Friday, October 10, 2014

History Along Nebraska’s Highways (Part I)

As many of you have noticed, railroad depots and related rolling stock are bits of American history and I do enjoy searching and exploring their background.  But there are many, many other locations, buildings and objects across the USA that are part of our history.  As we drove across a small portion of eastern and central Nebraska, we ‘discovered’ quite a few of these local focal points. 

Here is Part I of our ‘historical’ exploration…

Yes…this is a torpedo!  It has a place of honor in front of the Saunders County Courthouse in Wahoo Nebraska.  So what the heck is a torpedo doing in the middle of the country, far away from the Ocean?  Former members of the US Navy may have the best chance of answering that question. Wahoo was a name given to a famous submarine in the US Navy…

The first USS Wahoo (SS-238) was a Gato-class submarine.  It was first United States Navy ship to be named for the wahoo, a dark blue food fish found around Florida and the West Indies.  Construction started before the U.S entered World War II, she was assigned to the Pacific theatre. She gained fame as an aggressive and highly successful submarine after Lt. Commander Dudley Walker "Mush" Morton became her skipper.  Unfortunately, she was sunk by Japanese aircraft in October 1943 while returning home from a patrol in the Sea of Japan.

The Mark 14 torpedo and a granite marker are a memorial to the U.S.S. Wahoo and its crew of 65.  The submarine was credited with sinking 20 Japanese ships.  Each October a memorial service is held at the courthouse to honor those who gave their lives in submarine warfare.  In 2006, the wreckage of the U.S.S. Wahoo was discovered in Japan’s Soya Strait.

This is a photo of the U.S.S. Wahoo during World War II. (Photo ‘borrowed’ from Wikipedia) To learn more about this submarine and its valiant crew, you can go to

The Saunders County Courthouse itself is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.  Ashland Nebraska was the first Saunders County seat but after some rumored records thefts from Ashland, voters chose Wahoo as the county seat in 1873.  Within a year the first courthouse was built in Wahoo.  However, by the beginning of the 20th century the county determined that there was a need of a new home for its offices and in 1904 the present courthouse was built.  Construction costs for this massive Romanesque Revival-style building were $87,000!  If it were built today, it would cost over $2,350,000.

The memorial marker on the right, combined with the Mark 14 torpedo as previously shown, is part of the U.S.S. Wahoo Memorial. 

This is the Seward County Courthouse in the city of Seward Nebraska.  Actually, the courthouse is the centerpiece of the Seward County Courthouse Square Historic District, which is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.  The square is one of the finest nineteenth and early twentieth century commercial districts in the state.  In addition to the courthouse, there are a plethora of other structures listed in this Historic District.  To view a complete listing of the many structures included in this historic district, including photos, you can go to this site:
The 3-story, limestone courthouse was constructed from 1904 to 1906.  It was designed in the County Capitol form by architect George A. Berlinghof. (c. 1862 – 1944) He was a German-born architect who designed a number of important buildings in several cities and towns in Nebraska and adjoining states.  Berlinghof remained active as an architect until 1930.  Between 1911 and 1918, he partnered with Ellery L. Davis in the firm of Berlinghof and Davis.  This company survives today as the Davis Design firm, with offices in Lincoln NE and Vermillion, SD.

This beautiful home is listed in the National Register and it is also located in Seward… The 2 and a half story Harry T. Jones house was completed in 1890.  Mr. Jones was President of the Jones National Bank and he hired none other than the aforementioned George A. Berlinghof to design his home.  This house is considered the best example of the Queen Anne style in Seward.  The property also includes a ca. 1890 brick carriage house. In addition to this home, Mr. Jones was the largest landowner in the county…

To learn more about the design and this home’s detailed description, just go to  FYI…The Jones Bank Building ca. 1874 is also included in the Seward County Courthouse Square Historic District.  

I’ve included this photo of the National Guard Armory in Seward as it recently became the home of the Nebraska National Guard Museum.  Two tanks, including a 50-ton Patton M-60 Main Battle Tank and this vintage WWII/Korean War M-4 Sherman as well as 2 Armored Personnel Carriers are on display around the exterior of the armory/museum. The museum is a work in progress with a planned dedication of this project slated for July 4, 2016.

The city of Seward was founded in 1868.  It was named after Seward County which in turn was named after William H. Seward, the acting Secretary of State under President Lincoln. (Seward was behind the purchase of Alaska from Russia) The city has a population of about 7,000 and its best known for its July 4th celebrations.  The city has celebrated our Independence Day almost every year since 1868.  Before automobiles came into general use, special trains were operated to bring people to the event.  In 1979, a resolution in the U.S. Congress named Seward "America's Official Fourth of July City—Small Town USA".  Recent attendance at this gala event has been estimated at about 40,000!

That’s it for this first chapter of our historical tour of Nebraska’s byways and highways… Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them.

Thanks for stopping by for a visit!

Take Care, Big Daddy Dave


  1. I really like fine old homes like this one. I knew we had not RVed in Neb but in looking at the map, I can't remember ever being in the state.

  2. I keep staring at the brick on the court house. The court house where I grew up in Arkansas looks incredibly similar.