Friday, September 4, 2015

Wandering Southeastern Nebraska (#4)

We were still close to the Missouri River…on the Nebraska side just a little south of Brownville and the US Hwy. 136 Bridge.  I had one more historic landmark to check out before moving north toward Omaha.

This is the Captain Meriwether Lewis Dredge.  This side-wheel steam dredge was built for the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers in 1932.  The builder was the Marietta Manufacturing Company of West Virginia.  At the time it was built, it cost $523,898.  The Lewis is a 34 inch dustpan dredge, so named because of the dustpan-shaped section at the bow that’s lowered to dredge the river bottom.  The Captain Meriwether Lewis did dredging work on the Missouri River to improve both navigation and flood controls. 

Water was forced through the ‘dustpan’ bow to loosen the sediment, and then suction pipes removed the material shooting it away from the shipping channel or area being improved for flood control.  The ‘dustpan’ could dig up to 20 feet deep and the dredge’s average rate of advance was between 150 – 200 feet per hour…about a quarter mile a day.


·       Commercial barge traffic on the Missouri River stretches from its mouth on the Mississippi River just north of St. Louis Missouri for 734 miles upriver to Sioux City Iowa.

The Captain Meriwether Lewis is 269 feet long with a beam of 85 feet.  From the waterline to the top of the smokestacks, it is 62 feet 6 inches tall.  Depending on her mission, the dredge had a crew of between 50 and 75 men.  The Lewis was retired in November of 1965.

Today, the Captain Meriwether Lewis dredge houses the Museum of Missouri River History where exhibits stretching from Native American history to exploration and westward expansion can be seen.  Visitors also learn about the vessel and its role in improving navigation on the Missouri River.  For more information, just go to Admission is only $3.00 for adults…  The dredge is said to be haunted. Volunteers say the ghosts have long been a part of the museum’s staff. Perhaps most notably, a piano is known to play all by itself…and no, it is not a player piano!


·       Another 260 foot long dustpan dredge, the “Potter”, is still in active service with the Corp of Engineers…and it was built in 1931!

This home in Peru Nebraska is alleged to be one of the sites of the Underground Railroad in the state.  Much has been made of the underground railroad in Nebraska and its ties to John Brown, the violent abolitionist who eventually became ‘infamous’ for his pre-Civil War attack on the Federal Armory at Harper’s Ferry West Virginia. 

I couldn’t find many specifics regarding this historic site in Peru.  One report was that “John Brown made "frequent visits" to his supporters in Nemaha County.  Only two visits were actually mentioned: one was when Brown was alleged to have brought fourteen slaves to the Underground Railroad station at Peru”…  If you’d like to learn more about the legend and folklore regarding John Brown and the Underground Railroad in Nebraska, just go to

Thomas Jefferson Majors was born in 1841 in Jefferson County, Iowa. Majors served as state senator, lieutenant governor, and U.S. congressman.   His farmstead at 800 Mulberry Street, which is up a little dead-end side street in Peru, Nebraska includes this large 1890s two-story brick house, a bank barn, and several outbuildings. 

Mr. Majors was active in promoting the idea of using Old Mount Vernon College (1863) in Peru as a state normal school.  His efforts were successful in 1867 when the property was given to the state and it subsequently became Peru State College.  Today, the college is a public four-year liberal arts institution with over 2,400 students.  To learn more about Peru State College, go to


·       I had to check out the terminology.  A “bank barn” is a style of barn noted for its accessibility, at ground level, on two separate levels. Often built into the side of a hill, or bank, both the upper and the lower floors area could be accessed from ground level, one area at the top of the hill and the other at the bottom.

It is obvious that this historic property needs a lot of attention… We’ve seen very few homes with 5 tall brick chimneys!  Unfortunately, this impressively large home is looking pretty shabby.  The application from 1971 for inclusion of the home in the National Register of Historic Places back in 1971 described the home is glowing terms…commenting that the owners were successfully raising cattle. 

I ‘borrowed’ this photo of downtown Peru Nebraska from Wikipedia… The town was founded back in 1857.  It was one of the quietest towns we visited on this trip… Peru’s census peaked in 1970 with 1,380 residents but today’s population is less than 850.  When you consider that Peru State College has about 2,400 students it is a little surprising that the town is so small…although it has rebounded from a census of 569 in 2000. Peru is about 70 miles south of Omaha and it’s located on an isolated stretch of road along the Missouri River. 


Herbert Brownell Jr. was the Attorney General of the United States during the Eisenhower Presidency.  He was from Peru Nebraska. 
Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them…

Thanks for stopping by for a visit!

Take Care, Big Daddy Dave

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Wandering Southeastern Nebraska (#3)

Continuing with our brief visit to Auburn Nebraska, the County Seat of Nemaha County Nebraska…

The Nemaha County Courthouse is at 1814 “N” Street in Auburn.  Unfortunately, it doesn’t photograph very well because the building is surrounded by roughly 30 big trees. 

Nemaha County was initially organized in 1855 with Brownville as the county seat. Located on the Missouri River, Brownville served as an early important point for westward immigration.  However, the growing importance of railroad transportation and increasing county settlement inland soon led to a change of focus and, in 1885, Auburn became the new County Seat.  Between 1885 and 1900 the county rented the first courthouse, which was just a modest wood frame building.  In 1889 county residents approved a bond issue for a new courthouse.  Construction began that same year and in 1900 this Richardsonian Romanesque-style courthouse opened for business.


·       Charles Hiram Randall was the only person ever to be elected to the United States Congress as a member of the Prohibitionist Party.  He was born in Auburn on July 23, 1865.

This is the 130 year old Reed House which is located at 1204 “N” Street in Auburn.  This 2-story brick home was built by Wilber T. Reed in 1884-1885.  He went with the Italianate style, which was popular at that time.  Reed moved to Auburn from Ohio.  His grocery and general merchandise store was important to the early settlers of central and western Nemaha County.

Photos from 1968 showed that this home was beginning to deteriorate.  A new owner has refurbished the house and the difference is remarkable.  To see comparative photos, you can go to and scroll down to the bottom of the document…


·       Nemaha County was the core of the “Nemaha Half-Breed Reservation” which was formed in the Treaty of Prairie du Chien in 1830.  It was intended to provide land for the offspring of traders and Native Americans.  Under the patrilineal systems of the Omaha and Osage, children of white fathers had no place in the tribes.  At the same time, the European-American majority of the United States considered the children to be Native American…because of their mothers.

This is Brownville Nebraska’s former Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad’s combination passenger and freight depot.  It has been moved to a small city park at the corner of US Hwy. 136 and Water Street.  It is now referred to as the Brownville Depot and Railroad History Museum.

This well preserved 1875 railroad depot and a relatively recent Burlington Route caboose combine to focus on the history of the relationship between the railroad and the town.  The Brownville Historical Society appears to be very active and they are responsible for several properties around town.  To learn more, go to

The railroad first came to Brownville on February 1st, 1875.  The first train arrived over the Midland Railroad from Nebraska City.  The train reached Brownville about 11 AM, with a large delegation of prominent Nebraskans on board.  Hundreds of people from the area gathered on the levee to see the train arrive.  Almost every business was closed for this occasion with everyone making a holiday of it! 

I’m not sure how I feel about this bridge across the Missouri River.  I like history…but I’m not so sure about big and long 75 year old bridges!  This cantilever through truss steel bridge is 1,904 feet long with 2 - 420 foot long spans.  The Brownville Bridge cost $708,878.54 to build in 1939…about $24 million in 2013 dollars.

Atchison County, Missouri on the east bank of the river, initiated the planning for this bridge, located near Brownville, Nebraska.  Construction was completed by October 1939.  Atchison County operated the bridge as a toll crossing to repay its bondholders and cover maintenance expenses.  Eventually the bonds were paid off and the bridge is now owned and maintained by the state of Missouri as a free crossing.

Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them…

Thanks for stopping by for a visit!

Take Care, Big Daddy Dave

Monday, August 31, 2015

Wandering Southeastern Nebraska (#2)

After visiting the Homestead National Monument of America and the town of Beatrice Nebraska, we headed east toward the Missouri River on US Hwy. 136.

This is the Johnson County Courthouse in Tecumseh Nebraska.  Established in 1857, Johnson County is one of the earliest counties in Nebraska.  This Romanesque Revival-style building replaced 2 earlier courthouses.  It was completed in 1889 and it’s the oldest courthouse in the state.  I really like the juxtaposition of stone and the bright red brick…with the corner towers and the central dome.  It successfully projects an image of permanence and importance.
Note the old building in the background to the left of the courthouse.  That is the Tecumseh City Hall and it is also about 125 years old...  Unfortunately the lower left side of that building appears to have been ‘modified’ or ‘updated’, damaging its historical value.  From what I could determine, wind damage necessitated the ‘modernization’.

The Tecumseh Architectural District is a fine example of a late nineteenth century county seat town in Nebraska.  A wide range of important building types and building materials exist in the approximately fifty square blocks of the district.  Of course the courthouse is the pivotal structure.  

That Rexall Drug Store in the photo occupies a building that was completed in 1880…9 years earlier than the Johnson County Courthouse!  Actually that building used to be Tecumseh’s Opera House… The first floor commercial space was originally occupied by a barbershop and restaurant.  The opera house occupied the entire second floor.  It  provided a place where the community gathered for dances, meetings, movies, and other forms of entertainment.  If we had been there in November 1887, we could have attended the annual masquerade ball and been entertained and bedazzled by Professor Jundano, “ventriloquist and ledgerdemainist”.


·       Tecumseh was the town largely used as the setting of the mini-series “Amerika”, which depicted life in a small American town after a successful takeover by the Soviet Union.

The photo above shows the Tecumseh Nebraska Burlington Railway station that served the community prior to 1910.

At its founding, Tecumseh was an "inland town" away from the Missouri River and it struggled to survive.  All materials and supplies had to be hauled overland, and while there was an adequate supply of game and crops, getting them marketed was a problem, so money was scarce.  Interest rates were from 18 to 60 percent! (Holy Payday Loan Batman!)

In the early 1870s, the Atchison and Nebraska Railroad laid its rails through Johnson County, linking Tecumseh with the new capital city of Lincoln in 1872.  The railroad proved to be "...the impetus to the growth and stability" needed.  In April 1872, when the first train arrived at the depot in the southern end of town, there were about 100 homes and 20 businesses.   Tecumseh reached its peak in 1940 with 2,104 residents.  Today its population is about 1,650.

From what I could determine, this former Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad Depot was built in Tecumseh ca. 1910.  It appears that the Burlington Railroad still owns this property.  I couldn’t find any other information on this structure…


·       The town was named "Tecumseh" after the famous Shawnee Chief who was killed in battle by Colonel Richard Johnson…for whom the County was named.  The town was originally named “Frances” after Johnson’s wife…

Moving east, this is the First United Presbyterian Church at 1322 19th Street in Auburn Nebraska.  It was constructed in 1906-7 in the Late Gothic Revival style.  The interior exhibits the "Akron plan," which originated in the 1860's and is characterized by an arrangement in which instructional rooms are adjacent to the auditorium and separated by a folding partition that can be opened for additional seating during services. (It doesn’t seem that revolutionary to me…but I guess it was from a design perspective)


·       The towns of Calvert and Sheridan combined to form Auburn in 1882. The goal of the merge in part was to gain the voting power needed to wrestle the county seat designation away from Brownville Nebraska, a village located nine miles east.

That’s about it for now… Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them.

Thanks for stopping by for a visit!

Take Care, Big Daddy Dave

Friday, August 28, 2015

Wandering Southeastern Nebraska

We still had a day and a half to go before we were due at our son’s family home in Omaha.  There was still plenty of time to take a look at many more historic sites and sights here in southeastern Nebraska…

This is the Gage County Courthouse at 612 Grant Street in Beatrice Nebraska.  Gage County was established in 1856.  Despite the county’s early beginning, it didn’t have a courthouse until ca. 1870.  At about that year the first courthouse was constructed and it was used until 1889. After voters passed a $100,000 bond issue for a new facility, construction began on this imposing structure in 1890.  In 1892, the Richardsonian Romanesque style courthouse was opened.
The monument that is dramatically centered in front of the courthouse is topped by a cannon with a metal eagle sculpture mounted on it.  The names of soldiers from the county who died in the Civil War are inscribed on 3 sides of the pedestal and war dead from the Spanish-American War are inscribed on the 4th side.  The large black Veteran’s Memorial in front of the larger one is intended to honor all military veterans…


·       Gage County was one of the 19 counties originally established by the Nebraska Territorial Legislature in 1854.  At the time it was established there were no settlers living within the county!

Christ Church Episcopal is located at 520 North 5th Street in Beatrice.  This Gothic Revival style church was built in 1889-90.  Additions were made to the church between 1914 and 1920 and then again in 1951.  Despite the lack of a permanent structure, the Episcopal Church held its first services in Beatrice in 1869.  The Christ Church parish was formally organized in 1873.  In 1874 the first Episcopal Church building was constructed.  Services were held in that wood frame structure for the next 16 years.

As a result of the church being constructed in a manner which met the stringent Ecclesiological Movement/church requirements of the time, the parish was in considerable debt when the building was completed.  To help offset this debt 2 loans were secured in 1891 for $12,000.  The church defaulted on the loans in 1897.  In order to ease the debt the Diocese sent one of their Bishops to New York, Chicago and other eastern cities to solicit contributions.  The mission met with considerable success.  Amongst the contributors were the Boys Club of Chicago and J. Pierpont Morgan.  The debt was finally retired in 1908.


·       The Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America was organized after the American Revolution, when it became separate from the Church of England.  In England, the clergy are required to swear allegiance to the British monarch as Supreme Governor of the Church of England.  The church in the USA became the first Anglican ‘province’ outside the British Isles.

Yes…you are correct!  It is yet another Carnegie Library...  This particular library is located at 220 South 5th Street in Beatrice.  The structure, which is an example of what is termed the “Beaux-Arts” style, was built in 1902 – 1903.  

The establishment of a permanent library was due to the efforts of the Beatrice Literary Club, which was founded in 1890.  It had continued the earlier efforts of the Women's Christian Temperance Union. (I guess that the thought was that if a person read books they would give up the bottle)  In 1902 the library board obtained a $20,000 grant from Andrew Carnegie.  A grand opening was held on January 1, 1904, to celebrate the new building's completion.


·       Director and silent film star Harold Lloyd and actor Robert Taylor were both from Beatrice.  In addition to many films, Lloyd was a founding member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.  Taylor is remembered by many as the actor who took over the hosts duties from Ronald Regan for the TV series “Death Valley Days”. (1966 -1969)

This colorful building at 115 North 5th Street in Beatrice is referred to as the J. Schmuck Block.  Constructed in 1887 by John Schmuck, a German immigrant who found considerable success as a shoemaker, the Schmuck Block is a flashy example of the High Victorian Eclectic style.  

The façade of this three-story brick building displays a wealth of over-the-top decoration and ornamentation that were obviously inspired by a variety of architectural styles.  It has a mansard roof, a Gothic arch, a Romanesque arch, and the patterned brick work and complex surfaces of a Queen Anne design.  The combination yields a look that one can consider gaudy or opulent…i.e., the Gilded Age.


·       The population of Beatrice Nebraska peaked in 1890 with 13,835 residents.  The most recent estimates put the town’s population at about 12,100.

That’s about it for this posting… Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them.

Thanks for stopping by for a short walk through history!

Take Care, Big Daddy Dave

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

A Casual Birthday Dinner…

It was my birthday and I must admit that I wasn’t too inspired… I couldn’t decide what I wanted to do or where I really wanted to go for my birthday dinner.  I thought about a movie but there wasn’t anything playing that really captured my interest. 

I finally decided that we’d take some back roads and work our way over US 321 east of Maryville toward the mountains.  I recalled that there were a couple of antique stores or malls in that direction that we hadn’t visited. 

The antique malls were a bit better than the “usual” but I couldn’t find anything that I really wanted.  I was looking for old postcards ca. 1910 or earlier with the stamp still on them and I’ve had my eye open for old airline, ship or train china, glasses or silverware.  Laurie managed to find a small table she was looking for and we did find a top notch store full of quality antiques instead of the usual ‘collectibles’. 

Despite my personal shopping failure, there was no complaining about the scenery in the foothills of the Smokys. 

For dinner, I opted to try Pero’s on the Hill in Knoxville Tennessee.  We’d been there before and had a decent pizza and I’d tried their spaghetti meat sauce which was very good indeed. 

Peroʼs on the Hill is a creation of 2 old college friends.  They met at Emory University in Atlanta and have been friends ever since.   After college, each of them chose careers in the restaurant and hospitality business.  In 2011 they opened Peroʼs on the Hill.  This popular local restaurant frequently features live music.  As a matter of fact, a musician was setting up for his performance as we finished our meal.

Pero’s is a big restaurant.  In addition to these 2 dining spaces, there is a large outdoor patio dining area.  The crowd grew steadily during our visit and it was close to capacity by the time we left at 7:30 PM on a Tuesday.

Let me start with a disclaimer… We lived in the Chicago area for many, many years.  We were definitely ‘spoiled’ when it comes to any ethnic cuisine.  Pero’s on the Hill is focused on Greek and Italian cuisine.  Both types of cooking are scarce and/or not generally terrific here in East Tennessee. 

It was my birthday and most of the appetizers were at half-price until 6:30 PM so we ordered 2 of them. (Happy Hour Specials are available Monday thru Thursday) This was the Tzatziki Dip with Pita wedges and vegetables. (normally $7.25) While it was OK, we’re used to Tzatziki Sauce with some emphasis on garlic and this was too bland for our taste.  
Like the half-price appetizers, happy hour adult beverage prices are a deal too!  Her first drink was a vodka tonic but the tonic had gone flat.  The waitress apologized and then Laurie replaced it with a glass of house Merlot. ($2.50!) I had a Miller Lite pint for only $2.00…

Our other half-price appetizer was the Triopita, baked parcels of filo pastry with a filling of feta and other cheeses. (Normally $7.20) The filo pastry was very nice and there was plenty of cheese in these ‘parcels’.  However, feta cheese is fairly distinctive and that’s why we like it.  The other cheeses used must have damped down the feta flavor and while this appetizer was OK, it was nothing to write home about. 

We also had side salads… ($2.45 each) Both salads were nice and I appreciated the fact that the waitress let me know that the Caesar Salad didn’t have anchovy in it.  Despite that fact, I still liked it…

  • The original Caesar Salad recipe did not include anchovy as an ingredient.  Finding a true Caesar Salad made ‘the old fashioned way’, with or without anchovy is a very difficult task indeed.  To learn about this classic salad, you can go to

For my entrée, I wanted to order something with that terrific meaty spaghetti sauce that I’d sampled the last time we visited Pero’s.  So I ordered the Chicken Parmesan…a hand breaded chicken breast topped with mozzarella cheese and that meat sauce.  It was accompanied with a side of spaghetti and more meat sauce. ($12.95)

It was a lot of food!  The chicken Parmesan was OK…but the Italian meat sauce was as I remembered it…one of my favorite restaurant meat sauces.  I skipped the rather unappetizing hunk of partially buttered bread.  

Laurie opted for a 10 inch Pizza with pepperoni and spicy house sausage. ($9.60) She said that it was a decent but not great pizza.  I took one bite to check out the house made sausage and I thought that it was very nice.  

The menu at Pero’s on the Hill includes a few Greek items scattered among the Italian and American standards.  These include: Gyro Wrap ($9.85); Greek Burger ($9.85); Pasticcio ($11.85), and; Souvlaki ($12.55).  By contrast, Shrimp and Grits ($12.55), a southern staple is also offered.  By far the most unusual offering is the Luther Burger. ($7.95) This celebrity burger, which was featured years back on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno, consists of a bacon cheeseburger served on a grilled Krispy Kreme Donut!

After learning that it was my birthday, the waitress brought us a piece of Baklava with a candle in it along with a scoop of ice cream. (Normally $6.35) I enjoyed this bit of sweetness as a cap to dinner.  Laurie took a photo of me with the dessert but it was blurry so I inserted this photo of me tasting her glass of Merlot.
I always thought that Baklava had originated in Greece but after checking I discovered that its beginnings were in the Ottoman Empire. (Turkey) To learn more about this sweet treat, you can go to

I was stuffed beyond capacity but Laurie was more sensible and she brought home most of her pizza.  Pero’s is a fun place and it’s very popular.  The price is right and the food is plentiful.  Other than the spaghetti sauce, we thought that our variety of appetizers and entrees were a bit bland…nothing wrong with them but not to our taste.

Pero’s on the Hill is at 7706 South Northshore Drive in Knoxville Tennessee.  Phone: 865-694-6900.  The Website is at

Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them…

Thanks for stopping by for a visit!

Take Care, Big Daddy Dave

Monday, August 24, 2015

Homestead National Monument – Beatrice Nebraska

I had a specific destination as my goal once we crossed the state line from Kansas into Nebraska…

This is the Headquarters and Museum for the Homestead National Monument of America which is located just a little west and north of Beatrice Nebraska. 

The National Homestead Monument commemorates the Homestead Act of 1862 and the far-reaching effects it had on our nation’s landscape and our people.  This Law turned over vast amounts of the public domain to private citizens…with a total of 270 million acres or 10% of the area of the United States claimed and settled under the Homestead Act.  By granting 160 acres of free land to claimants, it allowed nearly any man or woman a "fair chance." 

  • Along the sidewalk leading to the building is the "Living Wall," a physical representation of the percentage of land that was successfully homesteaded in each state.  The 30 “Homestead States”, from Florida to Alaska, are lined up in order from east to west as you would see them on a map.  45% of Nebraska was ‘homesteaded’ vs. less than 1% of Alaska.

Other than the fact that Nebraska has the highest percentage of homesteaded land, there is another reason that the Homestead National Monument is located in this specific spot.  It’s impossible to prove it but  legend has it that Daniel Freeman filed his claim 10 minutes after midnight at the Land Office in Brownville Nebraska on January 1, 1863, the first day the Homestead Act went into effect.  This was the land where he had his homestead...

Mr. Freeman came from Illinois to Nebraska and began corresponding with Agnes Suiter, a young woman from Le Claire Iowa.  Agnes had been engaged to Daniel's brother James, who died in the Civil War.  Daniel proposed marriage through the mail, and in 1865, he brought his new bride back to his homestead claim.  They had 8 children there over the years.  As the children grew, some married and built homes on the old homestead.  None of the old homes exist today…

The exhibits inside the Park Headquarters are extensive and well done.  Being into trains, cars, planes and other modes of transportation, I had to include photos of some early ‘wheels’ the buckboard wagon above and this nice looking buggy. 

The Homestead National Monument of America currently has over 9,000 archaeological artifacts, over 7,000 historical objects, almost 1,000 scientific specimens and over 43,000 archival documents or 26.9 linear feet of material. The total collection for the Homestead National Monument of America includes over 60,000 items.   

The exhibits in the museum portion of the building include a lot of information about homesteading and homesteaders as well as the tools and equipment needed to succeed. 

The list of homesteaders and descendants of homesteaders include many familiar names.  These include: George Washington Carver (Inventor and Educator); Willa Cather (Author); Whoopi Goldberg (Actress); Chet Huntley (Journalist and Newscaster); ’Jewel’ Kilcher (Singer); Thomas Kleppe (Congressman, Director of the Small Business Administration and Secretary of the Interior); Walter Knott (Knott’s Berry Farm Theme Park); Bill Nelson (Congressman, Senator and Astronaut); Al Neuharth (Founder – USA Today); Jeannette Rankin (1st Female member of Congress); Lawrence Welk (Musician and Entertainer), and; Laura Ingalls Wilder (Author – Little House on the Prairie and others).

I just had to include the McCormick Reaper poster and a model of the original design.  My better half’s is related to the McCormick family line…

Although Cyrus Hall McCormick is generally credited with the invention of this revolutionary piece of farm equipment, he wasn’t the only person involved in the process.  His father had worked on this project for many years and other inventor’s ‘reapers’ included design elements that were eventually included in the successful McCormick reaper.  To read more about the development of the modern reaper, go to, and

While the mechanical reaper was critical to the development of farming on the prairie, it wouldn’t have seen the use it has if John Deere hadn’t invented the first commercially successful steel plow.  Old fashioned wooden and iron plows couldn’t plow the thick sod so his plow was revolutionary.  For more information, just go to

There is a plethora of photos on display that shows early homesteaders and their families with their homes and livestock… Life, especially on the prairie, was primitive and challenging.  How many of us today could survive this experience?  Note the lack of trees… Before settlers planted trees around their homesteads, almost all the trees were limited to the riverbanks of larger rivers.

A homesteader had only to be the head of a household or at least 21 years of age to claim a 160 acre parcel of land.  Settlers from all walks of life including newly arrived immigrants, farmers without land of their own from the East, single women and former slaves came to meet the challenge of "proving up" and keeping this "free land".  Each homesteader had to live on the land, build a home, make improvements and farm for 5 years before they were eligible to "prove up" and receive a patent for their land.  A total filing fee of $18 was the only money required, but sacrifice and hard work exacted a different type of cost from the hopeful settlers.

  • Out of roughly 4,000,000 homestead claims by settlers, only about 1,400,000 persevered through illness, flood, drought and pestilence, meeting all of the requirements and earning their land patents

This display shows the last Homesteader… With a 10 year extension for Alaska, the Homestead Act was in effect until 1986. Over these 123 years, about 2 million individuals used the Homestead Act to attempt to earn the patent to a piece of land.

In 1974, a young Vietnam veteran and native Californian named Kenneth Deardorff filed a homestead claim on 80 acres of land on the Stony River in southwestern Alaska.  Over the next ten years, he and his family lived on and worked the land.  He built all the buildings on the property from white spruce trees.  He fished for salmon and hunted moose and other wild game for food and often woke up in the morning to find grizzly bears in his front yard.  Transportation was limited to a boat or a dog team.  Temperatures often dipped as low as 65 degrees below zero. 

In June 2001, the Bureau of Land Management and the National Park Service got together and officially recognized Deardorff as the nation's final homesteader…

The Palmer-Epard Cabin is located close to the Headquarters Building/Museum.  It was originally built about 14 miles northeast of the Monument by George W. Palmer in 1867 using mixed hardwoods.  The cabin is representative of the local construction style and is considered luxurious in size as it measures 14 x 16 feet! 

I included this photo of the cabin door because I liked it.  Laurie has an eye for these artful shots… 

These 3 photos show the original entirety of the cabin's interior…moving from the right side of the room to the left.  Can you imagine living in this one room cabin with 10 children?!  Finally, between 1875 and 1880, a 10 x 12 foot lean-to was added to the rear of the original cabin.  The Palmers continued to live in this structure until 1895.  Another family lived in this home until around 1940.

We didn’t have a chance to visit the Freeman School which is also located on the Monument grounds.   A landmark judicial decision regarding the separation of church and state and involving this school took place in Nebraska in 1902.  The Nebraska Supreme Court ruled in favor of the plaintiff, stating that the use of the bible in school by the teacher with the support of the school board violated the Nebraska Constitution's provisions regarding the separation of church and state.  This case was settled many years before the United States Supreme Court ever addressed the issue.

Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them…

Thanks for stopping by!  To learn more about visiting the Homestead National Monument of America you can go to

Take Care, Big Daddy Dave