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


  1. We saw a lot of those kinds of dredges when we lived in Vicksburg. The river is a big deal there. I am impressed with the number of chimneys on the Major house. Too bad it's fallen into a bad state of repair. I hope someone, somewhere falls in love with it and saves it. Unfortunately it probably would cost a small fortunate to bring it back though. But we've seen a lot of old homes in Mississippi saved, so there's always hope.

  2. I never considered that the MO River required dredging - thanks for posting this.