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NSHS Volunteer News

November/December 2000

Museum Store
November 28

To show our appreciation to volunteers and staff, the Nebraska State Historical Society has designated Tuesday, November 28, as "Appreciation Day." Volunteers and staff will receive twenty-five percent off museum store purchases. This is a great time to make holiday purchases, or to simply remember yourself.

Purchases may be made at any of our museum stores, including the Museum of Nebraska History, Fifteenth and P Streets, Lincoln; the Fort Robinson Museum near Crawford; the Chimney Rock National Historic Site near Bayard; the Senator George W. Norris State Historic Site in McCook; the Neligh Mill in Neligh, and the Gerald R. Ford Conservation Center in Omaha.

Thank you for supporting the store!

Behind the Scenes Tour at K Street

All Nebraska State Historical Society volunteers are invited to attend the upcoming volunteer program on Wednesday, November 8. The program will focus on a behind-the-scenes tour of the Nebraska State Historical Society's K Street records center, located at 440 South Eighth Street (third floor), Lincoln.

Steve Wolz of the Library/Archives division will present an insightful tour of the public records holdings that are housed and preserved at the K Street facility. The tour will begin at 10:30 a.m. with a potluck luncheon to follow at 11:30 a.m. The K Street facility (the former Lincoln power plant) is located just northwest of the City-County Building. Participants may park in the parking lot just north and west of the K Street facility.

Please RSVP to Deb McWilliams at 471-4955 regarding your attendance, or if you have any questions.

Victorian Holidays Past at the Kennard House

The Thomas P. Kennard House, a NSHS historic site at 1627 H Street, Lincoln, will celebrate Victorian Holidays Past, November 25 through December 30, featuring Victorian toys, decorations, and historic photographs. The Kennard House will be open Tuesday through Saturday from 9:00-12:00 and 1:00-4:30. There will be an open house with free admission on Sunday, December 10, from 1:00-5:00 p.m.

Volunteer assistance is needed Tuesday, November 21, from 9-12, to decorate the house for the celebration. There is also a need for volunteers to help at the open house on December 10. For additional information call John Lindahl at 471-4764.

New Book Tells Joys and Hardships of Nebraska Settlement

RolfIn 1876 Rolf Johnson and his family left Illinois to settle on the raw prairie of Phelps County, Nebraska. At the same time the nineteen-year-old Rolf began keeping a diary, a practice he continued for the next several years. Now the diaries have been published by the University of Nebraska Press, in association with the Society, as Happy as a Big Sunflower: Adventures in the West, 1876-1880. Richard E. Jensen of the Society's Research and Publications Division edited the diaries with the permission of the Phelps County Historical Society, which owns the originals.

Rolf engagingly describes the challenges of pioneering on the Great Plains: digging wells, building sod houses, plowing and planting crops, and fighting prairie fires. He records the ups and downs of local politics, and describes the bloody handiwork of Nebraska's first mass murderer. As a very eligible bachelor, he also offers touching vignettes on the rituals of courting. In fact, the marital fervor of one of his female suitors may explain why Rolf abruptly left home in 1879 to make an extended tour of the Black Hills, Colorado, and New Mexico. During this journey he continued the diaries, describing "fast women" in Sidney, the gambling dens of Deadwood, and the nightlife of Denver.

Happy as a Big Sunflower is now available in the Society's museum stores and will make for an entertaining read on a cold winter evening.

Memberships Make Great Gifts

Looking for that special holiday gift that keeps on giving all year long? How about a membership in the Nebraska State Historical Society? Recipients of this gift will receive Nebraska History, a quarterly magazine devoted to the story of Nebraska's past; bimonthly newsletters; information about upcoming events; and discounts on publications and items purchased at Society museum stores.

The cost for an annual membership is only $30. Other membership categories are also available. Membership makes a great gift, and helps the Society fulfill its mission of safeguarding and interpreting the past.

For further information about giving a gift of history, contact the Society at 1-800-833-6747 or 471-6548 and ask for Jennifer Little.

Holidays Past at the Society

Don't miss the holiday finery at the Museum of Nebraska History, Fifteenth and P Streets, November 24 through December 29, 2000. Two vintage sleighs, a 1950s aluminum tree lit by a revolving color wheel, and animated figures of Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus will greet visitors on the museum's first floor. The Carson Parlor will depict an 1860s Nebraska Territorial Christmas, complete with tabletop tree, toys, and gifts. The World War II living room and general store and the Halligan Dollhouse will also feature seasonal decorations. A tree with a quilt theme will accompany the special exhibit Patchwork and Progress. Museum hours are Monday-Friday, 9-4:30; Saturday 9-5; Sunday, 1:30-5.

Wyuka Cemetery, The Origin of the Name

One of the stops during the September 28 tour for Society volunteers was Nebraska City's Wyuka Cemetery. Everyone knows that Lincoln's main cemetery is also named Wyuka. Although the name is represented as meaning "a place of rest," several people wanted to know its origins.

According to Addison E. Sheldon, writing in Nebraska History (January-March 1921), the name derives from the Siouan language word "wanka," meaning to rest or lie down. Sheldon gave the pronunciation of the word as being much like "wong-kah." Though the word's Native usage was never meant to refer to a place of burial, its concept of a resting place seemed particularly appropriate when applied to white cemeteries. Sheldon also credits some unknown Lincoln pioneer with bestowing the name on the Lincoln cemetery, which was established in 1869. It's possible Lincoln appropriated the name from Nebraska City. On September 12, 1857, the Nebraska City News was already calling that town's cemetery "Wyuka."

During our visit to Wyuka in Nebraska City, we viewed the family plot of Arbor Day founder J. Sterling Morton. The main marker is a fifteen-foot stone tree with dead and mutilated limbs and with the "bark" peeled back where inscriptions appear. Someone wanted to know if the tree motif was used because of Morton's Arbor Day connection. Though the use of the tree as a grave marker is particularly relevant in Morton's case, dead and mutilated trees were a common symbol used in Victorian-era cemeteries. In fact, we noticed several other similar "trees" in Wyuka .

Those who would like to read more about cemetery art and symbolism should try John Gary Brown's book, Soul in the Stone: Cemetery Art from America's Heartland (University Press of Kansas, 1994). Among the book's illustrations are several of the more interesting stones in Wyuka at Nebraska City, including the Morton monument and the roll-top desk in the Harding family plot. The book is in the Society library.

-- Jim Potter

November and December Brown Bag Lectures

Please join us on the third Thursday of November and December. The NSHS hosts a free Brown Bag lecture series at the Museum of Nebraska History, Fifteenth and P Streets, Lincoln. The lecture begins at noon - so bring your lunch with you!

Jeffrey H. Smith., Ph.D., associate professor of history, Bellevue University, Bellevue, will present the November 16 lecture, "General Victor Vifquain: Nebraska Pioneer, Statesman, and Civil War Hero." On December 21 Nancy Bernhardt Holland, Ph.D., executive director, American Historical Society of Germans from Russia, Lincoln, will impart "Christmas Traditions of the Germans from Russia."

Awards Presented at Annual Meeting

Awards were presented during the recent annual meeting of the Nebraska State Historical Society in Lincoln, according to Society Director Lawrence Sommer.

The Society presented the Nebraska Preservation Award for significant achievements in historic preservation. The award recipients were Todd Heistand and Tammy Barrett, owenrs of NuStyle Development Corporation from Omaha, for their contributions to housing and revitalization efforts in the city of Omaha.

Dr. Francis Moul of Chadron was selected to receive the James L. Sellers Memorial Award given annually for the article judged best in the preceding year's volume of Nebraska History quarterly. His article, "The Biggest Partner: The Federal Government and Sioux County Nebraska," appeared in the Winter 1999 issue. An independent panel of scholars from Peru State College made the selection.

The Addison E. Sheldon Memorial Award for outstanding contributions to the preservation and interpretation of Nebraska history went to the Stuhr Museum of the Prairie Pioneer, Grand Island. The selection was made based on the Stuhr's long-term goal of interpreting not only the history of Grand Island, Hall County, and central Nebraska, but also the history of pioneer town builders who created communities across the state.

Gladys Marie Lux of Lincoln received the Robert W. Furnas Memorial Award for outstanding contributions to the Nebraska State Historical Society. Gladys established an endowment in memory of Mary Hannah Hansen Lux and Clarence Burton Lux, which has allowed the Nebraska State Historical Society to purchase important items for both the Museum and the Library/Archives collections.

New Faces

Cindy Elder, library/archives

Raney Morrison, museum

Patti Vannoy, library/archives

Calendar of Events

November 8: Volunteer Program and Potluck
10:30 a.m., K Street records center, 440 South Eighth Street, Lincoln, Nebraska

November 10: Veterans' Day (observed)
In observance of Veterans' Day, Society headquarters and the Gerald R. Ford Conservation Center in Omaha will be closed Friday, November 10, through Sunday, November 12. The Museum of Nebraska History and the Historic Sites (except Neihardt and Cather) will be closed November 10 and 11. Call for holiday hours at the Neihardt Site (402-648-3388) and Cather Site (402-746-2653).

November 16: Brown Bag Lecture
12:00 noon, Museum of Nebraska History, Lincoln, Nebraska

November 21: Decorate Kennard House
9:00 a.m. - 12:00 noon, 1627 H Street, Lincoln, Nebraska

November 23/24: Thanksgiving Holiday
In observance of Thanksgiving Society headquarters and the Ford Center will be closed Thursday, November 23, through Sunday, November 26. The Museum of Nebraska History will be closed November 23, and the Historic Sites (except Neihardt and Cather) will be closed November 23 and 24. For holiday hours at Neihardt and Cather, call as above.

November 25 to December 30: Victorian Holidays Past at Kennard House
Tuesday - Saturday from 9:00 a.m. - 12:00 noon and 1:00 - 4:30 p.m., 1627 H Street, Lincoln, Nebraska
Closed Sundays and Mondays.

November 28: Museum Store Discount
10:00 a.m. - 4:30 p.m., Museum of Nebraska History, Lincoln, Nebraska
25% off museum store purchases for volunteers and staff!!

December 10: Kennard House Open House
1:00-5:00 p.m., 1627 H Street, Lincoln, Nebraska
Free Admission!

December 21: Brown Bag Lecture
12:00 noon, Museum of Nebraska History, Lincoln, Nebraska

December 25: Christmas Day
In observance of the holidays Society headquarters and the Ford Center will be closed Saturday, December 23, through Monday, December 25; and Saturday, December 30, through Monday, January 1, 2001. The Museum of Nebraska History and the Historic Sites (except Neihardt and Cather) will be closed December 24-25 and December 31-January 1. For holiday hours at Neihardt and Cather, call as above.

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 2001

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