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NSHS Volunteer News

May / June 2004

 Volunteer Spotlight on Mary Lienemann

What do you get when you mix graciousness, selflessness, and education? You get Mary Lienemann. According to Webster's dictionary, a volunteer is "one who serves," and Mary certainly epitomizes the description. She has served as a docent at the Museum of Nebraska History since October of 2000.

At the beginning of my interview with Mary, I recognized immediately that she enjoys children and the opportunity to learn and give something back to the community, and values the importance of family and tradition. As she tells it, her interest in becoming a volunteer at the NSHS came from seeing a newspaper article announcing the need for docents. Part of her inspiration to become a docent was the opportunity to "learn more about behind-the-scenes activities at the NSHS and to learn more about Nebraska history and to share it with children."

As the interview continued, Mary's comments always focused on others rather than on her own contributions. She mentioned Jessica Stoner, who develops educational programs for NSHS, and Jessica's ability to expand the docent program. Mary continued, "I learn so much from the other docents because they put their hearts, souls, and knowledge into the tours ­ they have become friends."

I wish everyone reading this article could have seen Mary's reaction when I asked what she enjoyed most about her volunteer duties. Her face lit up when she told me how wonderful it is "to see kids faces when they turn a corner [at the museum] and see something new and react with a big WOW."

Mary recalled when she was in the fourth grade and toured the Society headquarters building at 15th and R Streets when it still housed the museum. It is evident that the tour had a long-lasting impact on Mary, an experience that has come full circle now that she is giving tours to today's students.

With a Bachelor of Science degree in education, Mary has tutored students in reading and math. She has been active in 4-H, Boy Scouts, her church, and with her family. She loves to read, garden, and go to movies with her husband Doug. Mary delights in planning picnics for her family. Her daughter was married last year, her oldest son is a student at the University of Nebraska-Kearney, and her youngest son goes to school at East High.

The true educator in Mary came out when she said, "the goal is to get the kids to bring their parents back to the museum," and "museums aren't stuffy, they are good places to learn and have fun doing it." It is Mary's enthusiasm, the giving of herself, and her sincere respect and appreciation for the other volunteers that makes her a great volunteer. Thank you Mary!

--Deb McWilliams

Volunteer Appreciation

The Nebraska State Historical Society invites all volunteers and staff to attend a Volunteer Appreciation on Wednesday, May 12, 2004, at 1:30 p.m., at the Lester F. Larsen Tractor Test and Power Museum, University of Nebraska-Lincoln East Campus, 35th and Fair Street, Lincoln. Highlights will include a brief program, a tour of the tractor museum and testing laboratory, and refreshments at the UN-L Dairy Store.

The event is an opportunity for us to thank and congratulate Society volunteers who have contributed numerous hours of service to assist in carrying out the Society's mission. Volunteers are indeed one of the greatest resources of the NSHS. Please let us know if you can attend by calling 471-3272.



Mark Your Calendars for the Fall Tour!

Save the dates of September 16-17 for the annual fall tour for Society volunteers, members, and friends. Although the itinerary has not yet been finalized, you can be sure we will be visiting some fascinating historic sites and museums and sharing good companionship. More details will follow in the next newsletter.


Slavery and Nebraska

Before the Civil War the question of whether slavery would be allowed or banned in new territories and states had dominated the debates over their creation. At issue was the balance of power between slaveholding and free states in the federal union. In 1820, 1850, and again in 1854 Congress tried to address the issue in a way that avoided tearing the country apart. In the last newsletter I noted how Senator Stephen A. Douglas in 1854 succeeded in gaining organization of the territories of Nebraska and Kansas by invoking the doctrine of "popular sovereignty." Congress would no longer decide whether slavery would be permitted in new territories, soon to become states. The people in the territories would make that decision.

Although there were differing opinions about when and how the people of Nebraska could use their powers of popular sovereignty to decide the issue of slavery, the May 30, 1854, Kansas-Nebraska Act immediately made slavery legal here. It did so by repealing the 1820 Missouri Compromise, which had "forever" banned slavery in the lands of the Louisiana Purchase lying north of Missouri's southern border. A few slaves were brought to Nebraska by officers serving at Fort Kearny and by civilians who migrated here from the South. The 1855 territorial census showed thirteen slaves in Nebraska, while the 1860 census recorded fifteen, five at Fort Kearny and ten at Nebraska City. On November 24, 1860, a slave couple named Hercules and Martha was advertised for sale in Nebraska City to satisfy a debt, though there is no evidence that the sale took place. They were the property of Charles F. Holly.

During the late 1850s several bills to prohibit slavery in Nebraska were introduced in the territorial legislature and one was finally passed over the governor's veto on January 5, 1861. Much of the debate on these bills hinged on whether popular sovereignty, as defined in the Kansas-Nebraska Act, allowed the people of a territory to prohibit slavery by legislation or whether they had to wait until they drafted a constitution and requested Congress to admit them as a state.

Those who felt slavery could not be prohibited by law, including Governor Samuel Black, who vetoed two antislavery bills, argued that "the people," under the doctrine of popular sovereignty, did not mean the legislature but literally those persons who would assemble in convention to draft a state constitution. Only then could Nebraskans get rid of slavery by banning it in the new constitution. Others opposed to legislating on this issue claimed that slavery did not exist in Nebraska "in any practical form," and therefore the legislation was unnecessary and had been introduced merely to cause political strife.

Legislators favoring a bill to prohibit slavery (most of whom were members of the new Republican party, but also some Democrats) argued that the legislature, as the body representing the people, indeed had the authority under the Kansas-Nebraska Act and popular sovereignty to legislate on slavery. The Kansas-Nebraska Act provided that the people of Nebraska were "perfectly free to form and regulate their domestic institutions in their own way." Furthermore, some proponents believed a law was needed to preempt any possibility of slavery gaining a foothold here. Although Nebraska had only a few slaves, "If it is wrong to hold a thousand slaves, it is wrong to hold one," argued a Nebraska legislator.

Unlike "Bleeding Kansas" to the south, where the slavery issue took center stage and led to bloody warfare, the political battles over slavery in the Nebraska produced no "Bleeding Nebraska." Sectional rivalries, such as those over the location of the capital, dominated territorial politics here. Yet the slavery issue was intimately connected to the creation and the early history of Nebraska Territory and forms a fascinating part of our past. For more details on the legislative debates, see the "Slavery in Nebraska" chapter in J. Sterling Morton and Albert Watkins, Illustrated History of Nebraska, Vol. 2 (Lincoln: Jacob North Co., 1902).

-- Jim Potter

Brown Bag Lectures

Join us on the third Thursday of May and June for the Society's free Brown Bag Lecture series at the Museum of Nebraska History, 15th and P Streets, Lincoln. The lectures begin at noon ­ bring your lunch and learn something new.

May 20: Brown Bag Lecture, "Lincoln's History Mystery," by Ed Zimmer and Jim McKee. History Mystery clues and sites revealed.

June 17: Brown Bag Lecture, a presentation on "Engineer Cantonment" by Rob Bozell, NSHS associate director, Archeology Division.

Preservation News

The State Historic Preservation Office is in the planning stages for the 2004-5 Nebraska Historic Buildings Survey. The SHPO intends to survey Sioux and Dawes counties, representing an area of 3,465 square miles, with 1,774 miles of roadway that will be driven by consultants as they perform the survey. The survey area includes the Fort Robinson National Historic Landmark.

Several intensive survey projects are included in the plan for next year, including the development of an historic context for ranching in each county. The historic context will include an introduction to ranching and its role in Nebraska agriculture; the historical development of ranching in Nebraska; types of buildings that historically would have been associated with ranching and how those have changed over time; changes in the industry; and aspects of the landscape that lent themselves to ranching and were altered thereby.

An additional intensive survey project includes a study of the Warbonnet Skirmish site in Sioux County. In 1876 William F. "Buffalo Bill" Cody was scouting the area with a contingent of the Fifth U.S. Cavalry when they surprised a band of Cheyennes leaving the Red Cloud Agency. This encounter on July 17, 1876, occurring so soon after the Battle of Little Big Horn, was fraught with tension and shots were fired, including one from Cody that killed a Cheyenne subchief named Yellow Hair. The episode became a rallying cry following Custer's defeat at the Little Big Horn, and helped establish Cody's reputation. Later, settlers established the townsite of Montrose nearby. Fearing Indian attack during the 1890 Ghost Dance troubles, the people of Montrose built an earthwork fortification north of the village on part of the Warbonnet skirmish site, although no fighting occurred there. The SHPO and the U.S. Forest Service, which owns the property, intend to list the site on the National Register of Historic Places.

Peru State College Course and Tour Feature Study of Kansas-Nebraska Act on Its 150th Anniversary

The Kansas-Nebraska Act and the turbulent drives to statehood in these two territories are the focus of a program offered by Peru State College this summer. Titled "The Trails and Tales Tour and Institute V: The Kansas-Nebraska Act and the Winding Road to Statehood," this interdisciplinary history and literature program is primarily designed to assist elementary and secondary teachers (although others may attend) to better understand the most important themes of this era. These include, but are not limited to, the political compromises that led to the Kansas-Nebraska Act, the outcomes of fanatical abolitionism, and the Underground Railroad's battle against the Fugitive Slave Law. Participants, who may earn either six or three graduate credit hours, will spend a week on the PSC campus studying the history and literature of this period and will then take a six-day tour of relevant sites in eastern Nebraska and eastern and central Kansas. Stipends from the Nebraska Humanities Council are available to help teachers defray the tour cost, while partial tuition remission is also available. The program runs from June 14-26, 2004. For information or to register contact one of the following individuals: Dr. Sara Crook (402)872-2279/ - or Dr. Dan Holtz - (402)872-2267 / Participants may also take only the tour, if space is available.

Get a Clue logo Lincoln's History Mystery Coming May 14th

The Nebraska State Historical Society Foundation invites you to participate in Lincoln's History Mystery event scheduled for May 14 at the Museum of Nebraska History, 15th and P Streets, Lincoln. Four- to six-member teams receive clues to help them decipher and locate landmarks throughout a sixteen-block area of Lincoln's downtown. The final clue is given at the Museum of Nebraska History, where participants seek their answer among the museum exhibits. Refreshments will be served while the judges determine the winning team.

This year's event is expected to be as successful and fun as its predecessor. The registration fee of $25 per person will help to support the Nebraska State Historical Society's research on the recently rediscovered Engineer Cantonment site near Omaha. Engineer Cantonment was the 1819-20 winter camp of Major Stephen Long's party of scientists and army engineers, which, the next spring, would proceed west along the Platte to explore the Great Plains.

To register for Lincoln's History Mystery, or for further information contact the Nebraska State Historical Society Foundation at 435-3535.

Four New Docent-led Programs Featured at the Museum of Nebraska History

The docents are developing four fun new activities and stories this spring to expand the museum's offerings to thirteen docent-led programs, up from four offered in 2002 and nine offered in 2003. A handful of docents have taken the lead in making these new programs a reality for school groups visiting the museum. In this two-part series, you'll get a taste of each new program.

Roars of laughter are the normal sounds you hear as the Lewis and Clark hands-on trunk program begins in the museum classroom. The program opens with the kids voting classmates in or out of the Corps of Discovery based on assigned responses to questions such as "What skills do you have?" "Do you drink alcohol?" "Do you tell the truth?" Those who make the cut are assigned a job and get to hold and pass around objects to use in that job. This group of soldiers then travels upstream to a council with the Oto-Missouri Indians (played by the parents), where Lewis and Clark give gifts, show off their technology, and communicate with sign language. Objects, stories, and role-play bring the details of Lewis and Clark's journey to life - including the laughter.

"How many of you think maps are really boring?" All of the kids raise their hands as the docents open with this question before touring the new exhibit, Putting Nebraska on the Map: Highlights from the Don Forke Collection. This docent program takes the boredom out of maps as kids use magnifying glasses and touchable map copies to discover the stories these maps tell about Nebraska's past, from the 1540 map of the world that barely shows North America to the 1880 map showing Nebraska organized into counties. "How has the story changed?" is the map-reading question that repeats as the students study six maps traveling through time. Hopefully, by the end of the tour, the boring maps have become exciting storytellers.

To learn more about these programs and how to schedule one for your group, call Jessica Stoner at 402-471-4757. Look in the next newsletter to learn about the two other new programs at the Nebraska State Historical Society's Museum of Nebraska History.

Indian on horseback logo


Fandex Family Field Guides
featuring American Indians, trees, and wildflowers. Each guide includes fifty individually die-cut cards providing knowledge at your fingertips for everyone in the family.

Birding Nebraska: Where to find Hundreds of Species on the Great Plains, by Jon Farrar, NEBRASKAland Magazine. Plush Audubon Bird - Western Meadowlark (five inches) with real birdcall!

Lake McConaughy: A Geographic Portrait, by Robert Richter.

America's Prairies and Grasslands: Guide to Plants and Animals, by Marianne D. Wallace. For ages 8-13.

Roots, Shoots, Buckets & Boots: Gardening Together with Children, written and illustrated by Sharon Lovejoy. Includes twelve easy-to-implement projects for theme gardens that parents and kids can grow together. For ages 4-10.


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

Seeking the Talents of Volunteers

Volunteer Services is looking to fill a few volunteer positions within various divisions of the NSHS. Society staff will provide training and materials. The positions and criteria include:

If you are interested in assisting with one of these positions contact Deb McWilliams at 471-4955. Or, if you know of someone that might be interested in helping us out, please share this information with them.

Norris Site to Host Spinning, Weaving, and Needlework Display

The Senator George Norris State Historic Site, 706 Norris Avenue, McCook, will host a Spinning, Weaving, and Needlework display during the month of June. Items done by Norris family women will be on exhibit, as well as examples of crochet, quilting, needlepoint, tatting, and weaving from McCook area artisans. Hours at the site are Tuesday through Saturday, 1:00-4:30. Admission for non-NSHS members is $3 and $1 for unaccompanied children. For further information: 308-345-8484 or

Volunteer Bob Ridder Helps Make Air Time in Omaha a Reality

NSHS Brown Bag Lectures will begin to air in the Omaha area soon, both on public access Channel 23 and Cox's new digital Channel 802. Special thanks to NSHS volunteer Bob Ridder, who helped make this important broader distribution a reality. The lectures will air on Cox Channel 23 on the first Sunday of the month, followed by five days of broadcast on Digital 802. Check local listings for specific information.

New Faces

Terri Baregi, museum store

Christopher Frobel, library/archives

Chuck Jones, museum

Gregg Lloyd, museum

Joan Maguire, museum store

Carrie Knight, archeology

Ernestine VonBargen, museum store

Michael White, library/archives

Calendar of Events
May / June 2004

April 2004

April 22-24: *Fort Robinson History Conference

May 2004

May 12: *Volunteer Appreciation

May 14: Lincoln's History Mystery

May 20: Brown Bag Lecture

June 2004

June 17: Brown Bag Lecture

(*Location other than the Museum of Nebraska History, Lincoln)


"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 19 April 2004

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