Getting to know county history books

Are you a genealogist or historical researcher? Recently the Ohio History Connection (formerly the Ohio Historical Society) posted a helpful article, “Getting to Know County History Books” (PDF, see p. 6).

Of course, Ohio histories are several decades older than the first published histories that appeared in Nebraska, but much of the article’s advice is also applicable to Nebraska sources.

Here are a few article highlights and other notes to improve your use of Nebraska county histories:

  • Check surrounding counties for information regarding ancestors and events that occurred before the present county was formally established.
  • Always verify a county’s founding date. If you are researching an event before the county was founded it might be recorded in the original county records.
  • As in Ohio, early Nebraska biographical books were sold by subscription and can be a good source of information.
  • Indexes in county histories may be incomplete or unavailable. At some point if the local history has been converted to a fully searchable digitized document the history will be easier to use. The NSHS does not have any local histories scanned or available on our website. Other individuals and organizations have posted various Nebraska local histories online; however, I estimate that 90-95 percent of the Nebraska local histories in our Nebraska history library have not been digitized.
  • The amount of local history material in our library varies from county to county, but we have something from all 93 counties. Check our online library catalog for availability of titles. We do not interlibrary loan any original library titles from our library. If you have questions about searching for material in our catalog, please contact me.

Cindy S. Drake, Library Curator

cindy.drake@nebraska.gov

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Jenner’s Park Once a Popular Summer Attraction

Children on the ocean wave, an amusement ride in Jenner’s Park, in 1920. NSHS RG2543-4-11

Children on the ocean wave, an amusement ride in Jenner’s Park, in 1920. NSHS RG2543-4-11

From about 1900 to the early 1940s Jenner’s Zoological, Educational and Amusement Park in Loup City was a place for central Nebraska to gather, play, and learn. Brothers Henry and Robert Jenner, the founders of what was usually referred to as Jenner’s Park, were natives of England. Henry Jenner’s home at Loup City was a seven-acre section of land forming a horseshoe-shaped depression along Dead Horse Creek. Eventually the area was improved and opened to the public as a park “for picnics and private parties.”

Henry Jenner wanted his park to provide not only recreation but education for families. Admission price for the day during the early years of the park was ten cents for adults, with some games and amusement rides inside requiring separate tickets. A pavilion was constructed for dancing and to house the acquisitions of the Jenner brothers, who were tireless travelers and collectors. The Mummy House, constructed in 1909, reflected the brothers’ interest in Egyptology. The park theater, added in 1912 for the Fourth of July celebration, hosted vaudeville acts, many by local talent. When electricity came to Loup City, Jenner’s Park was one of the first places wired.

Jenner’s Park, July 20, 1926. NSHS RG2543-4-24

Jenner’s Park, July 20, 1926. NSHS RG2543-4-24

From the beginning Jenner’s Park housed a zoo. Included were such exotic species as leopards, alligators, monkeys, bears, and a large collection of birds. Many of the cages were works of art, with the monkey cage, built in 1924, a small replica of a Chinese pagoda. The park also included some specialized botanical features, including a fernery built of rocks. Shade trees served to cool the park, important before the days of air conditioning.

Jenner’s Park also offered its visitors rides and games. The ocean wave or circle swing, added in 1906, could seat forty people as it revolved and dipped. The athletic grounds contained a giant’s stride, horizontal bars, croquet grounds, a box-ball alley, and shooting galleries. During the colder months amusements were disassembled and stored, and animals housed in winter quarters.

Between 1905 and the early 1930s the park was a growing, vital segment of the life of the Loup City area. It was an important summer attraction in central Nebraska. However, by the time of Robert Jenner’s death in 1940, the park business had declined, due primarily to the inability of the brothers to continue the operation as they aged. It was closed in 1942.

More information on Jenner’s Park is available in an online article from 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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How is this varnish can tied to the founding of Lincoln?

varnish can from Western Glass & Paint

This early twentieth century varnish can was recently donated to the NSHS. Click to enlarge.

The NSHS recently acquired this artifact for its collections. It is an Autograph brand pure oil can from Western Glass and Paint Company, circa 1910. Western Glass was organized in 1890 by Thomas P. Kennard, one of the founders of Lincoln and among its most influential early citizens.

Western Glass became a very successful Lincoln business. The company address on the can is 12th and M Streets, location of the second plant Kennard built for the company in 1899. Sadly, the building was destroyed by fire just days before Kennard’s death in 1920. But Kennard never knew. Not wanting to upset him, family and friends didn’t tell him about the fire.

The paint can was collected by Larry Kruse who gave it to Kenny Lightman (both men are from Lincoln), who then passed it along to Mike Romberg at Lincoln Glass Company. Romberg donated it to the NSHS after reading the article about Thomas Kennard in the Spring issue of Nebraska History.

Kennard is often remembered as “the father of Lincoln,” and for the grand home he built when the town barely existed. Today the Thomas P. Kennard House and Nebraska Statehood Memorial is a historic site maintained by the NSHS.

—Thomas R. Buecker, NSHS Curator

Kennard's house on the cover of the Summer 2014 issue of Nebraska History. The photo was shot from the tower of the old state capitol in 1872, looking southeast. Sixteenth Street is in the foreground; the house itself is on H Street.

Kennard’s house on the cover of the Summer 2014 issue of Nebraska History. The photo was shot from the tower of the old state capitol in 1872, looking southeast. Sixteenth Street is in the foreground; the house itself is on H Street. State auditor John Gillespie’s house is to the right. Kennard was Nebraska’s secretary of state at the time, and he, Gillespie, and Governor David Butler agreed to build fine homes to promote local development and convince people that the frontier capital would become a real city.

 

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We can’t win all fights

Clarinda Apartments

The Clarinda, 2014, courtesy of Ruben Acosta.

It is a sad truth: not every historic building can be saved. This was made evident on July 1st as the Omaha City Council voted unanimously to remove the Clarinda-Page apartment buildings’ local landmark designation, which had been granted in 1981. Mutual of Omaha now has the go-ahead to demolish the historic buildings within its current redevelopment project.

The Clarinda and Page Apartments were built in 1909 and 1914 by contractor William W. Welch; the buildings were each named for Welch’s home town and home county in Iowa. The architecture is a simple and graceful example of the Georgian Revival style, which was prominent in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century.

The apartments also have the distinction of representing a departure from previous apartment buildings in Omaha. They were among the city’s earliest luxury apartments, aimed at higher-income renters who did not require proximity to a streetcar line. They were prominently placed near Turner Park, part of Omaha’s Parks and Boulevards system, which is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

Today these buildings stand as a reminder of historic Omaha. Soon, they will be gone.

Though many historic structures have been and will be demolished, the efforts of local and state preservation organizations attempt to seek alternatives. It is obviously preferable – from a preservation standpoint, and often, an economic standpoint – to keep and enhance historic buildings as “living” parts of our communities. Just look at all the Omaha buildings that have found new and functional uses, providing housing and revitalization of neighborhoods and the Omaha commercial center.

Now more than ever, we can see how important preservation is to communities across the state of Nebraska; don’t hesitate to get involved! Find a local neighborhood association, preservation group, or even contact the State Historic Preservation Office to see how you can help protect Nebraska’s built heritage.

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Dividing Holt County

This map of Holt County is from a railway map of Nebraska issued by the State Board of Transportation in 1889. O’Neill is near the center of the county, with Atkinson to the northwest.

This map of Holt County is from a railway map of Nebraska issued by the State Board of Transportation in 1889. O’Neill is near the center of the county, with Atkinson to the northwest.

Holt County, with its 2,418 square miles of territory, is one of Nebraska’s largest counties. Its size caused many bitter fights over county division and the permanent location of the county seat. When the county was organized in 1876, the little village of Paddock, originally named Troy, on the Niobrara River was designated the county seat. Its location in the extreme northern part of the county prompted the removal of the county seat to the more centrally located town of O’Neill following an election on May 12, 1879.

O’Neill subsequently faced a series of challenges from rival towns who proposed to divide the county in order to become county seats in the new counties formed. Attempts at county division were made in the 1880s and ‘90s and continued well past 1900. A petition signed by five hundred people asking for county division was circulated in 1883. The Omaha Bee on February 17, 1885, commented on Holt County division: “They took a vote on the question last fall and it was defeated by 300 votes, but those who favor division have not given it up. They propose to try again. Holt county is large enough to make four, and that is the proposition.”

The Western Union Telegraph and Cable  office in Atkinson, Nebraska. NSHS RG3841-1-2

The Western Union Telegraph and Cable office in Atkinson, Nebraska. NSHS RG3841-1-2

Atkinson was O’Neill’s chief rival for the county seat and a leading backer of county division proposals. The Bee said on February 24, 1888: “Large and enthusiastic meetings are being held in all parts of Holt county for the purpose of making four counties at the next election. . . . The new counties are expected to be named Elkhorn, Union, Dustin and Holt.” Under this plan O’Neill would have remained the county seat of a reduced Holt County, with Atkinson the county seat of the new Union County. The proposal was defeated at the polls later that year.

Postcard view of O’Neill. NSHS RG3441-5-5

Postcard view of O’Neill. NSHS RG3441-5-5

In 1895 Richard H. Jenness, editor of the Atkinson Graphic, proposed to divide Holt county into four equal parts, to be called Adair, Fountain, Elkhorn and Holt, leaving O’Neill the county seat of Holt County and making Atkinson the county seat of Adair. Members of the Holt County Board countered Jenness’s proposal with one of their own, which would have divided the county into three parts, to be known as Holt, Elkhorn and Holcomb. Jenness, predictably, was angry because this plan would have left Atkinson in the same county as O’Neill, still a county seat, and “declares the action of the county board is rotten and alleges fraud of the worst sort.”

The struggle over county division dragged on at the polls and through the courts until well past 1900. The question was still being agitated in 1904, when the Norfolk Weekly News-Journal noted on September 30 that petitions had recently been circulated in Holt County asking for its division into three parts. In 1908 the newspaper noted petitions there asking for the creation of two new counties, to be named Meadow and Jackson. None of the proposals ever resulted in the partitioning of Holt County or the removal of the county seat from O’Neill.

More information on county division proposals in Cherry County in 1911 and in Sherman and Buffalo counties in 1913 is available on the NSHS website. – Patricia C. Gaster, Assistant Editor / Publications

 

 

 

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Fred Pickering, a World War I Doughboy from Ulysses

New recruits at the Saunders County Courthouse in Wahoo, ready to depart for Camp Funston, Kansas. Like Fred Pickering, many Nebraska soldiers received training at Camp Funston and at Iowa’s Camp Dodge. NSHS RG2963-3-2

New recruits at the Saunders County Courthouse in Wahoo, ready to depart for Camp Funston, Kansas. Like Fred Pickering, many Nebraska soldiers received training at Camp Funston and at Iowa’s Camp Dodge. NSHS RG2963-3-2

Millions of U.S. soldiers fought and died in World War I, but Fred Pickering, a member of an engineer regiment of the Eighty-eighth “Cloverleaf” Division, was one of the very few who recorded his experiences. Pickering was a farmer from Ulysses, Nebraska, who wrote a lively account of army life (from the training camps of the Midwest, England and France to combat on the Western Front) for the folks back home.

This World War I poster urged Americans on the home front to conserve food. NSHS 11804-10

This World War I poster urged Americans on the home front to conserve food. NSHS 11804-10

Though the war ended before Pickering saw active combat, he was close enough to the front lines in the Vosges region of France to hear artillery, machine gun and rifle fire and to come under aerial attack. Pickering detailed his transformation from civilian to citizen soldier with an understanding of both humor and horror. He tells of barrack antics and of extreme sleep and food deprivation, which made Pickering decide that “late to bed and early to rise makes a man feel like he didn’t care to be alive.” Pickering also gave accounts of his Atlantic crossing, the drills and training camps he lived in, the foreign people he met and the landscape he trudged over.

After the war ended, Pickering spent several months “Cleaning up France” before ending his military service on June 15, 1919. Pickering then returned to Ulysses, where he married Gladys Cornelia Hurt and continued his career as an agriculturist. He died on February 12, 1964, at the age of seventy-two. Pickering may have been an “ordinary” soldier, but the foresight he had to write down his experiences gives posterity an extraordinary account of a soldier’s life.

For the rest of Pickering’s story, see “From Civilian Life to Army Life: Fred Pickering’s World War I Narrative,” from the Fall 2009 issue of Nebraska History magazine. An excerpt (scroll down to the third article) is available online at the Nebraska State Historical Society’s website. 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.

 

 

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Wahoo in World War I: The Photographs of Arthur L. Anderson

Red Cross Day, July 4, 1918, in Wahoo. The decorated truck carries Red Cross women and a sign reading “The Greatest Mother in the World.” NSHS RG2963-11-22

Red Cross Day, July 4, 1918, in Wahoo. The decorated truck carries Red Cross women and a sign reading “The Greatest Mother in the World.” NSHS RG2963-11-22

The year 2014 is the centenary of the beginning of World War I. Although the war began in Europe with a chain of events arising from the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria and his wife in Sarajevo on June 28, 1914, the rest of the world soon felt its effects. The United States entered the European war on April 6, 1917, sparking massive mobilization on the home front to provide armaments, manpower, and food to support the country’s war effort.

Saunders County, Nebraska, like localities elsewhere, contributed its share to the cause. By Armistice Day, November 11, 1918, the county had registered 4,500 men from a total population of approximately 20,000 and organized local chapters of the Red Cross, home guard, and a council of defense. Residents formed groups to make surgical dressings, and the county reached or exceeded its quotas in four Liberty Loan campaigns. Eighteen Saunders County men lost their lives in military service.This outpouring of patriotism was not unique. What was unusual was the fact that Wahoo photographer Arthur L. Anderson compiled a detailed visual record of the wartime activities of the residents of the Saunders County seat.

Children’s war garden. NSHS RG2963-20-5

Children’s war garden. NSHS RG2963-20-5

Anderson was born on February 1, 1877, in Omaha. His father, Nels J. Anderson, moved the family to Wahoo in 1879, opening a photography studio. By 1900 Anderson, with son Arthur as his assistant, was considered to be the leading photographer in Wahoo. By 1915 Arthur had become his father’s partner, and it is likely that the son did the majority of the work. When his father died in 1922, Arthur Anderson continued to operate the studio until his own retirement about 1937. He died in Omaha in 1946.

The Arthur L. Anderson collection at the Nebraska State Historical Society consists of over 250 photographs taken in Wahoo and Saunders County during World War I. Anderson’s work provides a broad visual record of home front activity in a small Nebraska community: draft registration, recruits leaving for service, liberty loan drives, and patriotic demonstrations.

More of Anderson’s photographs, with a discussion of their importance, 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.

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Beatrice Chautauqua Literary and Scientific Circle

Before automobiles and radios made the world a smaller place, it could be challenging for adults in rural areas to gain access to the kinds of cultural and educational opportunities that were common in large cities. The solution was the Chautauqua movement, which began in New York in the 1870s. By the 1880s, inter-state Chautauqua assemblies had reached Nebraska, bringing lectures, music, and other cultural programs.

Beatrice Chautauqua, ca. 1910

People attending a Chautauqua at Beatrice, Nebraska, ca. 1910. (RG3411.PH000005-000013)

In 1894 several men and women of Beatrice, Nebraska, founded the Beatrice Chautauqua Circle, later known as the Beatrice Chautauqua Literary and Scientific Circle (C.L.S.C.). According to the organization’s constitution, their goal was “. . . to promote habits of reading and study in history, literature, science and art, to give college graduates a review of the college course, to secure for those whose educational privileges are limited the college graduate’s general outlook upon the world and life and to encourage close, connected, persistent thinking.”

This was not a casual group of people getting together to socialize. Their organization maintained strict membership rules, elected officials, acquired textbooks, studied together, and organized an array of learning programs, including lectures, musical solos and duets, discussions, readings, vesper services, and an annual banquet. They even organized themselves into graduating classes, like a university. This was an outlet for people with a strong desire for education and scholarly activity.

1899 Chautauqua program

1899 program from the Beatrice Chautauqua Literary and Scientific Circle.

Yet the organization was small enough that the programs for the 1899 annual banquet featured hand-painted watercolor pictures, featuring six different designs representing the emblems of the six classes. Shown here is the violet of the 1898 class.

The Nebraska State Historical Society has a small collection of materials from the Beatrice Chautauqua Literary and Scientific Circle, including three volumes of their meeting minutes and a sampling of their event programs. See the NSHS website for a complete finding aid for the Beatrice Chautauqua Literary and Scientific Circle collection.

Angela Kroeger
NSHS Practicum Student

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Help us identify these World War I photos

The NSHS Library/Archives Reference Staff help researchers from all over Nebraska and the world answer countless history, genealogy and research questions every day.  With the vast resources available at NSHS, the answers are seemingly at our fingertips.  Sometimes, however, even we the supposed experts get stumped.  So, we are asking our blog and Facebook friends for a little help answering a particularly vexing question from one of our patrons.

A little while ago, we received the four photographs featured in this blog with the request for any additional information we could find regarding the images.  The four images appear to be snapshots from slightly before or during World War I of some type of military themed gathering or encampment.

Bugle Corps

Bugle Corps (at left)

In the first image, two women pose with a very dignified man in an Army uniform. To the right of the ladies is a young man, also in a military uniform, holding a bugle.  The group is standing in front of a canvas tent with a wooden table and chairs inside.

Gentlemen in uniform

In Swimsuits

The above left image features a group of six young men in Navy World War I style uniforms and one young man that appears to be wearing a cadet uniform.  All seven men are holding swords and might be a drill team of some sort.

Thirteen young women pose around one very lucky young man in the above right image.  The group is standing on the shore of a river or lake.  The swimwear styles were popular from about 1910 to 1915.

F.A.U. Ladies all in a row

F.A.U. Ladies all in a row

The last image is the most challenging.  Seventeen women pose in a line also in front of canvas tents. The two women at the far left are the only ones not holding an American flag.  They seem slightly older and may be leaders of some sort.  The women are all wearing identical costumes.  The buttons on the skirts indicate a military influence popular during World War I.

Most intriguing in this picture are the sashes the young women are wearing.  Printed on the sashes is “Co. C 2nd NEB FAU.”  This is the part that has us scratching our heads. What was the F.A.U.? We have looked into several possibilities, like Female Auxiliary Unit, Female Ambulance Unit, and First Aid Unit.  The NSHS military expert suggested Friends Ambulance Unit, which was started in England by Quakers to provide a service outlet for conscientious objectors to WWI. Unfortunately, we have not found any evidence to support this idea.

We are asking you, our many Facebook and blog friends, for help.  Does anyone know what the F.A.U. was? Please help us identify these photographs and unlock a mystery.

-Karen Keehr, Curator of the Visual and Audio Collections

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Artistry in Butter

These statues, entitled Friends, by J. E. Wallace, were composed of lard. NSHS RG2158-15-1

These statues, entitled Friends, by J. E. Wallace, were composed of lard. NSHS RG2158-15-1

In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, butter art was often featured at state and national fairs. The United States Centennial Exhibition, held in Philadelphia in 1876, included a butter sculpture, the bust of a woman, entitled Dreaming Iolanthe, which was widely admired and imitated. In the 1890s, leaders of the rapidly expanding dairy industry found butter art a new way to advertise their products. A small number of artists began to specialize in sculpting butter, sometimes using lard, a less expensive alternative.

Among them was J. E. Wallace, born in 1882, who began his career in the early 1910s as a sculptor and taxidermist. He lived in Lincoln and Hastings while providing butter statuary for fairs in this state as well as many others, including Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Illinois, New York, Ohio, Tennessee, Texas, and Wisconsin. Butter cows, cows with milkmaids, or little boys with calves were popular subjects, but he also supplied butter statues of historical figures such as the equestrian Old Hickory, depicting Andrew Jackson, for the 1922 Tennessee State Fair.

Meadow Gold butter was used for this butter sculpture. NSHS RG2158-25-8

Meadow Gold butter was used for this butter sculpture. NSHS RG2158-25-8

About 1923 Wallace moved from Lincoln to Hastings, where he donated his labor to make a butter sculpture for the Adams County Fair. This would be the first time, he said, that he had worked for a fair smaller than a state or national one. Several local creameries supplied the butter. A new refrigerated glass case installed at the fairgrounds made possible the display of a life-sized butter sculpture of a Jersey cow.

The Hastings Daily Tribune said on July 2, 1923: “The refrigerator for the butter sculptured cow, which J. E. Wallace will prepare for the fair, is now completed in Agriculture Hall. It will not only contain the butter sculpture, but will have a space for perishable articles entered in the various agricultural exhibits. One side of the refrigerator is of glass and measures 66 x 73 inches. It will require a ton of ice to fill it to capacity.” As soon as Wallace finished the six-hundred-pound sculpture for the Adams County Fair, he left for Montreal, where he sculpted another butter cow for an international dairy convention. He later moved to Chicago and spent his last years in Florida, where he died in 1956.

The heyday of butter sculpturing was about 1890 to 1930, but such sculptures are still a popular attraction at agricultural fairs, on banquet tables, and as decorative butter patties.

Read more articles from the July/August/September issue of Nebraska History News, available online as a PDF at the Nebraska State Historical Society’s website or as a benefit of membership in the NSHS. Both full members and subscription-only members receive four issues yearly of Nebraska History News and Nebraska History magazine.– Patricia C. Gaster, Assistant Editor / Publications

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