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NSHS Volunteer News

January/February 2003

 Volunteer Spotlight on Evelyn Young

Evelyn Young Photo

About 1986, through a friend's suggestion, Evelyn Young began volunteering at the NSHS. Evelyn started to volunteer when the library and archives were separate divisions, and located in a variety of locations at the Society's 1500 R Street building-- second floor, first floor, east and west wings. Now the library/archives are combined into one division and currently housed on the first floor of the headquarters building.

Evelyn began volunteer work in the Library/Archives Division assisting patrons with genealogy research on the weekends. Evelyn recalled, "I was introduced to materials that I didn't know about, and thought how great it would be to get locked in the building, but then I realized that I wouldn't have any electricity to run the microfilm readers or copy machines." Evelyn went on to say that she "finds it refreshing to see someone's smile when they find something."

One of the greatest things Evelyn does for the NSHS is perform Random Acts Of Genealogical Kindness (RAOGK). You can learn more about RAOGK by logging on to the website at She not only uses her knowledge and skills by volunteering her time, but she also uses her talents and abilities to raise money for the NSHS. Evelyn got started extending genealogical kindness when "I was befriended by a gentleman from Michigan who had assisted me with some research -- he didn't charge me." The RAOGK website allows researchers that are unable to come to Nebraska to contact people such as Evelyn, and request a one-time search for genealogical data. After Evelyn has provided the information she requests that the individual make a donation to the NSHS.

Evelyn values volunteering because, "if it weren't for volunteers we wouldn't have what we have -- an opportunity to share with others." She further commented, "I have gotten to know so many people, and I am pleased to pay back what I have gotten and to share information."

Evelyn's enthusiasm and pride are evident. She is proud of her five daughters, who all live within a forty-five mile radius. She has sixteen grandchildren, and five great grandchildren. One day, while picking up a grandson, she asked him what he would remember most about his grandmother, and his reply was, "Your smile." Evelyn's NSHS family would agree -- the cheerfulness in her voice and willingness to help others makes her a terrific volunteer. Her delight in helping others has motivated Evelyn to teach genealogy at the Lincoln Parks and Recreation Department, at senior centers, to retired college professors, dentists, and doctors, and at her church. Evelyn's other hobbies include cooking, reading gourmet magazines, and her church study class.

Our hats go off to Evelyn for her random acts of genealogical kindness, her cheerful smile, and assisting the NSHS to achieve its mission. Here's to you Evelyn!

New Exhibit: Made In Nebraska

Nebraska is known for many things: corn, football, friendly people, and sweeping vistas, but Nebraska could just as easily be known for some of the many products that have been manufactured or invented here. Kool-Aid and the Eskimo Pie have Nebraska connections, as well as Healthy Choice dinners, Vise-Grip wrenches, Terri Lee dolls, Cushman scooters, and agricultural implements of all shapes and sizes. The machine that puffs grain to make your morning breakfast cereal was invented by a Nebraskan, as well as the "Delusion" mousetrap. A new exhibit, Made in Nebraska, opening in January at the Museum of Nebraska History, celebrates some of the many items that, as the title states, were made in Nebraska. The exhibit will open January 9, 2003, and will run for a year. The Museum of Nebraska History is located on the corner of Fifteenth and P Streets and is open 9-4:30, Monday -- Friday, and 1-4:30, Saturday and Sunday. For more information call 471-4754 or visit our website at

Society Trustees Govern NSHS

Four individuals were recently elected to the Nebraska State Historical Society Board of Trustees.

The new trustees include Jason Kress of Sterling, Annabelle Brodbeck Marsh of Grand Island, Beverly Wilhelm of Unadilla, and Charles E. Trimble of Omaha. Patrick Kennedy of Omaha and Jack Preston of Lyman were re-elected to a second term on the board, and Joyce Hillman-Kortum was reappointed by Governor Mike Johanns. These trustees will take their seats on the board beginning January 2003, and will serve three-year terms.

Others serving on the board include: Margaret Allington of Lincoln, Keith Blackledge of North Platte, Dr. Peter Bleed of Lincoln, James Denney of Omaha, Dr. Herb Grandbois of Omaha, Dr. Martin Massengale of Lincoln, Pat Phillips of Omaha, and Sally Vifquain of Kearney.

The State Historical Society is governed by a fifteen-member board. Twelve members are elected by society members and three are appointed by the governor.

John W. Botts:
A Black Nebraska Soldier in the War with Spain

Because February is Black History Month, it seems appropriate to remember a virtually unknown African American from Nebraska who served in the Spanish-American War. What little we currently know about John Botts comes from several documents in the Society's J. Sterling Morton collection. The most significant item is a letter Botts wrote to Morton from Cuba in 1898, where he was serving with the Twenty-third Kansas Colored Volunteer Infantry. Botts noted that he was "the only colored vol. from Nebraska." His abilities as a soldier seem to be confirmed by his rank as first sergeant in Company H.

Botts may have been related to some of the black families who came to Nemaha County in the 1880s, because Patrick Kennedy found residents by that name during research for his article on Nemaha County's African American community, which appeared in the Spring 2001 Nebraska History. Other persons named Botts were mentioned in the Nebraska City newspapers, which also had a modest African American population. A letter in the Morton collection confirms that John Botts once worked in the Nebraska City starch factory managed by Morton's son, Carl. His employment there undoubtedly explains how Botts came to know Morton, who wrote a letter of reference when Botts sought to enlist in1898.

Botts's undated letter from Cuba was written near Santiago. The fighting had ended, and the Twenty-third Kansas was serving occupation duty. The regiment arrived in Santiago Bay September 1. "The next morning we landed in the dirty city of Santiago and the sights I saw was enough to make any body shed tears. Dirty, ragged, black and white children, naked and barefooted and poor as a snake, begging and crying for something, some sick from starving, others from the dreadful fever. . . . The streets are narrow and dirty, the slops run down the middle of the street and the stench is terrible.

"The most of the people are poor and the U.S. Government feeds them. Some of the girls are very pretty but they are thinly clad and do not look like American women. . . . They wonder why some of the soldiers are white and some are so black and all called Americans; they say they love us, using this expression: 'Cubano Amego, Mucha Mollo Americano,' which means Cubans friends, good American."

Botts went on to say that he was learning Spanish, and had acquired several souvenirs, including a coat button belonging to an officer of one of the Spanish battleships. He concluded by asking J. Sterling Morton to keep sending him papers to read, "as I get very lonesome out here, being the youngest first sergeant and can not play with my men. I am by my self most of the time."

Botts included his photograph with the letter, but I have not searched for it in the NSHS collections. What happened to John Botts after the war, I do not know. Perhaps someday I will be able to tell you "the rest of the story."

-Jim Potter

Reel Treasures Film Series

Reel Treasures, including great American films to which Nebraskans have contributed, will be featured in the 2003 NSHS film series beginning January 19.  The films will be shown at 2:00 p.m., at the Museum of Nebraska History, Fifteenth and P Streets, Lincoln, and are open to the public.

Seven significant films from the National Film Preservation Board's National Registry have been selected for screening. Underwriting for the film series is provided by the Douglas Theatre Company, Lincoln, through the efforts of the Nebraska State Historical Society Foundation.

January 19: Safety Last (1923) -- This perfect combination of thrills and laughter stars Burchard native Harold Lloyd.

January 26: Top Hat (1935) -- Native Nebraskan Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers sing and dance to Irving Berlin's music.

February 2: The Lady Eve (1941) -- Henry Fonda plays a brewery heir pursued by gold digger Barbara Stanwyck in this Preston Sturges comedy.

February 9: How Green Was My Valley (1941) -- Darryl Zanuck producer won the Academy Award for best picture with this story of a Welsh coal-mining family.

February 16: The Heiress (1949) -- Olivia de Havilland won an Oscar, but this film helped make Omaha native Montgomery Clift a star.

February 23: On the Waterfront (1954) -- Marlon Brando's first Academy Award came from his portrayal of an ex-boxer longshoreman fighting corruption.

March 2: Badlands (1974) -- A critically acclaimed film based on the Charles Starkweather/Caril Fugate murder spree. 

Established by the Library of Congress in 1988, the National Film Preservation Board preserves films deemed "culturally, historically, or aesthetically important." To date more than three hundred films have been placed on the board's National Film Registry.

125 year logo 2003 -- Our 125th Year

The Nebraska State Historical Society has been saving Nebraska's past for 125 years, and this anniversary will be marked by a variety of activities throughout 2003. Via special exhibits and public programs we'll take a look back at what's been accomplished through the decades, and look toward the future with a redesigned Nebraska History magazine and website and new initiatives to create greater public access to and awareness of the rich treasures NSHS preserves.

Among the highlights slated for 2003:

January: Made in Nebraska, an exhibit featuring items ranging from the Delusion mousetrap to Vise-Grip pliers produced by Nebraska manufacturers and workers from the 1860s to the 1990s. Opens January 9 at the Museum of Nebraska History, Lincoln.

January-March: Reel Treasures film series (see related article)

April: A Celebration of our African American Past, conference, exhibit, and performances, April 25-27 at the Gerald R. Ford Center in Omaha.

June: Dedication of the reconstructed 1874 Cavalry Barracks, Fort Robinson, June 7.

September: 125th Annual Meeting and Conference, celebrating the 125th anniversary of the NSHS, the 50th anniversary of completion of the 1500 R Street headquarters building, and unveiling new designs for Nebraska History and the NSHS website.

Other features:

Senior Research Historian Jim Potter's account of the last twenty-five years of the Society's history, to be published in Nebraska History quarterly.

Special Nebraska History issue on baseball.

Treasures from the Nebraska State Historical Society, wonderful and wacky artifacts from the Society's collections to be exhibited at Society facilities statewide.

Brown bag lecture series focusing on what Society staff research has uncovered about our past.

Watch these pages and your mailbox for more details.

January Volunteer Program

Please join us on Wednesday, January 8, 2003, for a program that will focus on Some Untold Stories of the NSHS. The program will be presented by Jim Potter, senior research historian. We will begin with refreshments at 10:00 a.m., followed by the program at 10:30, at 1500 R Street, Lincoln. Please contact Deb McWilliams at 471-4955 regarding your attendance.

Indian on horseback logo  FROM THE MUSEUM STORE

For your winter reading enjoyment consider one of these titles from the Museum Store by Nebraska authors:

The Rim of the Prairie, by Bess Streeter Aldrich
Death Comes For The Archbishop, by Willa Cather
The River and I, by John G. Neihardt
The Story Catcher, by Mari Sandoz

New book titles in the Museum Store:

Roadside Geology of Nebraska, by Harmon D. Maher, Jr., George F. Engelmann, and Robert D. Shuster
Corn Among the Indians of the Upper Missouri, by George F. Will and George E. Hyde
Women of the West, by Dorothy Gray
Far from Home, Families of the Westward Journey, by Lillian Schlissel, Byrd Gibbens, and Elizabeth Hampsten

Visit us at the Museum Store at Fifteenth and P Streets, Lincoln, to make your purchase. If you can't stop in, give us a call at 402-471-3447.

Point of View -- Extraordinary People

From my point of view as the volunteer coordinator for the Nebraska State Historical Society, everything that we accomplish as an organization is magnified due to the support of our volunteers. As an organization that focuses on history, we know that history has shown that people have pitched in during wartime, to care for their neighbors, and to give to non-profit organizations. I've seen people of all ages join together to make things happen -- and happen in a very meaningful way that allows us to continue to share the state's history.

In 2003 the NSHS will host a series of activities to celebrate its 125th anniversary as an organization, and the 50th birthday of our headquarters building at Fifteenth and R Streets. The quality of our volunteers at the NSHS makes our job easier; and these are the qualities that will sustain us for the next 125 years and beyond. We are fortunate to know what it means to live in a community, state, and country that recognizes the importance of volunteers. A big round of applause to each and every one of you from the NSHS!

- Deb McWilliams

The Brown Bag Lectures

On January 16, Andrea Faling, associate director of the NSHS Library/Archives Division will present The Plow That Broke the Plains. This is a U.S. Government film listed on the National Film Registry of America's culturally significant motion pictures. Described by its director Pare Lorentz as "a factual film which is dramatic," a discussion of how the film came to be made and how it was viewed will precede the film's showing.

Rob Bozell, associate director of the NSHS Archeology Division, will present Archeology of the Oto-Missouria Tribe on February 20.

The lectures begin at noon at the Museum of Nebraska History on Fifteenth and P Streets, Lincoln. Bring your lunch and join us for some informative presentations.

New Volunteers

Margaret "Peg" Aldridge, library/archives

Tom Armstrong, docent

Eliza Bachman, museum store

Jack Chaffin, docent

David Carlbom, docent

Thomas Curran, docent

Gold Wings Motorcycle Club:

Diane Daly, library/archives
Arnold Eivins, library/archives
Joan Eivins, library/archives
Don Hevelone, library/archives
JoAnn Hevelone, library/archives
Bill Holland, library/archives
Earl Lahn, library/archives
JoAnne Lahn, library/archives
Alan Rosenboom, library/archives
Sandy Rosenboom, library/archives
Edgar Waymire, library/archives
Vickie Waymire, library/archives

Sherrie Gregory, docent

Charlotte "Jean" Harper, docent

Evelyn Hastings, docent

Gladys "Gladi" Helm, docent

Tracy Hoffman, library/archives

Glen Houtz, docent

Wendy Johnson, library/archives

Leona Kolbet, docent

Carole Barnes-Montgomery, docent

Dorothy Neill, docent

Linda Oehlerinig, docent

Rich Oehlerking, docent

Merna Phillips, museum collections

Kathy Plessman, docent

Amanda Ray, docent

Penny Stovall, docent

Donald Swing, docent

Jeanne Vannorsdall, docent

Elizabeth Volkmer, library/archives

Calendar of Events
January 2003

January 8: Volunteer Program
10:00 am, NSHS Headquarters, 1500 "R" Street, Lincoln

January 10: NSHS Board of Trustees Meeting,
8:30 am, NSHS Headquarters, 1500 "R" Street, Lincoln

January 16: Brown Bag Lecture
12:00 noon, Lincoln

January 19: Film Series
2:00 pm, Lincoln

January 20: Martin Luther King, Jr. Day (see note below)

January 26: Film Series
2:00 pm, Lincoln

February 2003

February 2: Film Series
2:00 am, Lincoln

February 9: Film Series
2:00 pm, Lincoln

February 14:valentines day   Chocolate

February 16: Film Series
2:00 pm, Lincoln

February 17: Presidents' Day (see note below)

February 20: Brown Bag Lecture
12:00 noon, Lincoln

February 23: Film Series
2:00 pm, Lincoln

March 2003

March 2: Film Series
2:00 pm, Lincoln

In observance of Martin Luther King Day, Society headquarters and the Gerald R. Ford Conservation Center in Omaha will be closed Monday, January 20. The Museum of Nebraska History and the Historic Sites operated by the NSHS will be closed January 20. Call for holiday hours at the Neihardt Site (402-648-3388) and Cather Site (402-746-2653).

In observance of Presidents' Day, Society headquarters and the Ford Center will be closed Monday, February 17. The Museum of Nebraska History and the Historic Sites operated by the NSHS will be closed February 17. Call for holiday hours as above.

"The mission of the Nebraska State Historical Society is to safeguard and interpret Nebraska's past and make it accessible in ways that enrich present and future generations."

Volunteer News is published bi-monthly for the world-class volunteers at the Nebraska State Historical Society. For information about volunteering with any of our divisions, or at any location across the state, contact:

Deb McWilliams, Volunteer Services
402-471-4955 or 1-800-833-6747

Apply for Volunteer Service today!

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Last updated 10 January 2003

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