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A newspaper declaring World War II over is one of the many items on display as part of the “Soldiering to Victory” exhibit at the Mari Sandoz High Plains Heritage Center in Chadron. The show will remain open through the summer.

Exhibit highlights region’s WWII connections, anniversary of war’s end

By Kerri Rempp

Discover Northwest Nebraska

“Lots of rumors today that the Russians are getting very close. Hope it’s true.”

-Clayton Skoda, POW

Jan. 29, 1945

Seventy-five years ago, Rushville native Clayton Skoda wrote those words in a diary he kept as a World War II prisoner of war awaiting liberation. The Russians reached his POW camp days later, making it possible for him and his fellow soldiers to make their way home, and eight months later World War II came to an end.

Copies of Skoda’s diary, now on display at the Mari Sandoz High Plains Heritage Center in Chadron as part of the “Soldiering Into Victory” exhibit, detail his time as a prisoner of war.

Sept. 4, 1944: Moved on that morning, traveled all day till we got to Belfort. Was hauled all over town as the Germans seemed to be looking for some Headquarters of theirs. We stopped on the street for awhile and soon several of the French noticed that we were Americans, and they were giving us all sorts of fruit, bread and cigarettes. The Germans started chasing them away at the point of a bayonet.

Sept. 26, 1944: Was given a loaf of bread and a parcel for two men and loaded on the train to be sent to a NCO POW camp. They put 35 of us in about 1/3 of the car and the German guards had the other 2/3 of the car. It was so crowded that every one was in misery most of time.

Clayton Skoda, a native of Rushville, was a prisoner of war during World War II. His personal diary details the experience for visitors to the “Soldiering to Victory” exhibit at the Mari Sandoz High Plains Heritage Center in Chadron.

Sept. 30, 1944: We found out our rations would consist of a cup of coffee or tea in the morning, mess gear of soup at noon, tea or coffee in the evening and six men on a loaf of bread every day except Sunday and Wednesday, when it was five on a loaf. We lived like that without any smokes until October 17th when we were issued our first food parcel. I hope I never have to eat that little amount or do without smokes that long again as it was really hell.

As the advancing Allied forces drew closer to the POW camp, Skoda noted in his diary that they were no longer allowed to use lights at night as the front lines were too close and a lack of coal meant no cooking.

The Sandoz Center’s “Soldiering Into Victory” exhibit commemorates the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II Sept. 2, 1945.

“It is primarily looking at Nebraska and the surrounding area and its involvement in World War II,” said Holly Counts. The exhibit will remain on display through the summer.

Counts cultivated the exhibit from three major collectors – Mark Hunt, Tony Bestwick and Roger Coleman – and augmented it with pieces loaned to the Sandoz Center from local families. The exhibit details moments of World War II from the trenches and POW camps to the home front. Uniform ribbons line a glass case and sweetheart pins and pillowcases are showcased alongside ration books and military patches. One display case houses items brought home by returning soldiers, including trench art, captured flags and foreign currency, while across the room WWII-era uniforms from the Army, Marines, Army Air Force and Navy are arranged.

Telegrams to Anna Moffatt carrying the news that her son Clarence was a prisoner of war hang beside letters donated by Barb Pelton Nixon, mementos saved from her two brothers’ time serving overseas. Another soldier, Paul Kreitman, made notes on a paper lunch bag detailing his experiences for his fiancé.

“Participated in operations against Japanese forces at Saipan and Guam and against enemy air action during the assault and occupation of these islands,” he wrote.

Skoda, who was drafted Feb. 22, 1942, was assigned to the 117th Reconnaissance Group and was shipped to England, North Africa, Italy and France, where his captain surrendered the group to the 11th German Panzer Division. He spent five months at the Stalag3C POW camp in Kustrine, Germany, before he and his fellow soldiers were liberated by the Russians Jan. 31, 1945. The notes in his diary recall the day.

Were awakened at 4 o’clock this morning and told to pack all our stuff as we are going to be moved out of here at 7 o’clock. Started to move us at 7 o’clock but the boys in the other compound are giving them a hard time. They get them out of one room and they run into another room. Jerry finally got things under control and started us out of the camp. Got down the road about 3 miles and were fired on by machine guns and shell fire from Russian guns. Several of our boys were wounded and some killed and a good many were cut off. Russians found out who we were so held their fire. Were taken back to the camp and was everyone happy to know we were cut off. Was back in camp only a half hour when we got bad news that they were going to try and take us out a new way. Started out and got on the edge of camp when the Russians fired again. We all took off and went back in the compound and took for the air raid shelters. In about an hour the Russians took the camp with very little resistance from the Germans. Spent most of the night in the air raid shelter. That night was quiet but was afraid the Germans would throw in artillery.

The Mari Sandoz High Plains Heritage Center is open Monday through Thursday from 10 a.m. to noon and 1-4 p.m. and from 10 a.m. to noon on Fridays. The center is a 2020 Nebraska State Passport stop.

Appealing variety of exhibits at Dawes County Historical Museum

By Kerri Rempp, Discover Northwest Nebraska Director

The Dawes County Historical Museum may be filled with antique artifacts, but the volunteers who run the museum are dedicated to bringing new exhibits to facility, and to finding new ways to display the artifacts entrusted to their care.

New to the museum this year are 18 “teaser exhibits” in the lobby, said curator Phyllis Carlson.

The replica of a general store at the Dawes County Historical Museum provides a glimpse back in time. A full can of olive oil is even on display in the museum’s new “teaser exhibits,” featured in the lobby.


“They are mini-snippets of what you can see elsewhere in the museum,” she explained. Each building on the campus of the Dawes County Historical Museum south of Chadron is represented in the teaser exhibits, from photography and music to apparel and kitchenware.

On display for the first time is a collection of lightbulbs, including a nightlight and a bulb shaped like a rosebud. In the kitchen snapshot is a full bottle of olive oil. Atlases provide a look at old maps, and a nod to potato digging can also be found.

The teaser exhibits are housed along the west wall of the lobby, taking the place of the many books that once filled the shelves. The books have been relocated throughout the museum, adding depth to the facility’s other displays as train books now reside with the railroad exhibit and cookbooks with the kitchen display. Research volumes – more than 210,000 documents – are now together in one room, making them easier to access, and museum staff is working to create a card catalog for all of the documents and books.

With the teaser exhibits completed, the museum is turning its attention to the construction of a new building to house two new collections. Ground work for the construction is complete, and the goal is to have the building finished by the end of the year. The new building will be home to a doll collection donated by Richard and Clara Erixon and to Carl and Fawn Larsen’s collection of telephone company history.

Clara Erixson began her doll collection in the 1960s, and when the exhibit opens at the Dawes County Historical Museum roughly 3,000 dolls will be moved in to the new building, including antiques dating back to 1890. Erixson’s hobby eventually became a business when the couple opened Clara’s Attic on East Avon Street in Lincoln, restoring dolls, designing and sewing costumes for them and making her own dolls. The couple moved to Crawford in 1999.

Carl and Fawn Larsen moved to Chadron in 1966, and Carl, also a former Chadron mayor, worked for the telephone company for more than 50 years, collecting old phones, insulators, portraits, advertising signs, phone books and even an outdoor telephone booth along the way.

The museum is home to a pioneer schoolhouse and church and thousands of other items. Volunteers, of course, have their favorites.

“One of the things I get a kick out of is the surgical things,” Carlson said. She was 13 when she had her tonsils removed and remembers sitting in a surgical chair similar to the one they have on display as they deadened her throat and removed them. Showing that chair, as well as the gurney, incubator and other medical instruments to children always draws awed reactions, she said.

The Chadron-Chicago Horse Race exhibit is another favorite exhibit. On June 13, 1893, horseback riders set out from the Blaine Hotel in Chadron to traverse 1,000 miles to Chicago. The idea for the race began as a hoax, but soon turned to reality and Buffalo Bill Cody offered to sweeten the prize winnings for the first rider to arrive at the World’s Fair. The revolver won by Joe Gillespie, who won the race after two other riders were disqualified, is on display at the museum.

Assistant curator Linda Rotness is fascinated with the Marcus Cain exhibit. Housed in a building of its own, the collection features several unique pieces of farm equipment created by Dawes County farmer Marcus Cain.

“It’s so neat. You won’t find that anywhere else,” Rotness said.

Cain is believed to have developed one of the first self-propelled combines in existence in the 1930s, and other pieces of equipment on display include a 24-foot roto-tiller/grain drill/soil packer with three motors, a single-engine stubble chopper, customized grain trucks and a World War II tank retriever crawler tractor.

Verona Kutschara’s fashioned these depictions of U.S. presidents and first lout of clay. The collection, which includes every president and first lady from Washington to Eisenhower, features stunning detail and homemade lace. “She was meticulous,” said Curator Phyllis Carlson of the collection’s creator.

Visitors to the museum find their own favorites among the exhibits, but the common theme is amazement at just how many items the museum houses.

“They’re usually surprised at what we have,” Rotness said.

“They (also) appreciate that they can get close to the items,” Carlson added. “Everything is not behind glass.”

The Heesacker toy collection appeals to both children and adults, with toys of all decades on display.

“It’s like walking through your own memory,” Carlson said.

The variety of exhibits all but guarantees everyone will find something to interest them – whether it’s the agricultural equipment of Marcus Cain and the fashion and textile items on display to musical instruments or a collection of thousands of pens.

The museum was originally located in Chadron at 255 Mears St., but outgrew that location. A donation of land to the historical society made it possible for the museum to relocate to its present site in 1982, where it has continued to grow.

“There’s just all sorts of history here,” Carlson said.

The Dawes County Historical Museum draws 2,000-2,500 visitors annually, some of whom have long-ago connections to the region, and others, including visitors from overseas, who have no ties to the area. A relative of one of Chadron’s most prominent pioneer women, Fannie O’Linn, was so impressed with the museum they purchased a floor tile, Carlson said. The museum sells engraved floor tiles as a fundraiser, a tradition that has continued since the museum opened.

The museum’s other major fundraiser is the monthly publication of the Golden Age Courier. The free tabloid, first published in 1987, is filled with historical items of note, stories from local contributors and a few fun facts.

Many of the museum volunteers have been donating their time to the historical society’s efforts for years. Carlson and Rotness have worked with the museum for nearly a decade, with Carlson taking over as curator in 2013. While they upload obituaries to the computer, write the museum’s newsletter and maintain the society’s membership, the volunteers find camaraderie with each other.

“The first thing you’re going to hear is laughter,” Carlson said.

And with thousands of artifacts, there’s always something new to discover.

The Heesacker Toy Collection at the Dawes County Historical Museum in Chadron brings joy to children and adults alike. “It’s like walking through your own memory,” said Curator Phyllis Carlson.

“No matter how long we work here, and it usually happens when we’re showing someone around, we notice something different,” Carlson said.

The museum hosts an annual Garden Party each August and History in Action Day on the last Sunday of September each year, giving guests more opportunities to view exhibits up close. The status for both of the 2020 events is yet to be determined due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Dawes County Historical Museum is typically open from Memorial Day through the last Sunday of September, or by appointment. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the museum is currently open only by appointment. Call 308-432-4999 or email dchsdirector@gmail.com. Masks and the use of hand sanitizer will be required during your visit. 




Northwest Nebraska inspires family, first as tourists, now as residents

Juhlins open The Broken Spur in Crawford

By Kerri Rempp, Discover Northwest Nebraska Director

Northwest Nebraska might be the state’s best-kept secret, but for one family, once they discovered the region, they couldn’t get enough.

“To me this is Nebraska, the west, the prairies, the bluffs,” said Wally Juhlin. His family, including wife Jennifer and daughters Martina and McKenna, first explored the area as tourists several years ago and recently became residents and business owners after the purchase of a vacant restaurant building in downtown Crawford.

Wally, McKenna, Jennifer and Martina Juhlin, from left, relocated to Northwest Nebraska recently to open a family-run restaurant, The Broken Spur in Crawford.

With renovations complete, their restaurant, The Broken Spur, opened several weeks ago with a limited menu and hosted grand opening festivities May 11.  

“This is an entirely new adventure,” Jennifer said.

The family previously owned a plumbing, heating and air conditioning business in Walthill, Nebraska, but jumped at the chance to relocate to Northwest Nebraska when they learned the restaurant formerly known as both The Ranchhouse and Gate City was for sale.

Their first experience with the region was during a camping trip planned by Martina and McKenna several years ago.

“We drove 1,300 miles and never left the state,” Wally said. Northwest Nebraska, including Fort Robinson State Park, was one of their stops.

“We didn’t know this existed before that trip,” he said.  

The next year, Martina returned as a wrangler at Fort Robinson, and eventually both girls enrolled at Chadron State College. Martina recently graduated with her art degree, while McKenna just finished her first year in pre-med at the college. Martina’s artwork is on display throughout the family business, from a large western-themed wall mural to portraits of John Wayne. She focuses on western and Native American themed portraits, so her work easily complements the environment the Juhlins want to create at The Broken Spur.

“This is cowboy country. We wanted this to be a western place,” Wally said.

That attitude translates to the food as well. When they set out on their new adventure, one of their primary goals was to build an establishment known for a good steak, large burgers and hearty meals in general.

“We want you to be full when you leave,” Wally said. “We try to make a meal like you make at home.”

From the aforementioned steak to half-pound burgers, pizzas and lunch specials, the Juhlins are creating an atmosphere that reminds visitors of home and family. Martina works as a bartender and hostess, while McKenna helps in the kitchen, making it a true family business in part of the state they all felt a pull to call home.  

“It’s good for us to do something as a family,” McKenna said.

“We liked the area. We like the scenery. We love the people,” Wally added. “The entire community has welcomed us with open arms.”

The Broken Spur is currently open Tuesday through Saturday with plans to expand the menu and hours as the region recovers from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The family also welcomes the opportunity to host wedding receptions, alumni reunions, holiday parties and more, Wally said.

“We want to be here for the local community, but we also want to be a stopping point for people traveling through,” Martina said.  “No matter where you’re from, we want it to feel like family and home.”

Northwest Nebraska to host RFI Fellows

Fellows will join CSC intern in promoting region

By Kerri Rempp, Discover Northwest Nebraska Director

Discover Northwest Nebraska is partnering with Chadron Public Schools and Educational Service Unit 13 to host two interns from the Rural Futures Institute this summer after the Chadron community’s success with RFI Fellows last year.

Chadron Public Schools hosted three interns in 2019, where the students focused their efforts on mental health awareness. The 2020 interns will devote approximately 40% of their time in Chadron working with Discover Northwest Nebraska to further develop tourism in the region.

“Tourism is an important economic driver in Dawes County and Northwest Nebraska,” said Director Kerri Rempp. “The recent COVID-19 pandemic has already and will continue to disrupt the 2020 tourism season for the region. Having interns available for the summer will allow us to focus on promoting local and regional tourism through staycations and complete several planning projects to put us in a good position for 2021.”

Sawyer Smith

Tyra Ann Reardon and Sawyer Smith have been assigned to Chadron through RFI Fellows program. Reardon is a senior at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, while Smith is a sophomore at UNL. This year’s internship program will last eight weeks.

The interns are required to provide 10 hours of community service and also will complete coaching sessions to earn their Inclusive Leadership Development Certificate.

Tyra Reardon

“A hybrid between service learning and traditional internships, RFI Fellows experiences provide communities with tangible results on important self-defined projects while giving students resume-building work and insight into the career and life opportunities in rural places,” the Rural Futures Institute website reads. “In this unique experience, student pairs directly support community efforts as a whole, often serving as the link between many entities.”

Reardon and Smith will be mentored by leaders from each of the partnering organizations. Terri Haynes and Sandy Montague-Roes will oversee the students’ work on the mental health initiatives. Rempp will mentor the students for Discover Northwest Nebraska while Dr. Katherine Carrizales will do so for ESU 13.

Brandon Davenport

The RFI Fellows will join Chadron State College intern Brandon Davenport in the development of programs and marketing campaigns designed to enhance the tourism industry in Northwest Nebraska. Davenport is majoring in journalism and plans to graduate in December.

“Having three interns available this summer will allow Discover Northwest Nebraska to move forward with several items I would like to see accomplished and in a much faster time frame than would be possible without their efforts. It will also provide all three interns with valuable work experience and a boots-on-the-ground look at destination marketing,” Rempp said.


BINGO challenge issued to support Northwest Nebraska

Discover Northwest Nebraska will launch a social media challenge March 30 in an effort to show support to local businesses as they work to meet your needs in these uncertain times.

As the State of Nebraska continues to monitor the spread of COVID-19, many Northwest Nebraska businesses in Dawes and Sioux counties have changed their hours or business delivery models to follow the recommended guidelines issued by the CDC. Starting March 30, Discover Northwest Nebraska is urging residents and visitors to the region to show their support for local businesses and have a bit of fun with Northwest Nebraska Bingo, all while following current CDC recommendations.

“Our regional businesses have stepped up to continue to provide much-needed services during the ongoing pandemic. Supporting local business is always the right thing to do for the area’s economy, but as the current situation continues, our community can re-double its efforts and help our local businesses sustain themselves until things return to normal,” said Discover Northwest Nebraska Director Kerri Rempp. “The launch of the Northwest Nebraska Bingo challenge brings a bit of fun into doing what’s right, and we hope to continue the challenge throughout the summer as we encourage staycations and regional tourism. Details on Northwest Nebraska Bingo after April 30 will be released as they become available.”

Northwest Nebraska Bingo is easy to play. Between March 30 and April 30, find the Northwest Nebraska Bingo card on one of Northwest Nebraska’s social media accounts (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Linked In). Over the course of the month, take a photo of yourself or your family completing all of the actions on the card at eight different Dawes or Sioux county businesses. Share the photos on Facebook or Instagram using the hashtag #NWNebraskaBingo. Once you’ve completed your card and posted all of your photos, send your name, address, email and social media handle (for the account you posted your photos to) to director@discovernwnebraska.com. Everyone who completes a Bingo Card in its entirety will be entered to win one of three giveaways of $50 in Chadron and Crawford Chamber Bucks.

Printed Bingo cards will also be available at the Chadron Chamber of Commerce & Visitors Bureau, and photos can be emailed to the address above for participants who do not have social media accounts. The challenge will end at 11:59 p.m. MT April 30, 2020.

White River Gallery showcases regional artists

By Kerri Rempp, Discover Northwest Nebraska Director

Northwest Nebraska may not be the art mecca of the world, but there are plenty of talented regional artists creating unique pieces of work, and with the opening of the White River Gallery a few years ago, those artists now have a space to display and sell their creations.

A collection of artwork by Linda Dabbs on display at White River Gallery.

Enter White River Gallery on Second Street in Crawford and you’ll have your pick of pottery, acrylic and watercolor paintings, photography, handmade jewelry, scrimshaw powder horns and even homemade books.

“I have a lot of pieces with wildlife and western themes,” said owner Clarice Hynes. “I don’t limit the work to that motif but a lot of it ends up being that.”

Hynes and her husband, John, moved to the region 10 years ago after he retired from the Air National Guard and joined Burlington Northern Santa Fe as a conductor based out of Edgemont, S.D. When BNSF furloughed employees, he went to work at Fort Robinson while she was employed at Head Start in Chadron. Preferring not to commute to Edgemont when BNSF brought its employees back, they chose to settle in Crawford and pursue other endeavors.

The White River Gallery grew out of a desire to rent a separate space to serve as Hynes’ art studio since their small home limited her ability to focus on her craft. A life-long lover of art and a retired K-12 art teacher, whose own creations often took a backseat to raising children and teaching, Hynes wanted to rededicate herself to her art.

“Now, I’ve got all this time and space and there should be no reason to go great guns.” Hynes said. “Mostly I do watercolors, and I tend to paint mostly landscapes.”  

Initially, they planned to rent a studio space but eventually decided to purchase a 1940s-era building in downtown Crawford and renovate the space for her studio. Opened as a bakery seven decades ago, the building had also served as a flower shop, a gift shop and, most recently, a pizzeria. The couple did the renovations themselves over the next 18 months and opened in March 2017.

“A lot had to be changed because it wasn’t going to be a restaurant anymore,” Hynes said. “Each occupant added their own flair to the place, and I guess we have done the same, keeping some elements of the building’s history where we could by reusing and repurposing materials while uncovering some of the original features of the structure, including the class block, pigmented structural glass panels (vitrolite or carrara glass), some of which we were able to save,” she adds on her website.

As the project progressed, the purchase and renovation of the building evolved from creating a studio for Hynes to establishing a full-fledged gallery to capitalize on the available space. Regional artists were excited to have the opportunity to display and sell their work.

Clarice Hynes opened White River Gallery in Crawford in 2017 to display and sell her art and works of other regional artists.

“There are not many places to show your work if you’re an artist in this neck of the woods,” Hynes said.

According to her website, White River Gallery currently exhibits the work of 13 artists, including Hynes’ watercolor and acrylic creations, handmade books and paper. Other work featured at the gallery are J.W. Kelly’s prints and photography, Theresa Young’s photography, Joel Hanlon’s scrimshaw powder horns, Linda Dabbs’ pottery, painting, interior design and outdoor art, Michaela Hynes’ acrylic and phosphorescent paintings and graphic design and John Hynes’ photography and woodworking. But the list doesn’t end there. Lisa Farrington’s watercolor, pen and ink creations and leaf assemblage are showcased, as is Jean Dupree’s handmade jewelry. Photography by Deborah Horst and paintings and bronze sculptures by Vern Friesen can often be found, as can photos, drawings and paintings by Chris Hynes and various media and prints by Jean Norman.

Hynes said she’s been able to maintain a stable population of artists, providing the opportunity for residents and visitors to purchase unique pieces.

“Everyone who comes in has complimented me on how nice it looks and the variety of the artwork,” Hynes said, adding that beyond selling artwork she’s pleased to offer a place where people can simply come in, enjoy the artwork and take a relaxing break from the world.

Budding artists of all ages can also practice their skills and get tips by taking one of the gallery’s classes, ranging from booking making for adults to the subtleties of shades and tints for kids. Hynes even offers art birthday parties for kids and adults, and makes the gallery available as a meeting space.

“It is primarily a place for me to work and show my art, but also we hoped it would be a good addition to the community. None of it would have happened without John’s vision and craftsmanship. He loved to design, and build and work out problems. Thinking back on it, the gallery was simply another in a long line of projects, though certainly much larger in scale, it was what he always did, and I’m forever grateful to him,” she said.

Harvest Moon, Harvest Fest join forces

By Kerri Rempp, Discover Northwest Nebraska Director

Two events traditionally held in separate counties are merging in 2020 and making Chadron their new home. The Harvest Moon Fall Festival, an annual event in Hemingford, plans to relocate this fall as the event continues to grow and will merge with Chadron’s annual Harvest Fest into one larger event.

Kids enjoy playing in the corn tank at the annual Harvest Moon Fall Festival. Courtesy photo

“There’s a lot of excitement for us going to Chadron,” said Harvest Moon Festival organizer Julie Lawrence. She began the event eight years ago with a friend as a day-long craft show with other events and contests to create a family friendly atmosphere. The Harvest Moon Fall Festival has become a staple fall event, drawing around 3,000 attendees, Lawrence said.

With the potential for additional growth and challenges presented by weather, Lawrence and the other organizers began to scout new locations to accommodate the growth and provide additional options in less than ideal weather.

“Dawes County graciously opened their arms,” Lawrence said.

With a second harvest-themed event arriving, the Chadron Chamber of Commerce decided to join forces with Harvest Moon rather than hosting its annual Harvest Fest. Details of exactly how the two events will merge are still being determined, said Chamber Director Gabby Michna.

The relocation to Chadron and combining forces with the Chamber’s event opens up new opportunities for Harvest Moon, Lawrence said, noting that she hopes to include the college and the National Guard in the event.

Harvest Moon serves as a fundraising event for local non-profits, with various organizations operating booths and keeping their profits. The Chadron Washington, D.C. Kids, for example, has already signed up as a vendor to sell meaty nachos to raise funds for their trip. Lawrence also encourages local school musical groups and dance groups to perform as a way to make connections with the wider community.

The Harvest Moon Fall Festival is a family-focused event, with a pumpkin decorating booth, a Farmer’s Market, a kids’ costume contest, a chili contest, live entertainment, goat roping and more. Vendors from South Dakota, Colorado, Wyoming and eastern Nebraska typically take part, and Lawrence hopes the move to Chadron will expand that reach. Admission is free, and a beer garden hosted by the Dawes County Ag Society will screen the Husker game and serve as the spot for the beer and wine contest.

“It’s always been a good event,” Lawrence said. “It’s refreshing to see the excitement.”

The Harvest Moon Fall Festival is scheduled for Oct. 3 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Dawes County Fairgrounds. Non-profits and other vendors interested in participating can email Lawrence at lawrenceadventures@yahoo.com or visit harvestmoonfallfestival.com and fill out the contact form.

Hindsight, foresight merge in 20/20 exhibit

By Kerri Rempp, Northwest Nebraska Tourism Direcor

Say the name Walter Reed and one thing likely comes to mind – Walter Reed Army Medical Center, now known as the Walter Reed

Pharmacy items from early pioneer days are part of the “Hindsight is 20/20” exhibit at the Sandoz Center.

National Military Medical Center. Half a country away, the medical center has treated hundreds of thousands of soldiers since its inception, a fact most of the population probably already knows.

But there’s a connection to Northwest Nebraska and the medical center’s namesake, Walter Reed, with which many might be unfamiliar. Dr. Reed, who earned his medical degree at age 17, was commissioned in the US Army Medical Corps in 1875 and spent five years serving on the American frontier. For three of those years, 1884-1887, he was stationed at Fort Robinson. His time there and a pharmaceutical collection of items from that period in the region are part of the new “Hindsight is 20/20” exhibit at the Mari Sandoz High Plains Heritage Center.

Dr. Reed went on to become a major and served as the curator of the Army Medical Museum in Washington, D.C., and a professor at the Army Medical School. He discovered how both typhoid and yellow fever are spread. While at Fort Robinson, however, he was treating soldiers and area settlers, including Old Jules, famed pioneer and the subject of the book “Old Jules” written by Mari Sandoz. As the story goes about Old Jules, he suffered a broken ankle while digging a well and was found by Fort Robinson soldiers 18 days later.

As Dr. Reed examined his foot, black and green with infection, Old Jules reportedly threatened to kill the good doctor if he amputated.

“My orders are to amputate. But your wish to die in one piece shall not be ignored. And it would be just like your particular brand of damn fool to pull through,” Dr. Reed replied.

As Dr. Reed left Fort Robinson to continue his illustrious medical career, the local paper bid him farewell with this missive: “We doubt if Fort Robinson will ever contain a physician as affable and accommodating as the outgoing doctor has been, not only to the soldiers but settlers as well.”

The “Hindsight is 20/20” exhibit chronicles Dr. Reed’s life alongside a display of pharmacy items, including pill bottles and medicines. The section of the exhibit dedicated to Dr. Reed is just one of 20 collections being showcased through March 20. With the start of 2020, Laure Sinn and Holly Counts said it seemed appropriate for the Sandoz Center to look backwards and used the opportunity to display a variety of exhibits that depict everything from early Native American life in the region to agricultural advancements and law enforcement.

“It’s a way to show off a lot of the smaller collections of the region,” Counts said, noting that over the years many individuals have approached them about displaying their collections but didn’t have enough to fill the center’s full gallery.

A flintknapping display, for example, reveals the tools used and skills exhibited by early humans in their effort to communicate and survive. Another is dedicated to the Elite Theatre in Crawford, owned by Timothy and Georgianna Higgins in the early 1900s. The couple first operated a saloon and added the theatre in 1909. When Mr. Higgins died in 1912, it is believed that Mrs. Higgins became the first woman in the U.S. to own and operate a moving picture theatre, according to research provided by the Crawford Historical Museum. The theatre showed its first talkie in 1930, and Mrs. Higgins retired not long after that, but first constructed a new theatre building.

The Elite Theatre in Crawford is believed to be the first in the country owned by a woman.

Other exhibits are dedicated to the White River Mill, which was operated by the Hall brothers until 1915, the Native American Church, formed in the 1870s with a Pine Ridge Chapter blessed by Pope Paul VI in 1975, and to The Rev. George Philip Bechtel, who served the local German population and Native Americans on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation from 1929-1943.

There is also a collection of Mari Sandoz’s music and letters, including one from a reader of her book “Slogum House.”

“The book is a curiosity. It is so rotten and so putrid it stinks. Yet, having been an inmate of the Insane Asylum, due to the fact that I did every thing I could think of to prevent its being published, you might pardon me. Your characters are well chosen and you would be amazed if you knew that I am quite well acquainted with several of your characters,” the reader wrote.  “You are a wonderful woman since you wrote a manuscript which causes the entire world to act like insane fools,” the letter writer continued and implored Sandoz to “Write a clean story, Mari Sandoz, which will help instead of destroying.”

The author responded to the 1944 letter explaining that she began writing the story as Hitler came to power and was attempting, through fiction, to visualize the methods an individual might use to dominate the world or a region. Sandoz refused to send the letter writer a copy of her book as she didn’t want it in the hands of a reader “unable or unwilling” to seek out its purpose.” She encouraged the woman to “learn to look at the world with a little more objectivity, seeing it as an observer, not as the personal center, you might find life less complicated and defeating, and certainly more fun.”

The Sandoz Center will host speakers and demonstrations in conjunction with the show and also is introducing a new feature with its exhibition of the “Hindsight is 20/20” show. A plus-one exhibit is on display at the show-sponsor Bean Broker Coffee House and Pub in downtown Chadron. The collection of photographs by Dwight Kirsch were taken in 1939 for a planned MGM movie based on Sandoz’s book “Old Jules.” The movie never went into production, however, as producer Irving Thalberg fell ill and had to scrap the project.

“When we first came to town, we thought, we have this great gathering spot in downtown Chadron,” said Dave Feddersen, who purchased the Bean Broker with his wife, Paige, a year ago. “We want to be Chadron’s living room, where the doors are open and everyone is welcome.”

The pictures of Nebraska’s beautiful landscapes are starting to attract attention from the business’ customers, including one local rancher who realized one of the historic photos was taken near his parents’ homestead, Feddersen said.

“I think people are starting to look at it and appreciate it. I think it’s engaging. People enjoy it and they like to see variety here,” he said.  

The plus-one exhibit at the Bean Broker, which was put up in December and will run through the end of March, is dubbed “Foresight is 20/20.” Feddersen hopes to continue the concept in other ways once the show is over, possibly through other Sandoz exhibits, or with other artistry depicting Northwest Nebraska for visitors to enjoy when they stop.

“It’s a way to partner with the Sandoz Center, the college, and others to drive awareness about the resources we have in this area,” Feddersen said.

The famed Chadron to Chicago Horse Race of 1893 is one of 20 exhibits currently on display at the Sandoz Center.

If You Go

  • What: Hindsight is 20/20 Exhibit
  • When: Jan. 20 – March 27, Monday – Thursday 10 a.m. – Noon & 1-4 p.m. & Fridays 10 a.m. – Noon
  • Where: Mari Sandoz High Plains Heritage Center
  • Additional Opportunities
    • Foresight is 20/20: Dec. 6, 2019 – March 31, 2020 at the Bean Broker Coffee House & Pub
    • Demonstration: Flintknapping by Dave Nixon Jan. 23, All Day
    • Speaker: Matt Brust “Lady Beetles” Feb. 11, 3 p.m.
    • Demonstration: Flintknapping by Dave Nixon Feb. 13, All Day
    • Speaker: Mark Hunt “Sheriff Patches of Nebraska” Feb. 19, 1 p.m.
    • Speaker: Steve Rolfsmeier “High Plains Herbarium at 60” Feb. 25, 2 p.m.
    • Demonstration: Flintknapping by Dave Nixon March 19, All Day
    • Speaker: Matt Brust “Butterflies” March 24, 3 p.m.

Rich NWN history makes a perfect road trip

By Kerri Rempp, Northwest Nebraska Tourism Director

The famous Chadron to Chicago Horse Race of 1893 started at the Blaine Hotel in downtown Chadron.

The murder of an Army scout, the Cheyenne’s run through the buttes after fleeing Fort Robinson, and railroad camps and tent cities that boomed with the coming of the railroad all share one thing: geography.

Northwest Nebraska is rich in history; the story of the West unfolds in Dawes and Sioux counties, from Native American heritage to the era of fur-traders and homesteaders. Nearly three dozen historical markers provide historical context for the people and places that shaped Northwest Nebraska.

Before the West was carved up by homesteaders and the free range fenced, Native American tribes walked the land of Northwest Nebraska and during the fur-trade era, many conducted business with the traders. James Bordeaux opened his Indian trading house in the mid-1840s near what is today the Museum of the Fur Trade. Bordeaux’s trading house was once attacked by Crow warriors, who were eventually driven off by friendly Sioux Indians. He traded the Indians’ buffalo robes, furs and ponies for guns, powder, blankets and whiskey for nearly three decades in Northwest Nebraska.

But as westward expansion surged, disputes over land erupted. In September 1875, the Allison Commission met with thousands of Sioux Indians under a lone cottonwood tree near present-day Whitney. The commission members hoped to convince the Native Americans to part with the Black Hills, but negotiations failed. While the Council Tree or Treaty Tree died decades ago, its general location is still marked along Old Highway 20.

The story of the Native American people continued in Northwest Nebraska as more settlers arrived, the military established outposts and tribes were assigned to dedicated “agencies,” where they were to live. A few years after the Allison Commission failed in its negotiations, a band of Cheyenne, led by Dull Knife, fled a reservation in Oklahoma, seeking to return to their homeland in Wyoming and Montana. Nearly 150 of the Cheyenne were captured and imprisoned at Fort Robinson, refusing to return to Oklahoma. In January 1879, several of the younger Cheyenne Warriors used smuggled weapons and broke out of the barracks, fighting a running battle across the Fort’s parade ground, eventually reaching the White River, scaling the nearby cliffs and escaping. The Cheyenne evaded troops for 12 days but were discovered hiding along Antelope Creek Jan. 22. The outbreak resulted in the deaths of 64 Cheyenne and 11 soldiers.

Other Native Americans worked with the military, such as Baptiste “Little Bat” Garnier, who served as Chief of the Fort Robinson Scouts. Garnier’s father was French-Canadian, but he was raised among his mother’s Sioux people, earning a reputation as one of the best interpreters and big game hunters in the Rocky Mountain Region of the Nebraska Territory, according to “Fifty Years on the Old Frontier” by James Cook. Little Bat took part in General George Crook’s Black Hills Expedition, worked as a scout with Col. Merritt’s 5th Cavalry and was acting as a military interpreter during Wounded Knee when fighting broke out.

This marker pays tribute to “Little Bat” Garnier, an Army Scout at Fort Robinson who was shot and killed in Crawford.

He was shot and killed Dec. 16, 1900, in a Crawford saloon by local bartender James Haguewood. After being shot, Little Bat stumbled into the street and was taken into a nearby building, where he died, Cook wrote in his book. His life and death are paid tribute with a plaque on the side of what is today known as the Corner Bar, where the fatal shot was fired. Haguewood was acquitted on a plea of self-defense.

Little Bat’s death and interment records read that he was “brutally shot while wholly unarmed and without cause or justification.”

The City of Crawford itself is recognized with a historical marker, having its start as a tent city in 1886. Named after a soldier at Fort Robinson, the town served as an important supply depot for the military outpost, and a center of entertainment for the soldiers stationed there. The historical marker telling the city’s story is located at the site of the Visitor’s Center at the junction of Highways 2/71 and 20.

Crawford isn’t alone in its historic status; the village of Harrison is also recognized with an official state marker. Originally established as a railroad camp in 1884, the town was initially named Summit thanks to its elevation of 4,876 feet. It remains the highest town in the state today.

Just west of Harrison was the Coffee Siding. Cattle ranching was king in Northwest Nebraska, and one of the largest cattle barons, Charles Coffee, constructed a railroad siding between Harrison and Lusk in order to ship cattle to Chicago and avoid Wyoming’s higher freight charges. Agriculture remains a key industry in Northwest Nebraska but trucks have taken over what was once the railroad’s domain.

The complete list of Northwest Nebraska’s historical markers can be found at https://discovernwnebraska.com/museums/. Plan a day or weekend trip this winter to visit as many of them as possible and push those winter blues aside by enjoying Northwest Nebraska year-round.

Pulliam preserving family’s ledger art legacy

By Kerri Rempp, Northwest Nebraska Tourism Director

Throughout history, generations have learned about those who came before through song, stories and art. Nowhere are those traditions more imperative than in the Native American culture. Plains Indians who populated what is today known as Northwest Nebraska passed their traditions from one generation to the next.

“Indigitized” by artist Joe Pulliam is a piece of ledger art that represents Native American’s struggle to keep one foot in the past and one foot in the present.

Today, artist Joe Pulliam continues the custom of his ancestors as he creates ledger art. Ledger art takes its name from the source of paper Native Americans began to use as European settlement moved westward. As tribes came into possession of ledgers, ink and pens, their artists expanded their craft, which had primarily consisted of using bone fragments and earth pigments to paint on shields and robes.

“This really represented the next step in art,” Pulliam said. “They were adapting to new materials.”

A native of Pine Ridge, Pulliam worked as a graphic designer for 10 years before learning about the connection of his people to ledger art after being introduced to the medium by Nebraska artist Daniel Long Soldier.

“The historical aspect of ledger art drew me to it,” Pulliam said during a recent stint as the artist-in-residence at the Mari Sandoz High Plains Heritage Center in Chadron.

When Pulliam discovered his great-great-uncle, Amos Bad Heart Bull, had been a prolific ledger artist, it cemented his decision to carry on the tradition. Bad Heart Bull’s father served as the historian for the Oglala Lakota and after becoming a scout for the U.S. Army, which included time at Fort Robinson, Bad Heart Bull followed in his father’s footsteps detailing the history of his people. According to Northern Plains Reservation Aid, Bad Heart Bull created 415 ledger art drawings on used ledger pages over the course of 20 years. The drawings depict Oglala Lakota life before 1856, followed by the conflicts with the Crow from 1856-1875 and the Battle of Little Bighorn, in which his father fought.

Artist Joe Pulliam answers questions about his ledger art in front of a ledger art creation done by his great-great-uncle, Amos Bad Heart Bull.

Bad Heart Bull’s original pieces were buried with his sister, Dolly Pretty Cloud, but were documented by photographer Helen Blish, said Laure Sinn, of the Mari Sandoz High Plains Heritage Center. Staff at the center discovered Blish’s book in the center’s archives – a gift to Mari Sandoz at some point – and Bad Heart Bull’s connection with Northwest Nebraska and created the current gallery showing “Native American Legacies.” The show, which runs through Dec. 13, includes reprints of many of Bad Heart Bull’s ledger art pieces, as well as original creations by Pulliam.

Using Blish’s work as a focal point, the show also features Honoring Quilts donated by Roxie Puchner and a display calling attention to missing and murdered indigenous women. Blish herself has connections to the region, as her father, William, was assigned to work with the Oglala Sioux on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation while employed with the Department of Interior’s Indian Bureau, according to History Nebraska. After graduating from college in 1922, Blish taught English in Gordon for a time before returning to her native Michigan. When it came time for her to write her master’s thesis, she began looking for examples of Plains art, an endeavor that led to her 1934 manuscript “A Photographic History of the Oglala Sioux” featuring Bad Heart Bull’s work.

Pulliam said research is a key part of his ledger art as he finds ways to preserve the culture and history.

“I’m exploring new ways to portray history in a modern light,” he said.

A piece he calls “Indigitized” represents Native American’s struggle with identity as they always have “one foot in history and one foot in the present,” Pulliam said. “Warrior Society” depicts fierce defenders in Oglala Lakota history who were also among the most generous people of the tribe, proving they were equally valuable in times of peace as they were in war. Pulliam hopes his art inspires the return of those values to society while additionally calling injustices to light, as he does in another piece inked on an 1892 Sheridan County land deed, to represent government-ignored treaties.

While his great-great-uncle used present-day ledgers for his creations, Pulliam scours the internet, antique shops, thrift stores and yard sales in search of ledgers to use in his work.

“The search is always on,” he said.

Pulliam is also active in social justice issues and is a supporter of the White Clay Maker Space, an effort to provide economic sustainability to Lakota living in the area. A recovering alcoholic, Pulliam said while the maker space’s business-aspect is important, he is more focused on empowering himself and his people through art and providing the healing he finds in the creative process.

Improvement Grant Applications Being Accepted

The Dawes and Sioux County Travel Boards are each accepting applications for improvement grants to enhance visitor attractions in both counties.
Applications will be reviewed by each board in January, and interested public and non-profit entities are encouraged to begin the application process now. Attractions must apply for the improvement grant in their respective county only.
Improvement grant funds are available to expand or improve existing visitor attractions, acquire or expand exhibits or construct visitor attractions. The grants are funded by the proceeds of a lodging tax on motel/hotel/campground lodging in Dawes and Sioux counties, as authorized under the Nebraska Visitors Development Act.
“We are continuing to see increased interest in Northwest Nebraska, and improved attractions will allow us to build on that momentum,” said Northwest Nebraska Tourism Director Kerri Rempp.
Dawes County applications are due Dec. 27, and Sioux County applications are due Jan. 1, 2020. Applications and a complete list of guidelines can be found at DiscoverNWNebraska.com.
Each county also offers promotional grants to assist with advertising, signage and other promotional materials. The Dawes County Travel Board reviews applications for promotional grants each month; Sioux County accepts those grant applications on Jan. 1, April 1 and Oct. 1. Visit Discover NWNebraska.com or call 308-432-3006 for more information.

909 Nebraska Passport participants travel to every stop

This summer, travelers celebrated the Nebraska Passport Program’s 10th anniversary by touring the state and collecting stamps in record breaking numbers. This year, 909 participants submitted Passports with all 70 stops stamped, versus 769 in 2018 and 469 in 2017. These “Passport Champions” hail from Colorado, Florida, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Oregon and Washington.
“Over the 2019 Passport season, I heard so many wonderful stories from our participants. Ranging from someone who takes their 98-year-old grandma around Nebraska every year to how a young boy begs his mom to take him back to Springfield Drug because he loved their milkshakes so much,” said Madison Schlake, Passport Program Coordinator. “Almost every day I was flooded with stories of family, friendship and genuine love for our beautiful state. Our “Passporters” are what makes this program so successful.”
2019 Nebraska Passport Statistics:

  • From submitted Passports, 154,755 total stamps were collected.  
  • Participants included residents from 448 Nebraska communities and 37 states.
  • Passport participants ranged in age from 3-months-old to 98-years-old.
  • Participants submitted over 600 stories of their travels on nebraskapassport.com.
  • There were 22.5% more accounts on the Nebraska Passport app in 2019 than 2018.

“I’m not a native Nebraskan, so I’ve been able to use the Passport Program to help me explore the state in the three years that I’ve been here. This year I made it to 51 stops!” said John Ricks, Nebraska Tourism Commission executive director. “This program has continued to grow and every year it’s exciting to see how many people in Nebraska are exploring the state beyond their backyard.”

In 2017, the Nebraska Passport program generated nearly $6 million in travel spending throughout the state and $469,500 in state and local tax revenue, according to a study done by Dean Runyan & Associates.
Be a 2020 Nebraska Passport Stop
Not only does the Nebraska Passport program benefit travelers through helping them create life-long memories, the program greatly benefits the 70 chosen Passport stops through increased traffic, sales and awareness.

Applications are now being accepted for Nebraska Tourism’s 2020 Passport program. Any Nebraska destination is welcome to apply to become a Passport stop. Past stops have included museums, restaurants, outdoor adventures, retail stores, etc.

To complete the 2020 Passport online application, as well as to view information about Passport stop requirements, how the program benefits Passport stops, and details about the application process, go to: http://nebraskapassport.com/passport-details/application/. The application deadline is December 31, 2019. Questions about participating in the program can be directed to info@nebraskapassport.com

The Trading Stories Native American Film Festival at the Chadron Public Library, sponsored by the Chadron Library Foundation, highlights the Native American history of the region. The library has an extensive Indigenous Peoples of North America collection of books, films and music.

Window to the World: Trade stories at the Chadron Public Library
By Kerri Rempp, Northwest Nebraska Director of Tourism
Mention the word library, and most folks think of nothing more than shelves of books. But as the world has changed, so too have our local libraries. The abundance of books and the importance of the written word remains, but libraries have become centers for makerspaces, educational classes, access to computer programs and the internet.
In Chadron, the public library hosts yoga classes, virtual reality events, craft sessions and more. In October, the Chadron Public Library and the Library Foundation reached a milestone with its sixth annual Trading Stories Native American Film Festival. Traditionally held during the annual Fur Trade Days celebration, the library this year moved the film festival to October as a standalone event.

For three days, the library screened documentaries and films, hosted speakers and offered traditional Native American food to pay tribute to the often-forgotten stories of the people who called this region home before European settlement. Films such as “Neither Wolf Nor Dog” and “Tiger Eyes” and the discussions that accompanied them provided opportunities to connect across cultures and served as a reminder that we all share the same human experiences.
Filmed on the Pine Ridge Reservation, “Warrior Women” depicted the contributions of mothers and daughters during the American Indian Movement of the 1970s. Documentaries like “Rumble” brought the connection across generations as it detailed the important influence Native American musicians have had on the music to which we listen.

Nancy Gilles was one of the featured speakers at the Native American Film Festival, speaking about Native tribes and the Homestead Act.

“Ohiyesa, The Spirit of an Indian” told the story of Charles Eastman, who cared for injured Native Americans at Wounded Knee. The film was so popular during the festival organizers ended up showing it three times instead of once, as intended.
Trading Stories films were screened for more than 200 people, with many individuals traveling to Chadron from the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, Hot Springs and Rapid City, South Dakota.
For anyone with a desire to learn more about Native American culture, history and its impact on life in the Pine Ridge region, the annual Trading Stories event is a great place to start.
But don’t wait until next year’s event to visit the Chadron Public Library. The library has an extensive Indigenous Peoples of North America Collection. Designated by a red sticker or the IPNA code, the materials include Native American music, films and books.
And if you’re looking for something else, it’s likely you’ll find it at the library as well. With nearly 79,000 items in its collection, the Chadron Public Library is sure to hold something of interest for anyone. Staff also host frequent events, including preschool story time each Thursday at 10:30 a.m., a Game/STEM Club on the second and fourth Mondays of each month at 6:30 p.m., and Lego Club on the first and third Mondays of each month, also at 6:30 p.m. The Friends of the Library also opens the annex next door to the library during the second weekend of each month with great bargains on books of every genre.
The Chadron Public Library is planning a Halloween Party for Nov. 2 from 2-4 p.m. and will host a Christmas party later in the year.
Also coming up is the Innovation Studio Maker Fair. The Chadron Public Library has been a host site for the Innovation Studio Maker Space since July. The library’s six months are almost up, however, and the makerspace stations will be moving on. To celebrate the creativity inspired by the presence of the Innovation Studio equipment, the staff will host a Maker Fair Nov. 9 and are inviting everyone who created items in the makerspace to bring their creations to display.
The Chadron Public Library is open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday and from noon to 5 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Library cards are available to residents of Dawes, Sioux and Sheridan counties, as well as residents of Hemingford. For more information, contact the library at 308-432-0531, stop by at 507 Bordeaux Street or visit chadronpubliclibrary.com.



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