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The Lakeside Press

Produced by Connie Snyder


George Catlin Painting an Indian Chief


STORIES are the harp strings of history, transforming the past into melody and rhythm. The best stories live forever in the human mind. They greet us in the Latin, Teutonic, and Celtic tongues, surprise us in the ancient Greek, Arabic, and Hindoo literature, and astonish us in the rude folk tales of primitive peoples who have no written language. The demand for a good story is as wide, as unsatisfied, as human longing, and the search for a new one as difficult and elusive as the discovery of a new element in nature.

Stories are the inspiration of patriotism and of home virtues. No land is loved without its place tales, and no nation became great without the lift of noble examples and ideals in the stories of its common people. Every hill and mountain must find its hero, every vale and prairie its legend, ere it becomes invested with living human interest.

With the flight of years the deeds of pioneers in a new land are transformed into the hero tales and place legends of the later generations. It is well that in the process what is brave, generous, and strong survives; what is common, mean, and trivial perishes. In Nebraska the pioneer period is just past. The pioneers are with us still. Men yet live who knew these prairies as a sea of grass wherein appeared no island of human habitation. We have yet with us those who hunted deer and buffalo on the sites of our cities, who followed the overland trails and faced hostile Indians where now extend fruitful fields of corn, wheat, and alfalfa. Children born in sod houses, dugouts, and even in emigrant wagons now direct the affairs of our commonwealth. The pioneer days are past, but their witnesses are in our midst. It is well for us to recount their deeds while they are still among us.

The purpose of this little book is to present, in story form, the most important facts in Nebraska history in such language that a child able to read may get the story and a grown man or woman may find interest in both fact and story.

It is seven years since the idea of this volume was conceived and the first story written. Of the hundreds of good and true stories of our history only a few could be chosen for the present volume. As the list of short stories grew and formed itself naturally into a series reaching from the Stone Age to the present time, there arose a call for a condensed narrative which should connect the different periods and form an historical thread upon which the short stories might be strung. The response to this call is the Story of Nebraska in a series of short connected sketches. Thus in its final form the book presents a brief history of our state and stories which seem significant and truly characteristic in her development.

Grateful acknowledgment is due to the many persons who have entered into the spirit of this volume and aided in its progress. First among these, I am indebted to her whom I need not name, whose clear insight and creative criticism as a native daughter of Nebraska have been the largest elements in securing its present form. From Professors Howard W. Caldwell, Clark E. Persinger, Lawrence Bruner, Erwin H. Barbour, and George E. Condra, of the University of Nebraska, have come valuable aids and suggestions. Important service in gathering material was rendered by the following persons:

Mr. James Murie, Pawnee, Oklahoma; Mrs. Lucy Manville Sprague, Thedford, Nebraska; Hon. C. W. Beal, Broken Bow, Nebraska; Supt. E. T. Ingle, Ft. McPherson Cemetery; Colonel James Hunton, Ft. Laramie, Wyoming; Hon. H. T. Clarke, Omaha, Nebraska; Hon. H. G. Taylor, Central City, Nebraska; Mr. James F. Hanson, Fremont, Nebraska; Colonel C. W. Allen, Merriman, Nebraska; Colonel C. P. Jordan, Wood, South Dakota; Mrs. Daniel Freeman, Beatrice, Nebraska; Mr. E. A. Kilian (deceased), Manhattan, Kansas; Mr. Robert Harvey, Lincoln, Nebraska, Hon. Addison Wait, Lincoln, Nebraska; Hon. C. H. Aldrich, Lincoln, Nebraska; Mr. R. F. Gilder, Omaha, Nebraska; Hon. T. H. Tibbles, Omaha, Nebraska; Mr. S. D. Butcher, Kearney, Nebraska; Mr. Gerrit Fort, Union Pacific Railway, Omaha, Nebraska; Mr. U. G. Cornell, Lincoln, Nebraska; Miss Martha M. Turner, Lincoln, Nebraska; Morrill Geological Expeditions, Lincoln, Nebraska; Hon. S. C. Bassett, Gibbon, Nebraska; Rev. Michael A. Shine, Plattsmouth, Nebraska; Nebraska State Journal, Lincoln, Nebraska.

For use of copyrighted illustrations acknowledgment is due to these: Hon. R. B. Brower, St. Cloud, Minnesota; Lathrop C. Harper, New York City; Arthur H. Clark Co., Cleveland, Ohio; A. C. McClurg & Co., Chicago, Illinois; American Folk Lore Society.

It is my hope that this little book may not only serve a present need, by presenting in brief form for busy people the story of our state, but may have a place in bringing together the best in the Nebraska life which has been, for the enjoyment and inspiration of the Nebraska that is to be.



It gives me pleasure to write a word of welcome to this I collection of stories of Nebraska history.

First, for the sake of the author, whom I have known for so many winters and summers, in storm and in sunshine, and whom I have found faithful and devoted to the best ideals for Nebraska in public life and in private labor.

Second, I am glad to have part in helping these stories of Nebraska to the place they deserve in the hearts and homes of the people, that all may better know and love their state because they better know its history.

We are apt to value too highly the distant scenes and events and neglect those which are about us. More and more we have come to recognize that the surroundings during the early years of life fix the characters of men and women. Thus the people of our own locality are naturally the objects of our first interest and study. The stories of the men and women who explored and made Nebraska lack neither interest nor importance to any American, for Nebraska has had a large part in our national life and is destined to have a larger part in the centuries which lie before us.

The incidents recorded in this book take us back to the beginnings of organic life on this part of our planet; they picture for us the days when another race made its home on our prairies and give us glimpses of its life and wanderings; they trace the experiences of the early explorers as they became acquainted with the people and natural resources found here and made them known to the larger world without; they set before us the time, still in the memory of living men, when the buffalo and coyote roamed our fertile acres then untouched by the plow; they tell us of the risks and toils and hardships of the men and women who have made Nebraska a great and beautiful state, and set before us examples of industry, patience, and heroism worthy our emulation.

For the children of Nebraska these stories have a value and interest surpassing other literature. They give to their imaginations a local habitation and invest the names and annals of their own state with a sympathetic value which is destined to be of more worth to them in future years than are our crops of golden grain.

There has long been need of such a book as this in the schools and homes of Nebraska. I bid it welcome and wish for it a generous reception in this state and in the Western world.

Professor of American History,
University of Nebraska.

** Note: In order to show the illustrations at their best, they are presented as links with buttons within the text. If they appear grainy when they have loaded, you may need to 'reload' them.

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© Oldtime Nebraska, 2000, Sheldon's History and Stories of Nebraska -- produced by Connie Snyder