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NSHS Volunteer News

November/December 2002

 Volunteer Spotlight on Pat McLaughlin

photo of Pat McLaughlin
Fifteen years ago the Society was fortunate to engage Pat McLaughlin as a volunteer. Pat has been instrumental in assisting in a variety of volunteer activities within the Archeology Division, the Library/Archives Division, and at the Nebraska State Fair. She is always willing to help wherever help is needed. Pat has spent the majority of her volunteer experience working in the Archeology Division on Wednesdays. She has pursued her work there with Leah Rae Schneider, whom we will profile in a future newsletter.

During Pat's volunteer career in archeology, she has participated in three digs and sifted through dirt to discover beads, bone, and pottery. Her responsibilities have included cataloging these artifacts for research. Some months ago, when the archeology office was moving and the volunteers were displaced for a time, Pat devoted her work to the library/archives, where she has been indexing genealogical and historical information from the Deshler Rustler, which was owned by her grandfather, her father, and then by Pat and her husband.

According to Pat, her interest in volunteering at the NSHS evolved from her career in nursing. "While I was a nurse, I decided I wanted to give something back and my family has always been interested in history." Pat says the best thing about volunteering at the NSHS "is having the opportunity to work with people and to discover the history." She went on to say, "Volunteering gives me something to look forward to and a sense of accomplishment." When asked what she would tell others about why they should volunteer at the NSHS, Pat replied, " It is an interesting place, it is a great educational opportunity, and
you meet some great people."

As a registered nurse, Pat worked at the hospital in Hebron, and at Lincoln General, St. Elizabeth's Company Care, and Clark Jeary Care, all in Lincoln. She keeps in touch with young people by volunteering for the first grade classroom at Sheridan Elementary School in Lincoln, and stays busy taking friends to the doctor or caring for them when they return home from the hospital. She also volunteers at her church.

It is clear that Pat gives a great deal of herself to others, and it is a pleasure to have her share her time and talents with the NSHS. We look forward to her continued support, devotion, and service.

Store Discount Day in Appreciation

To show our appreciation to volunteers and staff, the Nebraska State Historical Society has designated Tuesday, December 3, as "Appreciation Day." Volunteers and staff will receive 25 percent off museum store purchases. This will be a great time to make holiday purchases, or simply to remember yourself.

The December 3 discount applies at any of our museum stores, including those at 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 State Historic Site in Neligh, and the Gerald R. Ford Conservation Center in Omaha.

Nebraska Thanksgivings: 1861-65

The Thanksgiving holiday in America traces its origins to the Pilgrim feast well known to every schoolchild. The first official Thanksgiving Day was proclaimed by President George Washington in 1789 to honor the new U.S. Constitution. Abraham Lincoln established the last Thursday in November as Thanksgiving, and President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1939 changed the observance to the third Thursday. Two years later Congress, by joint resolution, established Thanksgiving as a national holiday on the fourth Thursday in November. Thanksgiving was first observed officially in Nebraska in 1854, the year of the territory's creation.

The holiday seems to take on added meaning in times of national crisis, as its 2001 observance revealed. The same was true during the Civil War, as reflected in the Thanksgiving proclamations of Nebraska Governor Alvin Saunders and acting Governor Algernon Paddock. Their proclamations provide a mirror for the progress of the war from the Union point of view. Undoubtedly the Confederate government and the people of the South were also invoking God's blessing upon their cause.

According to Saunders's Thanksgiving proclamation of November 18, 1861, "clouds obscure the horizon, threatening to sink the sunlight of our Nationality in the external gloom of fratricidal war." He went on to urge that Nebraskans ask God to protect the territory's soldiers, who had gone forth "to fight the battles of our beloved country."In 1862 the war was going badly for the Union, as acknowledged in Paddock's Thanksgiving proclamation. God had "indeed scourged us with a civil war more terrible than any that was ever before visited on a Christian nation. . . . He has brought the proud Republic . . . to the very brink of dissolution and destruction." Yet, perhaps the sins of the nation deserved rebuke and in the end, the people would be "wiser and more virtuous and stronger in all the elements of national greatness."

On Thanksgiving in 1864 Governor Saunders asked Nebraskans to be thankful that "success has attended our armies and glorious victories have crowned their efforts on almost every battlefield." A year later "our kind Heavenly Father has been pleased to remove from us the scourge of war and has caused peace to again smile upon our beloved country." Thanksgiving Day in 1865 was observed on the first Thursday of December, which the president had proclaimed as a day of National Thanksgiving. Saunders echoed the president in asking that "simultaneously from all parts of our beloved country prayer and praise and thanksgiving, the homage of grateful hearts, may rise in one united volume from a grateful and once more united people to Him who holds the destinies of individuals as well as nations, as in the hollow of His hand."

-Jim Potter

Exhibit Receives Award

Building the State: Nebraska, 1867-1916, the permanent exhibit that opened in March 2002 at the Nebraska State Historical Society's Museum of Nebraska History, recently received an Award of Recognition from the Nebraska MuseumsAssociation.  The Nebraska Museums Association periodically recognizes outstanding achievements by Nebraska museums.  The exhibit, which details the challenges facing Nebraskans in the early days of statehood, was deemed worthy of the award because of its in-depth coverage of the subject and the use of techniques aimed at getting families and children interested in Nebraska history, especially the life-sized, walk-through sod house.

The exhibit can be seen at the Museum of Nebraska History located on the corner of Fifteenth and P Streets in Lincoln.  Museum hours are 9:00-4:30, Monday-Friday, and 1:00-4:30, Saturday and Sunday.  For more information please call 471-4754 or 1-800-833-6747 or visit our website at

Nebraska Historic Highways Survey

The Nebraska State Historic Preservation Office (NeSHPO) partnered with the Nebraska Department of Roads (NDOR) in an effort to identify the history and related resources of a selection of Nebraska's historic highways. Consultants from Mead and Hunt, Inc., surveyed five highways, the Detroit-Lincoln-Denver Highway, the Lincoln Highway, the Meridian Highway, the Potash Highway, and U. S. 20. The five surveyed roads encompassed approximately 3,500 miles of highway. Architectural historians documented 921 newly identified and previously surveyed road-related properties including the road itself, bridges, motels, gas stations, waysides, and restaurants. Surveyed properties were evaluated for their potential eligibility according to the guidelines of the National Register of Historic Places. A total of 140 properties was recommended for further research and as potentially eligible for the National Register.

The NeSHPO also completed Historic Buildings Surveys of four counties in the Panhandle and southwestern Nebraska. Survey reports are now available for Banner, Chase, Kimball, and Red Willow counties, and will be distributed to the public libraries in each county. If you are interested in a copy of the survey from one of the counties, please contact Jill Ebers at 402-471-4773.

Holiday Exhibits at NSHS

The Museum of Nebraska History will be wearing its holiday finery November 29-December 30. An 1860s Nebraska Territorial Christmas will be featured in the Carson Parlor with a tabletop tree and gifts, and the 1890s sod house depicts holidays on the homestead. The museum is open Monday-Friday, 9 - 4:30; Saturday and Sunday, 1 - 4:30.

Docents Know "The Rest of the Story"

The secrets of the Museum of Nebraska History's ever-popular guided tours will be revealed at the next volunteer program. What is the story? Who is it for? Why do we tell it? How do docents know and share "the rest of the story"? On Wednesday, November 13, at 10:30 a.m., we will answer these questions, find out what's new for the docent program, and go on a mini-tour to hear "the rest of the story."

The program will be at the Museum of Nebraska History, Fifteenth and P Streets, Lincoln. A potluck lunch will follow the program. RSVP to Deb McWilliams at 471-4955 regarding your attendance, or if you have any questions.

Help Us Deck the Halls at Nebraska's Statehood Home

The Thomas P. Kennard House, a Nebraska State Historical Society site at 1627 H Street in Lincoln, will celebrate Victorian Holidays Past, featuring Victorian toys, decorations, and historic photographs, Saturday, November 30  - Tuesday, December 31.  The house will be open 1-4:30, Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday, and by appointment the rest of the week, Monday -Friday.  Regular admission will be charged.  Nebraska State Historical Society members are free.  There will be a free open house on Sunday, December 15 from 1 - 5.  Volunteers are needed to help decorate the house on Tuesday, November 26, from 9 -12. Help is also needed for the open house on Sunday, December 15.  For additional information call John Lindahl at 471 -4764.

Indian on horseback logo

Relive Christmas With The Frontier Army

The Society's 1996 book, A Frontier Army Christmas, would make a great holiday gift for anyone interested in the history of the West, or of nineteenth-century holiday celebrations. The book, edited and annotated by Lori Cox-Paul and Dr. James W. Wengert, appears in the new museum store catalog included with this newsletter.

A Frontier Army Christmas reviews how soldiers and their families observed the holiday, both in garrison and in the field. Chapters cover food, drink, entertainment, and gift-giving. The book also includes several recipes, and is profusely illustrated with unique photographs and drawings.

The holiday museum store discount of 20 percent applies during the week of December 2-8. Remember, the proceeds of your purchase help support future Society programs and exhibits.

Nebraska State Historical Society Museum Store
1-800-833-6747 or 402-471-3447

Brown Bag Lectures

Please join us for the Society's free Brown Bag lecture series at the Museum of Nebraska History, Fifteenth and P Streets, Lincoln. The lectures begin at noon - so bring your lunch!

On November 21, Rene Botts, curator of anthropology at NSHS, will present "New World Foods." Plan also to join us on December 19 for a presentation on "Gathering and Cooking Wild Plants of the Great Plains," by Kay Young, a naturalist and retired from Pioneers Park Nature Center, Lincoln.

New Volunteers

Polly Mohatt, archeology

Merna Phillips, museum

Dick Quinn, library/archives

Shelli Ross, museum store

Lizzie Turbo, Chimney Rock

Jena Whipking, archeology


Calendar of Events

November 11: Veteran's Day

November 13: Volunteer Program
10:30 am, Lincoln

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

November 28: Thanksgiving

November 29 - December 30: Holiday Finery at MNH

November 30 - December 31: Kennard House Holidays

December 3: Discount Day
10 - 4:30, Museum Store, Lincoln

December 19: Brown Bag Lecture
12:00 noon, Lincoln

December 25: Christmas Day



"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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