Official Nebraska Government Website Nebraska State Historical Society

NSHS Volunteer News

July/August 2003

 Volunteer Spotlight
on Leah Rae "Punky" Schneider

Leah Rae Schneider
My how time flies. This issue spotlights Leah Rae "Punky" Schneider. The Society has had the good fortune to have Leah Rae Schneider as a volunteer since 1987. Leah Rae was encouraged to volunteer at the NSHS by another Society volunteer, and she has been volunteering in the Archeology Division since that time. She has also spent time as a volunteer with the Society's Library/Archives Division.

At the Society's Archeology Division Leah Rae spends Wednesdays cataloging artifacts -- "putting numbers on bones, filing, and bringing files up to date." In past years you could find her "sifting through dirt to find archeology artifacts." When she isn't volunteering in the Archeology Division, she assists the library/archives staff in researching and putting together information on births and deaths from the Scottsbluff Republican newspaper.

A large part of why Leah Rae volunteers is "the socializing, meeting other volunteers, and an interest in history and archeology." Leah Rae indicated that the best things about volunteering at the Society are, "you are treated well, and the trips and gatherings are fun." She continued by saying that "volunteering at the Society has expanded my interests." I asked Leah Rae what she would tell someone who asked why they should volunteer at the NSHS, and she responded, "It is a good use of your spare time, it helps the community, you learn so many things, and it makes you feel good."

My most curious question for Leah Rae was how she got the name "Punky." She replied, "It is a name that was given to me by my husband. He always called me Punky and everyone in the neighborhood thought it was my real name. So everyone in the neighborhood calls me Punky. People outside of the neighborhood call me Leah Rae. Now that everyone in the neighborhood calls me Punky, my husband stopped calling me Punky."

Leah Rae grew up in Scottsbluff. When she and her husband Kenny married they moved to Lincoln, and have lived in the same home for forty-five years. They have a son who lives in Illinois, and have one granddaughter and one great-granddaughter.

Leah Rae describes herself and her interests as, "I'm a computer nerd, I love to walk, and I read anything." Punky, your friends at the NSHS say "Thank you for your commitment to Nebraska history, and your dedicated service as a volunteer."

-- Deb McWilliams

Save the Date

Where were you in September of 1953? If you were in Lincoln, one of the hottest tickets in town was to the brand new Nebraska State Historical Society building at 1500 R Street. Of course, no ticket was needed- the new facility with its museum, library, auditorium, and offices was open to the public free of charge.

Where will you be in September of 2003? We hope you'll be helping us celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Society headquarters building, its listing in the National Register of Historic Places, and the 125th anniversary of the Nebraska State Historical Society. On Friday, September 26, the Society will host Dr. James C. Olson, author of the classic History of Nebraska, and superintendent of the NSHS when the R Street building was constructed and dedicated. Dr. Olson will reflect upon the significance of the building to the Society's history.

We'll also present our annual awards to individuals and organizations who've been exemplary in helping preserve our state's past, hold an open house at the R Street building, and open a new exhibit, Recovered Views: African American Portraits, 1912-1925. More details to come, but mark your calendars and save the date!

See the Sites of Kansas, October 9-10

Reserve these dates now for the Society's annual fall bus tour. This year we will travel beyond our borders to visit historic sites and museums in our sister state of Kansas. Stops will include the U.S. Cavalry Museum at Fort Riley, the Dwight D. Eisenhower Center in Abilene, the Garden of Eden in Lucas, and the Pawnee Village Museum near Republic. Our overnight stay will be in Abilene.

Fort Riley was long the home of the U.S. Cavalry, including George Armstrong Custer's famous Seventh Regiment. Today it remains a major training center for army mechanized forces. The excellent U.S. Cavalry Museum traces the role of the horse cavalry in the West from the 1830s into the twentieth century.

Although the Eisenhower Center may not be new to some who will take the tour, the museum exhibits have recently been updated and new displays are in preparation. Even if you've visited recently, it's likely you will find something different and interesting.

At Lucas, we will visit S. P. Dinsmoor's folk art creation, a concrete representation of the Garden of Eden, which surrounds his "log" house built with Kansas post rock. Dinsmoor belonged to the Populist Party, and the Garden of Eden reflects his allegorical view of the American political and social scene around the turn of the twentieth century. We will also visit Mr. Dinsmoor, himself, whose earthly remains rest in a concrete coffin in his homemade, backyard mausoleum.

Finally, we will stop at the Pawnee Village Museum operated by the Kansas State Historical Society. This site was once believed to be where Zebulon Pike in 1806 prevailed upon the Pawnees to lower the Spanish flag and hoist the Stars and Stripes. Later scholarship determined that the village Pike visited was actually in Nebraska, near present Guide Rock. Nevertheless, the Kansas site was also an important village at the time, and the museum provides a fascinating look at Pawnee culture from the early nineteenth century.

Registration materials will be mailed to all Society volunteers. The tour will be on a first-come first-served basis and will be limited to the first forty-five people.

Robert W. Furnas, Nebraska's Man for All Seasons

Among the Nebraska State Historical Society's important leaders, and, indeed, of Nebraska itself, was Robert Wilkinson Furnas of Brownville. He ranks among a handful of individuals who held center stage in Nebraska affairs from the formative years of the territory through the end of the nineteenth century. In a tribute presented at the Society's 1906 annual meeting, Furnas was described as "printer, editor, publisher, railroad man, merchant, soldier, legislator, Indian agent, postmaster, governor, university regent, pomologist, floriculturist, horticulturist, and promoter of agriculture." His accomplishments in each of these endeavors could be the subject of a column.

Born in Ohio in 1824, Furnas became a lifelong Nebraskan upon his arrival in Brownville in 1856, beginning publication of the Nebraska Advertiser in the same year. In 1859 he founded the original Nebraska Farmer. He soon won election to the territorial legislature and later joined the new Republican Party. During the Civil War he commanded Union Indian regiments in Kansas and today's Oklahoma before returning home to lead the Second Nebraska Volunteer Cavalry against the Sioux in the Dakotas. From 1866 to 1868 he was agent for the Omaha Tribe and became one of the first regents of the University of Nebraska. Perhaps his single term as Nebraska governor, 1873-75, was his least important contribution, although he proclaimed the first Arbor Day in 1874.

Furnas's tireless promotion of Nebraska agriculture and horticulture, along with having the foresight to initiate the organization of a state historical society in 1878, may be his greatest legacies. For many years he presided over the state horticultural and agricultural societies, and the State Historical Society. Furnas lived to see Nebraska become one of the nation's great agricultural states, due in part to his experiments with and promotion of crops, fruits, and vegetables adapted to the Nebraska environment, often through the pages of the Nebraska Farmer and in reports of the agricultural societies. He was particularly interested in fruit culture, and undoubtedly would be pleased to see Nebraska vineyards reviving more than a century after he experimented with grapes on his farm near Brownville.

Furnas died on June 1, 1905, at age eighty-one. It was reported that, on his deathbed, Furnas expressed a wish to live longer, chiefly "to see the great inventions, discoveries, and improvements that the future was sure to bring." His optimism for Nebraska was apparent even then, and I doubt he would be disappointed (though perhaps astonished) if he were to return today.

Robert W. Furnas was one of Nebraska's towering figures, a man whom I would have liked to meet. In 1980 his contributions were recognized with his induction into the Nebraska Hall of Fame. His papers are preserved at the Nebraska State Historical Society.

--Jim Potter

Lincoln Westerners Invite You

The Lincoln Corral of Westerners, an organization dedicated to promoting knowledge of and appreciation for Western history, invites you to join their chapter. The Westerners meet in the evenings on the second Thursday, September through May, at the Holiday Inn, Ninth and P Streets, Lincoln.

Social activities begin at 6:30 PM, with dinner at 7:00, and the program following at 8:00. Reservations are required. The Lincoln Corral of Westerners held its organizational meeting at Love Library at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln on March 21, 1983, with Gary Moulton serving as the first sheriff. That same year, the Lincoln Corral received its charter from Westerners International, and in 2003 is celebrating its twentieth anniversary.

Anyone interested in learning more about the American West and Westerners is encouraged to attend a meeting. For further information contact Margaret Allington at 488-5698.

Bags for the History Adventure Center bags

The Nebraska State Historical Society's popular History Adventure Center (a hands-on activity room on the third floor of the Museum of Nebraska History) is in need of bags from the 1900s to1910s and small suitcases from the 1920s to 1930s. 

The 1900 to1910-era bags will be used to replace our well-worn bags used in the "Immigrant Station," where kids pretend to be an immigrant from a specific country using reproduction clothing and toys carried in bags. Canvas or leather bags with a handle and clasps on either end -- like an old-fashioned doctor's bag -- would work well. The 1920s to 1930s suitcases would be used in the "Auto Touring Station" to hold reproduction clothing the kids wear as they set up a tent and make camp.

The museum's collections department may also look at these bags as possible donations. Please contact Jessica Stoner, or 402-471-4757 if you have any questions or a bag you wish to donate. Thank you.

Brown Bag Lectures on TV

The Brown Bag Lecture Series (a history forum) is presented on the third Thursday of each month, at noon, in the Blackman auditorium, Museum of Nebraska History, Fifteenth and P Streets (131 Centennial Mall North), Lincoln. So bring your lunch and enjoy the lecture! The July and August programs are as follows:

July 17: "No Better or Braver Soldiers Can be Found: Researching Nebraska's Civil War History" - by James Potter, NSHS senior research historian.

August 21: "General Alfred Sully's Nebraska Indian Scouts of 1864-Fact and Fallacy" - by John Ludwickson, NSHS highway archeologist.

If you are unable to attend the lectures at the museum, catch the series as it is broadcast each month on Lincoln Cablevision Channel 5. Lectures are televised the month following the original presentation. The history forum lecture series is broadcast on Wednesdays at noon and 8:30 PM, Fridays at 5:00 PM and Saturdays at 6:00 PM.

The Society is also seeking volunteers to work as camera operators to film the Brown Bag lectures. Training is provided for anyone interested in becoming a camera operator. For further information about becoming part of the camera crew contact Deb McWilliams at 471-4955.

Funding for the filming of the Brown Bag Lecture Series is provided by the Nebraska State Historical Society Foundation.

Thomas P. Kennard House Tour

Please join us on Wednesday, July 9, 2003, for a volunteer program at the Thomas P. Kennard House, Nebraska Statehood Memorial, 1627 H Street, Lincoln (street parking is available).

The program will begin with refreshments at 10:00 AM, and a tour of the Kennard House at 10:30. Built in 1869, the Kennard House represents the excitement involved in creating a new capital city, and a formal Victorian lifestyle. The tour will also feature information about archeological research that has been done on the property, and new landscaping. John Lindahl, Kennard House site supervisor, will give the program.

Please RSVP to Lana at 402-471-3272 regarding your attendance, or if you have any questions.

From the Museum Store
For Your Summer Road Trips

Activity books:

Audio Cassettes and CDs:


MUSEUM of NEBRASKA HISTORY, 15th & "P" Streets, 402-471-3447
10:00 - 4:30, Monday - Friday
1:00 - 4:00, Saturday and Sunday

New Faces

Mark Fairchild, museum

Christine Haney, archeology

Kathryn Miller, Neligh Mill

Elaine Nelson, library/archives

Craig Payne, Neligh Mill

Tony Schommer, archeology

Katie Score, Neligh Mill

Lisa Westerholt, library/archives

Calendar of Events
July/August 2003

July 4: Independence Day

*July 9: Volunteer Program
10:00 a.m., Thomas P. Kennard House, 1627 H Street, Lincoln

July 17: Brown Bag Lecture
12:00 noon, Lincoln

August 2003

August 21: Brown Bag Lecture
12:00 noon, Lincoln

September 2003

September 1: Labor Day Observed

(*Location other than the Museum of Nebraska History)

125th logo

"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!

Volunteer News backissues


NSHS Home  |  Search  |  Index  |  Top
Last updated 13 June 2003

For questions or comments on the website itself, email
Nebraska State Historical Society - P.O. Box 82554, 1500 R Street, Lincoln, NE 68501
Nebraska State Government Homepage
 |  Website Policies  |  © 2009 All Rights Reserved