governor, state court administrator, and the director of the Nebraska State Historical Society. Members, who will serve staggered, three-year terms, will meet quarterly and at least annually with the Nebraska State Capitol Environs Commission.

The commission will advise a newly-created State Capitol administrator, appointed by the governor, on use of space in the capitol building; the employment of architects, assistants, and caretakers there; implementation of the Nebraska State Capitol Landscape Restoration Master Plan; and the proposed construction and repair of buildings in and around the Nebraska State Capitol Environs District. Responsibility for capitol staff, offices, records, and collections was transferred to the new Nebraska State Capitol administration on July 1, 2004.


photograph of teachers drilling
Teachers from around the country got a "first-foot" experience with frontier army drills as National Park Service historian Bill Gwaltney, an expert on buffalo soldiers, marched them around the parade ground at Fort Robinson National Historic Landmark. The NSHS Fort Robinson Museum was host to the week-long seminar, "Shifting Power on the Great Plains: Fort Robinson and the American West," funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities. Forty-three teachers from Massachusetts to Oregon participated in the workshop; a second held in August netted educators from Florida to Washington state.
Courtesy of Diane Clark, Crawford Clipper.

One of Top One Hundred Quilts of the Twentieth Century Now on Exhibit

Grace Snyder quilt photograph
Grace Snyder's "Flower Basket Petit Point" quilt
, made in l942-43, is now on exhibit. A technical tour-de-force, this quilt was sixteen months in the making. More than 85,000 pieces and 5,400 yards of thread went into this mosaic-style masterpiece, which was patterned after the design on a china plate. Grace Snyder, who ranched north of North Platte, was inducted into the Congress of Quilters Hall of Fame in Arlington, Virginia, in l980. In 1999 the International Quilt Festival, held in Houston, Texas, selected this quilt as one of "The Twentieth Century's One-hundred Best American Quilts."

"Flower Basket Petit Point" is part of the permanent collection of the Nebraska State Historical Society. Senior Museum Curator Deb Arenz said a special case has been constructed to exhibit this quilt while limiting its exposure to the potentially damaging effects of light.

This outstanding quilt is on exhibit on the third floor of the Museum of Nebraska History at the entrance to the exhibit Patchwork Lives, a two-year quilt exhibit that includes selections from the collections of the Nebraska State Historical Society and the International Quilt Study Center.

The Museum of Nebraska History is open to the public free of charge 9-4:30, Tuesday through Friday, and 1-4:30, Saturday and Sunday. The museum is closed all state holidays except Arbor Day.


By Cindy S. Drake, Library Curator

History of our Family: (Dejiny Nasi Rodiny), created and written by Josef Kokes, 1887-1888; [compiled by Dot (Dolores K.) Speidel]. (Czech American family [Kokes] in Valley County.)

Konrad Boese-Bose Family, 1806-1984, [compiled by H. Maxine and Andrew Bose]. (German American family in Seward and Harlan counties.)

Pavel Family Tree: Ancestors of John Frank Pavel, prepared by Mary Zavesky Pavel. (Czech American family in Butler County.)

Schaeffer Genealogy, by Helen Jira. (Russian German families [Herman, Brungardt and Herl] in northern Kansas.)

Werner Family History: Werner, Graff, with Merckling, Harter, and Musialowski Lines, compiled by Robert L. Graff. (German American families in Gage County.)

Nebraska State Historical Society Brown Bag Lectures

The Brown Bag Lecture Series, a history forum, is presented on the third Thursday of each month at 12 noon in the Blackman Auditorium, Museum of Nebraska History, Fifteenth and P streets, Lincoln.

If you are unable to attend the NSHS Brown Bag lectures at the museum, watch the series as it is broadcast each month on Time Warner Cable Channel 5. Lectures are televised the month following the original presentation. The history forum lecture series is broadcast on Wednesdays at 12 noon and 8:30 p.m., Fridays at 5 p.m., and Saturdays at 6 p.m. The lectures are broadcast in Omaha on public access Channel 23 on the first Sunday of the month, followed by five days of broadcast on Cox's new digital Channel 802.

Funding for the filming of the Brown Bag Lecture Series is provided by the Nebraska State Historical Society Foundation.


September 12: Sunday at the Museum Series, Ron Welburn (Assateague/Gingaskin/Cherokee), author and poet. 2 p.m., John G. Neihardt State Historic Site, Bancroft. Free and open to the public. For information contact the Neihardt Site at 1-888-777-4667 or neihardt@gpcom.net

September 16: Brown Bag Lecture, "Amendment One: An Opportunity to Preserve Nebraska's History," by Bill Callahan, NSHS Historic Preservation Division. Amendment One is a proposed amendment to Nebraska's constitution. (See article above.) Callahan will discuss the potential for Amendment One to positively affect economic and community development while preserving Nebraska's significant historic buildings. 12 noon, Museum of Nebraska History, Fifteenth and P streets, Lincoln. Free and open to the public.

September 20: Kansas-Nebraska Act Lecture Series, "The Kansas-Nebraska Act and American Political Culture," by Dr. Mark Neely, Jr. Series host is the University of Nebraska-Lincoln History Department. Sponsors are UN-L, the University of Nebraska Press, and the Nebraska Humanities Council, and it is supported by the NSHS. 7:30 p.m., Warner Senate Chamber of Nebraska State Capitol. Please use south entrance. Free and open to the public.

October 4: Kansas-Nebraska Act Lecture Series, "Where Popular Sovereignty Worked: The Kansas-Nebraska Act and Nebraska Territory," by Dr. Nicole Etcheson. Meet as above.

October 10: Sunday at the Museum Series, Brent Spencer, author and educator, of Creighton University. For information contact the Neihardt Site as above.

October 21: Brown Bag Lecture, "Cowboys 'n Indians: Western Mythology on the Nebraska Roadside," by Carol Ahlgren, National Park Service, Omaha. Ahlgren will discuss the postwar popular culture that resulted in, or contributed to, the mythologizing of Western History, especially on television and along historic highways. 12 noon, Museum of Nebraska History, Fifteenth and P streets, Lincoln. Free and open to the public.

October 25: Kansas-Nebraska Act Lecture Series, "Unpopular Sovereignty: African American Reactions and Resistance to the 1854 Kansas-Nebraska Act," by Dr. Walter C. Rucker. Meet as above.

November 8: Kansas-Nebraska Act Lecture Series, "Stephen Douglas, Abraham Lincoln, Frederick Douglass, and Alexander Stephens React to the Kansas-Nebraska Act: A Panel Discussion," by Dr. James Rawley, Dr. Phillip Paludan, Tekla Ali Johnson, and Dr. Ken Winkle. Meet as above.

November 20: "An Evening with Ken Burns, America's Greatest Storyteller"
at the Rococo Theatre in the Historic Stuart Building, downtown Lincoln.
Call 402-435-3535 for ticket information.

Indian on horseback logo



No Time on My Hands, by Grace Snyder, as told to Nellie Snyder Yost.

A Flowering of Quilts, edited by Patricia Cox Crews.

The Quilt-Block History of Pioneer Days: With Projects Kids Can Make, by Mary Cobb. Ages, 7-9.

Nebraska Quilts and Quiltmakers, edited by Patricia Cox Crews and Ronald C. Naugle.

Beginning Quilting Kit, includes fabric, batting, stuffing, needle, thread, and instructions. Ages, 9­99.

Quilter's Delight Box Set, stickers, bookmarks, postcards, and more.

Pewter pins with sewing or quilt designs.

Stitcher's charm bracelet with pewter charms.

While You Shop the Museum Store, be sure to visit the current exhibit, Patchwork Lives, located on the third floor of the Museum of Nebraska History, Fifteenth and P streets, Lincoln. A new rotation of quilts begins on October 6, 2004.

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


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Last updated 13 September 2004

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