Monday, November 3, 2014

History Along Nebraska’s Highways – Part V

Moving west from Lexington Nebraska along US 30 (Lincoln Highway), we searched out several additional historic places in Dawson County…

The first two historic sites were in Cozad Nebraska.  This is the old Hendee Hotel.  It now houses the Robert Henri Museum.  Robert Henri (6/24/1865 – July 12, 1929) was an American painter and teacher.  He was a leading figure of the “Ashcan School” of American realism and an organizer of the group known as "The Eight," a loose association of artists who protested the restrictive exhibition practices of the powerful, conservative National Academy of Design.

Henri was born Robert Henry Cozad to Theresa Gatewood Cozad and John Jackson Cozad, the gambler and real estate developer that founded the town of Cozad.  After his father killed a man in town the family fled east and Robert changed his last name to Henri.  To learn more about Robert Henri and to see some of his paintings, just go to or visit this museum in Cozad.  The museum’s Website is found at  

This two-story brick (later stuccoed) building was constructed about 1879 by John J. Cozad, Robert Henri’s father.  Local legend holds that the hotel was the scene of the shooting incident between Cozad and a local farmer which led to the Cozad family’s departure from town.  Cozad he sold the hotel to Stephen A. Hendee, a grain dealer, in 1883.   During the 1870’s when the first towns in Dawson County were being established, it was considered essential that some buildings be built from brick or stone to show the world that they were towns of permanence and substance.  Of the original brick buildings in Cozad, only the Hendee Hotel survives. 

Allen’s “Opera House” is also located in Cozad.  The ‘opera house’, (theater/town gathering place), was built by Charles Allen in 1906.  The concrete block used in its construction was manufactured by a local Cozad businessman.  The first floor originally housed the Cozad State Bank, co-owned by Allen, as well as the Allen General Store.  The opera house and some professional office space were located on the second level.  

The ‘opera house’ held its grand opening in February 1907 with the comedy, "Old Arkansas."  The actual space on the 2nd floor that was dedicated to the opera house/auditorium measured 45 feet by 59 feet and allegedly provided seating for 500 patrons.  A jewelry store now occupies the first floor and the upper level is vacant.

Moving along US 30, we came to the town of Gothenburg.  The portion of this building in the center of this photo is the Carnegie Public Library.  It was erected in 1915-16 and it’s a simplified example of the Jacobethan Revival style. Designed by a local architect, the building is unique among libraries in the state due to its ell-shaped plan and it’s detailing. Other Carnegie Libraries in Nebraska follow the rectangular plan and Neo-Classical Revival as was established by the Carnegie Corporation.

Note: A total of 2,509 Carnegie Libraries were built between 1883 and 1929, of which 1,689 were erected in the USA.  In the early 20th Century, the Carnegie Library was often the most impressive structure in many small American communities.  Andrew Carnegie was born in Scotland and immigrated to the USA with his parents.  Starting from nothing, he became one of the wealthiest men in the country.  He was the first true philanthropist, giving away 90% of his fortune.  In today’s dollars, that would equal $4,760,000,000!  To learn more, go to

This is the Calling House.  It was built in 1907 for Ernest A. Calling, a pioneer businessman of Gothenburg.  Born in Klipp, Sweden, in 1870, Calling immigrated to the United States in 1889.   The house is a well-preserved example of a Queen Anne residence.  With a name like Gothenburg, it’s no surprise that the town had a sizeable Swedish population.  Over his time in the town, Calling was involved in ranching, business, local government and land development.  When he died in 1945, a local newspaper judged him to be a pioneer resident of Gothenburg and one of its most prominent citizens.
Gothenburg named after Gothenburg, Sweden.  The town was founded in 1882 by Olof Bergstrom, who immigrated to America from Sweden in 1881.  He worked for a time on the Union Pacific Railroad, and then homesteaded in Dawson County near the location of today’s town.  He became a land agent for the UP and selected the site that was to become Gothenburg.  Bergstrom also made several return trips to Sweden to lead groups of settlers to Dawson County. The population of Gothenburg today is a little over 3,500.

Factoid: Ben Kuroki, the only Japanese-American to serve in the US Army Air Force in the Pacific during World War II, was born in Gothenburg.  He flew a total of 58 combat missions.  He flew 30 of his combat missions in Europe and then 28 more in the Pacific theater.  He earned 3 distinguished Flying Cross Medals!  Ben’s nickname was “Most Honorable Son, Sad Saki”.  He was 97 years old at the last report!  For more, go to

This is the original Sam Macchette Pony Express Station.  Originally it was used as a fur trading post/ranch house along the Oregon Trail southwest of Gothenburg.  Later it was used as a Pony Express Station in 1860 – 1861.  It was moved from its original site and was rebuilt in Gothenburg’s Ehmen Park, just 2 miles north of I-80.  This Pony Express Museum has been open to the public since the early 1950s.

There is another Pony Express Station…the Midway Station…a bit south of Gothenburg.  Laurie and I went looking for it and we did manage to see some pretty country, but we couldn’t find the site.  A bit of research revealed that it is on private land and it’s truly off the beaten path.

The Pony Express Station in Gothenburg’s Ehmen Park is small museum with a gift shop that benefits the Gothenburg Historical Society and Museum.  This structure is almost cave like…with rough beams and wall boards.  I’m sure that the brick floor was a necessity in order for the building to serve its new purpose.  The docent on duty was quite nice and very informative.
From North Platte to Fort Kearney the Pony Express Trail and the Oregon Trail were located on the south side of the Platte River, while the Mormon Trail was on the north side.  From Fort Kearney the Pony Express Trail headed southeast out of the Platte Valley following the Little Blue River.  There were 53 Pony Express Stations in Nebraska alone!

Mail was carried in a “Mochila”…a saddle covered with an overlay with 4 pockets, each of which carried 5 lbs. of mail.  The mail pouch was changed from one horse to another every 10 or 12 miles at a Pony Express “Way” or “Relay” Station.   During its brief 18 months of operation, it reduced the time for messages to travel between the Atlantic and Pacific coasts to about 10 days!  From April 1860, to October 1861, it was the West's most direct means of east–west communication and it was vital for tying the new state of California with the rest of the country.

Pony Express Factoids…

·        The route of the Pony Express was 1,900 miles.  Each rider covered roughly 75 - 90 miles a day…changing mounts about 7 or 8 times every trip.

·        It took about 80 riders to cover the route plus another 400 personnel to staff the stations, care for the horses, etc.

·        Riders were paid about $100 per month at a time when the average daily wage ranged from 43 cents up to $1.00.

·        Riders could not weigh more than 125 lbs.  For defense against Indians, they only carried a pistol.  Anything else weighed too much for the speed required.  One rider killed 6 Indians before he was killed…

·        Buffalo Bill Cody was allegedly a Pony Express Rider at the age of 15!

To learn more about the Pony Express, its role in American History and the characters who were involved in this money losing venture, you can go to

Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them…

Thanks for stopping by for a visit!

Take Care, Big Daddy Dave 


  1. I wish I had 4 billion to leave to someone(s). Had to believe we've gone from 70 miles/day to 70 miles/hr on the ground in such a short time.

  2. Interesting info... I did not know that Buffalo Bill Cody was at one time a Pony Express rider when he was young... I always learn something new when reading your blog.

    Great photos and interesting places you visited in Nebraska.

  3. The Pony Express information is fascinating. You really do amazing research David.

  4. Dave I appreciate and enjoy all the work and detail you put into each post. What a great trip. Never a dull day for you guys! :D

    I found the facts of the Pony Express most interesting. Have a wonderful evening.