Kester Planing Mill listed on the National Register

Kester Millwork Shop:  South and West elevations, facing Northeast

South and West elevations, facing Northeast.

The Kester Planing Mill in Neligh has been listed in the National Register of Historic Places as of July 28, 2014.

Commonly called the Neligh Planing Mill, it is a fully equipped millwork shop dating to 1911-1912, complete with period mill working equipment and power system. It is the finest known example of the types of planing mills to have once operated across Nebraska.  These operations served in the upbuilding of communities through supplying local and regional carpenters and contractors.  The shop once built windows, cabinets, wood trim, and other custom wood products.

The Kester shop characterizes the evolution, adaptation, and development of motive power used in small, light manufacturing operations between the late 19th and early 20th century in Nebraska and nationally.  It is therefore an important example of the technological advances in motive power adapted to these smaller operations during this period across the state, following national trends in these industries. It is also has a rare surviving example of a power-drive line-shaft system with its array of line shafts, pulleys, and belts still connected to a number of pieces of its original woodworking machinery.  Kester’s use of this system represents the technology of line-shafts in industry, again a trend nationally and within the state.

Main Floor, workbench on right, planer at extreme left, facing Southwest.

Main Floor, workbench on right, planer at extreme left, facing Southwest.

Howard Kester, the son of a carpenter himself, and the operation he founded profited from Neligh’s early 20th century economic growth.  By 1910, the population had risen to 1,566.  After Kester built the mill, his crew grew to nearly twenty seasonal workers. They produced milled lumber, window sashes, doors, and cabinetry for numerous buildings, and contracted for remodeling houses in Neligh and throughout Antelope County.  Howard Kester built several Neligh business buildings and Neligh’s West Ward School.  He contracted for more than 100 new homes in Neligh and a similar number in the Neligh vicinity, as well as numerous barns and remodeling jobs.

In addition to the scores of Kester-built buildings throughout the area, much custom-built cabinetry and interior woodwork survives in the area as well, according to family and others.  Perhaps most recognized is a stairway in the former Matt Hoffman home, later the Hoepfinger-Beyer Funeral Home in Neligh.  Howard Kester was a master with wood in any form and made at least two violins.  Howard passed the craft to his sons.  He was joined in the business by sons Harold and Homer as Kester & Sons Construction Company.

Some additional images from the Nomination are below. And next time you’re in Neligh, give the Kester Planing Mill a look yourself!

North and East elevations, facing Southwest.

North and East elevations, facing Southwest.

Main Floor, “Warm Morning” stove, storage, facing Southeast.

Main Floor, “Warm Morning” stove, storage, facing Southeast.

Main Floor ceiling detail, line shaft and hangers, pulleys, and belts, reflected on ceiling.

Main Floor ceiling detail, line shaft and hangers, pulleys, and belts, reflected on ceiling.

Attic, facing East.

Attic, facing East.

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Omaha Proclaims Lindbergh Day to Welcome Aviation Hero

Lindbergh and his plane in Omaha, August 30, 1927. NSHS RG3882.PH0-5-a

Lindbergh and his plane in Omaha, August 30, 1927. NSHS RG3882.PH0-5-a

Following his historic trans-Atlantic flight in May of 1927, Charles Lindbergh made a three-month goodwill tour of the United States to promote aviation. Sponsored by Long Islander Harry Guggenheim, the trip took America’s newest hero and his plane, the Spirit of St. Louis, to all of the then forty-eight states. Lindbergh made 92 stops, gave 147 speeches, and rode in parades covering more than 1.200 miles.

Everywhere he went, he was given an enthusiastic welcome. The photograph above depicts Lindbergh and the Spirit of St. Louis during a brief stop in Omaha on August 30, 1927, proclaimed “Lindbergh Day” by the city. Nebraska governor Adam McMullen, Omaha mayor Jim Dahlman, the Seventeenth Infantry Band, the Boy Scouts, several friends from his early flying days at Lincoln, and a crowd estimated at more than 250,000 welcomed Lindbergh to Omaha.

“Omaha has known street crowds in the past, and has accorded notable welcomes, such as those attending the coming of a Wilson or a Roosevelt, to illustrate but never was there such a crowd or such a welcome as when Colonel Charles A. Lindbergh came here Tuesday,” said the Omaha World-Herald the next day. Businesses were closed in honor of the event. Lindbergh was escorted by a parade of cars from Omaha’s Municipal Airfield to the Ak-Sar-Ben racetrack, where addresses of welcome were made. He was then taken to the Fontenelle Hotel.

In response to Lindbergh’s request, all entertainment ceased at eight p.m. so that he would be well rested for his departure for Denver the next day. Despite the attention paid him, he had a strict schedule to keep. He did fly over several other Nebraska cities enroute, including Kearney, where he honored an advance commitment to circle the Buffalo County fairgrounds on his way west from Omaha.

For more information on early Nebraska aviation, see Vince Goeres’s Wings Over Nebraska: Historic Aviation Photographs, available at the Nebraska State Historical Society’s Landmark Stores. Published by NSHS Books in 2010, it was written with Kylie Kinley and features an introduction by Roger Welsch and more than two hundred photographs from NSHS collections. – Patricia C. Gaster, Assistant Editor / Publications

 

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Nebraska History Museum-on-the-Move Offers Programs Around Town

Museum on the MoveThe Nebraska History Museum may be closing (on September 1) for renovation, but there are plenty of ways for you and your families to experience the great educational opportunities the Museum has to offer through its new Museum on the Move programming! Keep reading for a full list of everything you can see and do in the coming months.

The monthly Brown Bag History Forum lecture series, held the third Thursday of each month, will continue at the Lincoln County/City Building, 555 S 10th Street. The free programs will be offered at 12 noon in the 5CityTV studios and recorded for later broadcast on government access cable and posting on YouTube, courtesy of the Nebraska State Historical Society Foundation.

The dates and topics for this fall are:

September 18 – “Orphan Trains” by Linda Hein

October 16 – “Women Homesteaders,” by Gail Blankenau

November 20 – “Enclosed Army Forts on the Northern Plains, 1819-1872,” by Thomas R. Buecker

December 18 – “Archeology Q & A,” by Nebraska State Historical Society archeology staff

For more information on the Brown Bag Lecture Series, call 402-471-4764 or email tom.buecker@nebraska.gov

The museum will also continue to offer its family-oriented programs through the fall at the Nebraska State Historical Society headquarters at 1500 R Street.

October 14 - Hour at the Museum

October 14 – Hour at the Museum

“Hour at the Museum” story and activity sessions are open for all ages from 10 to 11 a.m. and here are those dates and featured books:

October 14Eight Hands Round: A Patchwork Alphabet by Ann Whitford Paul

December 23One Splendid Tree by Marilyn Helmer

December 30A Boy Becomes a Man at Wounded Knee by Ted Wood

Free Family Fun Days for children and families will also be held at the NSHS Headquarters, 1500 R Street. Each of the following events will be held between 2:00 and 4:00 p.m.:

September's Free Family Fun Day

September’s Free Family Fun Day

September 13 – Celebrate Nebraska Archaeology Month by meeting archaeologists and digging to find your own artifacts

November 15 – Civil War Remembrance Day, celebrated with the help of the Sons of Union

December 13 – Veterans of the Civil War, pioneer Christmas decorations for attendees to make and take home

For more information on family programming, call 402-471-4757 or email judy.keetle@nebraska.gov.

And, as always, for information on the Nebraska History Museum’s traveling programming, its collections, or its renovations, visit the Nebraska State Historical Society Website.

We look forward to seeing you at the Nebraska History Museum on the Move!

 

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Winter Quarters Monument and commemoration

During the winters of 1846-47 and 1847-48, more than six hundred members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints died in their encampment, called Winter Quarters, on the banks of the Missouri River near Omaha’s present-day Florence neighborhood. These men, women, and children were among the large group of church members immigrating westward to the valley of the Great Salt Lake under the leadership of Brigham Young. Today, their burial ground, which also memorializes the six thousand Latter-day Saints who died enroute West between 1846 and the completion of the railroad in 1869, is commemorated by Avard T. Fairbanks’s Winter Quarters Monument, a beautifully executed sculptural program.

Avard T. Fairbanks' Winter Quarter Monument

Avard T. Fairbanks’s Winter Quarter Monument

Amy Porter and her baby boys, Joseph and Benjamin, were buried in the cemetery at Winter Quarters. Bill Porter, a descendant, has sent the Nebraska State Historical Society a photograph of her grave marker, the only original pioneer marker on which the person’s name, “Amy,” can still be identified. In this picture the light of the setting sun highlights her name.

Amy Porter's grave stone at Winter Quarters

Amy Porter’s grave stone at Winter Quarters

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the Fall 2014 issue of Nebraska History, historian Kent Ahrens describes and illustrates the Winter Quarters Monument commemorating Amy and the other Mormon pioneers who died there. You can read an excerpt online (scroll down to the fifth article) at the NSHS website and order a copy of the magazine by calling 1-800-833-6747.

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The Telegraph Arrives in Brownville

A Pony Express rider saluting the telegraph builders (who would soon put the Pony Express out of business) was a popular motif in illustrations of the period. NSHS RG24090-144

A Pony Express rider saluting the telegraph builders (who would soon put the Pony Express out of business) was a popular motif in illustrations of the period. NSHS RG24090-144

The most thrilling event of the summer of 1860 for the residents of Brownville, Nebraska Territory, was the completion of a telegraph line from St. Joseph, Missouri, to their town and the transmission of the first telegrams over the wires. On August 28 the Stebbins telegraph line was linked to Brownville, with a grand celebration planned for the following day.

The first telegram sent by the citizens of Brownville from Nebraska Territory on August 29, 1860, went to the Associated Press and was entitled “Nebraska Sends Greetings to the States.” The first telegram received in Nebraska Territory also came into Brownville that day. The St. Joseph Gazette in neighboring Missouri returned the greeting sent by Robert W. Furnas, then editor of the Nebraska Advertiser.

Robert W. Furnas. NSHS RG4389-9

Robert W. Furnas. NSHS RG4389-9

A large celebration was held that evening in Brownville, complete with bonfires, music, speeches, and toasts. Rounds of ammunition were fired, one for each of the states, one for Nebraska Territory, and one for the telegraph line. A parade led by the Brownville brass band ended the official celebration, but it was rumored that a barrel of wine was carried up to the telegraph office in an upstairs room of the Hoadley Building, where an unofficial celebration continued.

For an account of Nebraska Territory’s role in the building of the first transcontinental telegraph, see First Telegraph Line across the Continent: Charles Brown’s 1861 Diary, edited by Dennis N. Mihelich and James E. Potter, and published by the Nebraska State Historical Society in 2011. Read the book’s prologue here. Brown’s lively narrative is the only known extensive source written about the daily construction of one segment of the first transcontinental line, and is filled with period detail. The book is available from the NSHS Landmark Stores. – Patricia C. Gaster, Assistant Editor / Publications

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Pawnees in Sweden – the Long Journey of White Fox

From Nebraska History magazine. White Fox is shown seated in about 1874 in a photo courtesy of Göteborgs Etnografiska Museum

Why would three Pawnee men travel to Sweden in the 1870s? And why, when one of the men died, was his body not returned to his family?

In the Summer 2014 issue of Nebraska History, Dan Jibréus of the Karolinska Institute of Stockholm, Sweden, tells the story of the first Native Americans to visit Scandinavia in 1874.

That summer three Pawnee men traveled from Nebraska to perform their native dances and customs for the public. One of the three, White Fox, became ill and died in Sweden, and his body was claimed by a Swedish scientist who had White Fox’s head and torso taxidermied and mounted. Continue reading

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Mr. Bryan’s Place in the Sun

Bryan accepting the nomination for the presidency on August 12, 1908. NSHS RG3198-41-10

Bryan accepting the nomination for the presidency on August 12, 1908. NSHS RG3198-41-10

August 12, 1908, dawned clear in Lincoln, William Jennings Bryan’s hometown. Flags and bunting draped the buildings, and crowds soon filled the streets. It was Notification Day, and Bryan would receive official confirmation that, for the third time, he was the Democratic Party’s nominee for president of the United States. The event was a political formality. Well before the party’s July convention in Denver, Bryan had enough pledged delegates to insure his nomination. The Lincoln ceremony would launch his final campaign for the White House.

The notification took place on the north side of the capitol building. As the August sun blazed down, Bryan gave a two-hour acceptance speech, his balding dome partially shaded by Democratic Party Chairman Norman Mack’s umbrella. Vice presidential nominee John Kern of Indiana (seated behind Mack) appears to be wiping the sweat from his brow. Perhaps the most uncomfortable person on the platform, and not just because of the heat, was Nebraska Governor George L. Sheldon, seated at the far left. Although protocol required Sheldon’s presence, the Lincoln Nebraska State Journal reported that the Republican governor “listened without a smile” to Bryan’s arraignment of his party.

More information on Bryan and the campaign of 1908 is online at the Nebraska State Historical Society’s website, along with other articles from past issues of Nebraska History magazine. Other resources on Bryan are also available at the NSHS. – James E. Potter, Senior Research Historian / Publications

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The NSHS gives back

As we are all painfully aware, a number of communities across Nebraska were devastated this season by catastrophic tornadoes, most notably Pilger and Beaver Crossing. In the aftermath of these terrible misfortunes, Nebraskans joined together in order to provide support – emotional, physical, and financial – to these areas. As these towns and their citizens continued the rebuild, the Nebraska History Museum worked to find a way to lend their support during this time of need.

Quilts, made by volunteer Karen Heiser, and tied by area schoolchildren, will be donated to the Pilger and Beaver Crossing communities

Quilts, made by volunteer Karen Heiser, and tied by area schoolchildren, will be donated to the Pilger and Beaver Crossing communities

And then they found the perfect idea: Quilts!

Through the generosity of NHM volunteer Karen Heiser, who stitched dozens of quilts for the museum’s educational purposes, and the handiwork of hundreds of school children, the museum is now able to donate a bounty of beautiful, handmade quilts to the children and families of Pilger and Beaver Crossing. The quilts were delivered last Friday.

The Nebraska History Museum's quilting station

The Nebraska History Museum’s quilting station

Since 2012, school-aged children, either visiting with their families or with school tours, have been tying quilts on display in the Museum. Following a popular exhibit on depression-era quilts from 2010-12, all children visiting the NHM have had the opportunity to interact with the museum’s quilt cart and quilting station. Tying quilts gives them an understanding of the labor that goes into creating such essential household items.

The educational programs that the NHM provides, overseen by the amazing Judy Keetle, are an essential piece of the museum’s mission. This is why, as the museum prepares to close its doors in anticipation of significant renovations, Judy and her team are already making plans to host offsite educational events.

While the Nebraska History Museum is closed, educational presentations will be given for school groups at the Nebraska State Historical Society HQ (located at 15th and R Streets in Lincoln) – part of Nebraska History “Museum on the Move” programming.

Padraig Fargen, age 5, and Finley Fargen, age 3, do their part by tying a quilt that will later be donated to a family in need.

Padraig Fargen, age 5, and Finley Fargen, age 3, do their part by tying a quilt that will later be donated to a family in need

And there will be plenty more quilting! During the “Pioneers” presentation, for example, kids will be tying quilts, as pioneers did at quilting bees, so we anticipate that NSHS will have many more quilts to donate to families in crisis throughout Nebraska in the future.

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Thayer County’s Fair at Deshler Began in 1913

Thayer County Fair on main street of Deshler in 1913. NSHS RG2719-7-6

Thayer County Fair on main street of Deshler in 1913. NSHS RG2719-7-6

“The Thayer County Agricultural society was organized in Deshler last week,” said the Omaha Bee on August 11, 1913, “and the necessary papers filed with the county clerk.” The first county fair sponsored by the society was planned for September 10-12, with an impressive list of exhibits and lineup of speakers. Nebraska Lieutenant Governor Samuel McKelvie accepted an invitation to speak on the opening day.

The Thayer County Fair since at least 1886 had been held at Hebron, the county seat, but due to problems with flooding, was discontinued by about 1900. In 1912, E. J. Mitchell, editor and publisher of the Deshler Rustler, began a push to reactivate the fair, this time in his hometown of Deshler.

Thayer County Fair at Deshler, 1915. NSHS RG2719-8-38

Thayer County Fair at Deshler, 1915. NSHS RG2719-8-38

The first county fair held in Deshler in 1913 featured several novelties. The local high school housed “agricultural, horticultural, fancy work and the educational exhibit,” according to the Rustler on September 18, 1913. Fairgoers especially appreciated the high school’s restroom facilities, and exhibitors took advantage of electric lights and city water on the grounds. No admission to the fair was charged, and winners of premiums received a check for their winnings immediately after the award was made.

Of course, not everything relating to a county fair was suitable for the high school building. Livestock and poultry exhibits were located in temporary quarters nearby. Stands for refreshments, souvenirs, entertainment, and games lined Deshler’s main street. A merry-go-round from the Nebraska State Fair was engaged to entertain fairgoers and their children. By 1915 the fair had its own fairgrounds south of Deshler with an exhibition hall and other structures and ample space for parking.

More information on Nebraska’s history is available in Nebraska History magazine, a benefit of membership in the Nebraska State Historical Society. Both full members and subscription-only members receive four issues yearly. Selected articles from past issues are posted online at the NSHS website. – Patricia C. Gaster, Assistant Editor / Publications

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Abbott and Costello Honored for War Bond Sales

Nebraska Governor Dwight Griswold (left) presented comedians Bud Abbot and Lou Costello with souvenir ears of corn during ceremonies at the Nebraska State Capitol on July 31, 1942. NSHS RG2183-1942-731-4

Nebraska Governor Dwight Griswold (left) presented comedians Bud Abbot and Lou Costello with souvenir ears of corn during ceremonies at the Nebraska State Capitol on July 31, 1942. NSHS RG2183-1942-731-4

July 31, 1942, marked the final day of Lancaster County’s month-long campaign for war bond sales. Conducted as a part of the World War II “Retailers for Victory” campaign, the drive sought to use the nation’s merchants and their employees to raise money for the war effort. Highlighting the closing day’s festivities was the appearance of “Hollywood’s good humor boys–‘Bud’ Abbott and ‘Lou’ Costello. The screen and radio comedians were met at Boys Town early this afternoon and whisked here with a state police escort,” said the July 31 Lincoln Star.

Abbott and Costello were among the most popular and highly paid entertainers in the world during World War II. At the peak of the team’s popularity, they made two nationwide tours selling war bonds. They raised an estimated $85 million for the U.S. government. Their July 1942 stop in Omaha was followed by a quick trip to Lincoln, where they were received by Nebraska Governor Dwight Griswold at the State Capitol.

Ears of corn presented to Abbott and Costello. NSHS RG2183-1942-731-5

Ears of corn presented to Abbott and Costello. NSHS RG2183-1942-731-5

Later that evening the comedy team attended and performed at a “Victory Dinner” at the Cornhusker Hotel and then saw a variety show at the Lincoln Air Base. Nebraska provided its two guests with several souvenirs: an ear of corn for each labeled “From Nebraska, the Cornhusker State,” and certificates designating them as admirals in the mythical Nebraska Navy.

More information and photographs of Nebraska activities on the home front during World War II are online at the Nebraska State Historical Society’s website, along with other articles from past issues of Nebraska History magazine. Receive current copies of the magazine as a benefit of membership in the NSHS. Both full members and subscription-only members receive four issues yearly.– Patricia C. Gaster, Assistant Editor / Publications

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