(3) Early Nebraska to Statehood Subjects

Isaac Wiles & the Great Seal of the State of Nebraska

by John Schleicher

This program provides an overview of the history of the Nebraska Territory and Nebraska statehood and examines the origins of the Great Seal of the State of Nebraska through the life and times of Isaac Wiles, who settled in Cass County in 1856, led the 1st Nebraska Militia during the Civil War, and served in both the territorial and state legislatures. While serving in the state legislature, Wiles introduced a bill to provide a seal for the State of Nebraska and created the state motto “Equality Before the Law.”  

Tales from Fort Atkinson: Feeding a Frontier Fort

by Suzanne Gucciardo

When the Missouri Expedition was sent into the little known reaches of the Louisiana Purchase to establish a U.S. military presence, the Army failed to appreciate the difficulty of feeding its men on the frontier.  Following a disastrous winter of 1819-1820, Colonel Atkinson was determined to keep his garrison healthy through cultivation of grain crops and vegetables.  The agriculture program at Fort Atkinson not only provided a surplus of food for the men and their families, it also provided important information about farming on the plains for the settlers who would come later.

Nebraska’s Outlaw Trail, Highway 12

by Marci Broyhill

Cowboy poetry, story, humor and a power point presentation, provide information regarding Nebraska’s colorful characters: Doc Middleton, Kid Wade, Jesse James and vigilantes. It also highlights the positive character and influence of ranchers, Ruth and Cal Thompson, owners of the White Horse Ranch. Travel the Outlaw Trail where universal forces of good and evil; past and present often intersect

The Forts of Nebraska

by Jeff Barnes

Nebraska’s forts were among the first, last and most important on the Great Plains, built to promote trade, to protect travelers and settlers, to fight the Indian tribes and then to keep the peace. During that time, they hosted some great names of American history, including Buffalo Bill Cody, Crazy Horse, George Custer, Robert E. Lee, Red Cloud, and Mark Twain. Barnes tells the story of Nebraska’s 12 military forts and what today’s visitors will find at the sites.

Why is Lincoln the State Capital and not Yankee Hill?

by Jim McKee

Nebraska’s original territorial capital was located in Omaha. Why, when statehood arrived, was the seat of government relocated to the tiny and insignificant village of Lancaster? Located on the edge of the “Great American Desert,” with a population of just 30, Lancaster was renamed Lincoln and selected as the site for the new state’s capitol building, the university, the insane asylum and the penitentiary. The reasons are complicated, fascinating and—according to McKee—it all boils down to mosquitoes and ice cream.

The History of the University of Nebraska

by Jim McKee

The location of the University of Nebraska in the state’s capital may seem like a foregone conclusion now, but in the 1860s the new state’s senators chartered 14 other locations before finally settling on Lincoln. The state’s academic stronghold might well have been the “University of Nebraska at Wyoming.” McKee takes a look at the university’s past.

The History of the Nebraska State Capitol

by Jim McKee

This slide-illustrated program tells the story of Nebraska’s two territorial capitol buildings in Omaha and three state capitols in Lincoln. Nebraska’s present capitol, built between 1922 and 1932, is discussed in detail from the design contest ultimately won by Bertram Grosvenor Goodhue, through its being named one of the ten most beautiful buildings in the world, one of the ten best built buildings in the world to one of the 50 most memorable works of architecture in the world.

Nebraska through Song and Story

by Dan Holtz

Nebraska has not only a rich tradition in literature but also a rich, less-publicized tradition in music. This program interweaves songs, accompanied on guitar and harmonica, with excerpts from works by Willa Cather, John Neihardt, Mari Sandoz and Bess Streeter Aldrich. In a narrative from about 1850 to 1904, it tells the stories of the people who came to and through early Nebraska, the pioneers who crossed the overland trails, the settlers and the Native Americans. This program can be tailored for either a young audience or an adult audience.

Poetry of the African-American Cowboy

by Vicki Troxel Harris

A selection of stories from the African-American history of Nebraska have been put to rhyme as only cowboy poetry can be presented.  Harris draws from her research to share stories and poems of love, adventure, and respect, often with a bit of humor.  Those who have already heard the stories told in “African-American Homesteaders and Cowboys of Nebraska” will especially enjoy this program of history in the rhythm and romance of the range.

African-American Pioneers and Entrepreneurs of Nebraska

by Vicki Troxel Harris

African-American doctors, barbers, music teachers and innovative and prosperous orchard owners are some of the people who come to life in this presentation. Harris collected many oral histories while researching African-American settlements in Nebraska. Through her scholarship, Nebraska history has a fascinating new chapter.

African-American Homesteaders and Cowboys of Nebraska

by Vicki Troxel Harris

In the 1854 census of Nebraska, there were 14 blacks listed as slaves. After the Civil War, African-Americans came to Nebraska as cowhands, laborers, cavalrymen and homesteaders. Harris recounts many of the oral histories she has collected about cowboys, such as Jim Kelly and Amos Harris from the Lexington area and Roy Hayes of Cherry County “who could catch anything with legs.”

Hildreth Meiere: The Woman Artist Who Had Eight Commissions for the Nebraska State Capitol

by Evelyn Haller Harris

As a designer in tiles, Hildreth Meiere worked in a durable medium of architectural magnitude, including the original mosaics in the Nebraska State Capitol. Meiere is not as well known as many artists of her generation because her works are affixed to walls, ceilings and floors. They cannot be transported, and slides only partially convey the wonder of these achievements. Meiere’s life (1892-1961) was filled with significant work accomplished when there were few women in her field. Haller talks about what Meiere did before and after she completed the eight commissions for the Nebraska State Capitol.

The Great Body of the Republic: Abraham Lincoln and the Great Plains

by Kenneth Winkle

Abraham Lincoln considered the Great Plains important for America’s future. As president, however, Lincoln subordinated the interest of the Great Plains and the people who lived there because of his efforts to win the Civil War.  Professor Winkle investigates how Lincoln’s wartime policies changed the history of the Great Plains forever and left an indelible impression on the lives and culture of the people who live here today.

Nebraska and the Civil War

by David Wells

Few people realize that Nebraska was involved in one of the most tragic events in our history, the Civil War, from 1861-1865. The territory sent 1/3 of its male population to the war, and more than 200 died or were killed. After the war, thousands of veterans came to Nebraska. By 1890 more than 100,000 veterans lived here, and they played a major role in the development of Nebraska from a territory to statehood. They helped found many of the cities. This presentation looks at these early settlers and the role they played—geographically specific to the program site.

History of the University of Nebraska Medical Center

by John Schleicher

Schleicher presents the history of the University of Nebraska Medical Center exploring the colleges of medicine, nursing, pharmacy, dentistry and school of allied health professions.

Nebraska Territory Stories

by David Seay

In this upbeat presentation David performs folk music that existed at the time Nebraska became a state on March 1, 1867. Between tunes he discusses how these songs provide glimpses into history by telling stories of everyday life of the pioneers during the 13 years before Nebraska statehood.  This cheerful show works particularly well for family audiences as it has opportunities for volunteers to come up front and participate. Instruments featured are banjo, harmonica, whistles, and mountain dulcimer.

The History and Evolution of Local Nebraska Jails — 150 Years of Change

by Kurt Sandquist

This presentation chronicles the development of local jails from 1850 to the present. Factors that influenced the location, design, and operational needs are charted with a video display of jails through Nebraska. It also examines the development of current jails in light of historical events and decisions by the courts, legislature and local governing officials.

The Making of a Monument

by Robert C. Ripley

An exploration of the history, art and architecture of the Nebraska State Capitol, “a jewel among historical monuments,” this program explores the complex history of the Capitol, the symbolism embodied in its sculptures and mosaics, the philosophical integration of elements and the building’s place in 20th-century architectural design. The presentation helps audiences better understand and appreciate the powerful message embodied in this prairie monument.

Nebraska’s Mexican-American Legacy

by Jose Francisco Garcia

A full 150 years before the 1st pioneer families entered Nebraska territory, Mexican traders, soldiers and explorers left their imprint on the land and its culture. Jose’s presentation takes you along on a journey of exploration that began in 1720 and continues in Nebraska to this very day.

Maria Rodaway: Prairie Pioneer

by Karen Wyatt Drevo

Maria (portrayed by her great-great granddaughter in period attire) looks back at her life as a prairie pioneer in Otoe County, Neb., where she homesteaded in 1867. Maria crossed the Atlantic Ocean with seven children to reunite her family after a 7½ year separation. She endured grasshoppers, hail, drought, tornadoes, blizzards, and the loss of her husband and six of her 13 children as she worked to become a citizen and a land owner in a new country. Resilient and resourceful, she lived a life of usefulness to her family and large circle of friends with her loving deeds and kind acts, delivering babies and nursing the sick. Program suitable for children grade 4 to adults.

Nebraska: Crossroads of the Western Fur Trade

by Darrel W. Draper

This humorous, one-hour presentation, composed from literature, is an entertaining and amusing summary of the history of the fur trade, including trading companies, personalities and the achievements of fur traders and mountain men who lived in or passed through Nebraska. This tabloid-style review of the oddities and ironies of the industry has been carefully researched but is humorously presented in a sensationalized style. It recounts some of the bizarre happenings that resulted in the most important discoveries of land and routes enabling the U.S. to claim and populate the West.

The History of Nebraska as Told by Peter Sarpy

by Darrel W. Draper

Dressed in period costume and speaking in his native French accent, “Peter Sarpy” describes the transformation of Nebraska from French colony to statehood. This dramatic one-act play uses humor, interactive audience participation and factual historical anecdotes to captivate youth and adult audiences alike. This living-history presentation is appropriate for schools, civic groups, churches, museums and festivals.

J. Sterling Morton: Author of Arbor Day

by Darrel W. Draper

This history program introduces the audience to the life of J. Sterling Morton, from his birth in upstate New York to his rise to power and fame in Nebraska. Within five years after his arrival at Bellevue, Morton was twice elected to the Territorial Legislature, appointed Clerk of Supreme Court, became Territorial Secretary and was made acting Governor at the age of 26. The founder of Arbor Day would later become secretary of agriculture. The presenter, in costume and in character, uses humor and pathos to give us new insight into Morton’s failures and successes, educating and entertaining audiences of all ages.

Daniel Freeman: America’s First Homesteader

by Darrel W. Draper

Hear Daniel Freeman’s amazing story as Darrel Draper portrays “Old Number One” in full costume. It is a Chautauqua-style, humorous and historically factual account of America’s first homesteader and the impact of the Homestead Act in settling the West. Recommended for ages 10 to adult.

Nebraska’s Winding Road to Statehood: In the Footsteps of a Female Settler

by Sara Brandes Crook

Barbara Kagi Mayhew Bradway, a female settler, recounts the issues of Nebraska’s territorial days. In a first-person portrayal, Sara Brandes Crook recounts Bradway’s impressions as an early permanent white settler. She also explores the Underground Railroad. Bradway was the older sister of John Kagi, who was a close confidant to John Brown.

Custer in Nebraska: The Royal Buffalo Hunt of 1872

by Jeff Barnes

Already established as an Indian fighter on the Great Plains, George Armstrong Custer’s 1872 visit to Nebraska wasn’t for war, but for entertainment. It was here he met the Grand Duke Alexis of Russia and Buffalo Bill Cody to engage in what is possibly the best-known big game hunt in the history of the world. This 140th anniversary presentation – told through the newspaper accounts, photographs and illustrations of the day – also covers the rapid transition of the five-year-old state of Nebraska, beginning with the fastest growing city on the frontier and ending with the relocation of the Indian tribes and disappearance of the buffalo herds of the Great Plains.