A historical, interactive resource, through the collection of artifacts, archival documents, and memorabilia that explain the lifestyles of the past.
The Nebraska Prairie Museum, located in Holdrege, Nebraska, contains an exceptionally fine collection of over one acre of indoor exhibits. Once inside, you get a feeling of spaciousness as you view collections of period clothing, antique toys, farm equipment, tools and household items, a unique W.W.II German POW exhibit room, and much more!
Here is a Stereoscope story by Betty Sayers from 2014 about the Johnson Building in downtown Holdrege.
Nebraska Prairie Museum in Holdrege model train displays
The Nebraska Prairie Museum in Holdrege is always a great place to visit but it is getting even better thanks to many volunteers. The G or Garden scale train has been up and running for awhile but the HO or smaller scale has quite a ways to go. The work that has gone into installing the trains is al...
On this day in 1971, the most decorated combat hero of World War II is tragically killed. Audie Leon Murphy wasn’t supposed to be a hero! In fact, when he first tried to join the military, the Marines rejected him because of his small size. The paratroopers rejected him, too. Disappointed, he joined the infantry.
The young Texan wasn’t one to be kept down! He soon proved himself to be a skilled marksman and a brave soldier.
Perhaps his most famous demonstration of bravery occurred on January 26, 1945. He was in the small town of Holtzwihr, France, with his unit of only 40 men. They’d been ordered to hold a particular road until reinforcements arrived. Unfortunately, the Nazis chose that moment to attack. Murphy’s men were badly outnumbered—there were up against 250 Nazis and 6 tanks!
Murphy ordered his men to fall back into the woods, even as he picked up his field phone and called for an Allied artillery attack. As Allied fire fell, he was able to take control of a burning tank. Perhaps more importantly, he took control of its machine gun! Germans were all around him, but he fired on the Nazi infantry for an hour until his ammunition ran out. He was talking on his field phone the whole time, helping to direct Allied artillery fire! When his ammunition was finally exhausted, he left the tank. Refusing medical treatment for his injuries, he organized his men into a counterattack. In the end, Murphy and his 40 men rebuffed the 250 Germans.
“I expected to see the whole damn tank destroyer blow up under him any minute,” Private Anthony Abramski later testified. “For an hour, he held off the enemy force single-handed, fighting against impossible odds. . . . The fight that Lieutenant MURPHY put up was the greatest display of guts and courage I have ever seen. There is only one in a million who would be willing to stand up on a burning vehicle, loaded up with explosives, and hold off around 250 raging KRAUTS for an hour and do all that when he was wounded.”
After the war, Murphy came home to a hero’s welcome! He’d earned 28 awards, including the Medal of Honor and some French and Belgian honors. He earned every American medal for valor. He’d done all of this, and he was only 20 years old! He was soon featured on the cover of Life magazine, which brought him to the attention of Hollywood. The soldier-turned-actor would go on to act in dozens of movies, and his memoirs would be made into a film, To Hell and Back. He also became a songwriter.
Despite these successes, everything was not rosy for Murphy in these years. He was candid about the fact that he suffered from “battle fatigue” (today known as post-traumatic stress disorder), and he struggled with insomnia. Nevertheless, he apparently didn’t know how to stay away from military service. He joined the Texas National Guard in 1950, hoping that he would be called to serve in the Korean War. It didn’t happen. He later transferred to the Army Reserve.
Murphy was killed in a private plane crash on May 28, 1971. After his death, he was buried with full military honors in Arlington Cemetery. Finally, just two years ago, his home state of Texas posthumously awarded him its greatest military honor: the Texas Legislative Medal of Honor.
The poor son of sharecroppers was not supposed to be a hero—and yet he was! Determination, perseverance, exceeding expectations . . . . How AMERICAN.
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Brian Gnuse NTV
A "View from the tracks" at The Nebraska Prairie Museum in Holdrege. Watch the FULL STORY on Tuesday June 4th during NTV's Good Life at 9AM, Noon News and 6:30 PM News.
"It has been a joy to switch out and try different trains." The Nebraska Prairie Museum has working model trains on display thanks to the work of volunteers. This is a SHORT PREVIEW. Watch the FULL STORY from Brian Gnuse NTV on Tuesday June 4th during NTV's Good Life at 9AM, Noon News and 6:30 PM News.
WOW! The new HO train is coming along, and now look at the background! A BIG shout out to Suzanne Stratton for her talent on painting this beautiful background!! Thank you Suzanne!
Had an amazing turn out at our first Memorial Day Quilt of Honor program. Thank You so very much to all that have served.
Here are a few photos from the Museum's coffee this afternoon honoring 12 Korean War Veterans with Quilts of Honor. More pics to come!
A beautiful morning for the annual Memorial Day Services held at Prairie Home Cemetery. Thank you to all who participated!!
Here is another piece of Holdrege history written by Susan Perry in 2012, about Holdrege's "Coney Island."
Here's another story from the Stereoscope. This article was written in 2010.
Thank you Bill Hayes and Humanities Nebraska for a great program on the Underground Railroad in Nebraska! This was a very informative and well laid out story on how the U.S. became the South vs the North right up to the start of the Civil War.
Photo: Bill Hayes and Micah Huyser
Brian Gnuse NTV
The train is coming down the track!!! Coming soon... I will have a story on the trains at the Nebraska Prairie Museum in Holdrege and the work that is still going into improving them.
Phelps County Trivia Fun
Please check out our NEW Historic Plum Creek Cemetery page! We will be adding more information as time allows. Please spread the word about this new page!
As always, the Historic Plum Creek Cemetery, located in northeast Phelps County, Nebraska, is always open and FREE to visit.
The Historical Plum Creek Cemetery is located in the northwest corner of Phelps County, Nebraska. FREE and open year-round to visitors and history buffs, it's located on the Oregon Trail and Pony Express routes where the 1864 Plum Creek Massacre occurred.
For all of you who are fans of old dolls we just finished updating our doll display
Phelps County Courthouse
100 Years and Counting
By Patti Simpson (2011)
References taken from the Phelps County History Book
And other Phelps County References
This year the Phelps County Courthouse will turn 100 years old (2011).
Early Courthouse History
The first Phelps county offices did not have a formal courthouse, or public structure to be housed, but were in the dwelling of Mrs. J. Q. Musgrove who lived in Williamsburg, the first county seat of Phelps county. Later, another town, Phelps Center was declared the county seat and the offices were moved. But in 1883 when the Burlington Railroad came through Phelps county, all that changed.
The removal of the county seat from Phelps Center to Holdrege became the ambition of Holdrege residents within days after the establishment of the town in 1883. Phelps Center, seeing the handwriting on the wall, set about to get an injunction issued preventing the removal of the county records and books from the current courthouse. A few enterprising Holdrege men succeeded in “obtaining” the county records and loaded them into a spring wagon, setting off across the prairie to Holdrege. Among the Holdrege men who made the daring raid were John L. Crossley and Swan Miller. Mr. Corssley drew a gun on Pete Peerson who was in charge of the office where the county records were kept. P. O. Hudlund, County Clerk, was away on a duck hunting trip at the time. Corssley and Peerson were old friends, an early historian said, so Mr. Peerson threw up his hands “right away” and the Holdrege men helped themselves to the books and other records.
Anticipating the Phelps Center folks to try to retrieve the county records, the men scattered them all over the town of Holdrege. The settlers at Phelps Center were up in arms over the matter, and there would have been blood shed if not for Leander Hallgren who urged the Phelps Center men to let the law take its course and not do anything.
About this time, the Burlington Railroad offered to give a block of land to the citizens of Holdrege, provided they would erect a courthouse thereon. A company of merchants accordingly banded together and had a frame building constructed, which was completed and ready for occupancy on May 30, 1884. On that day, the records taken from Phelps Center were transferred to the new courthouse from a building on West Avenue where they had temporarily been kept. On the same day a meeting was held at which Mr. E.D. Einsel made a speech on behalf of the county, accepting the courthouse.
All of this, of course, was before Holdrege was officially designated as the county seat. They had the courthouse, the records, but no election had been held on a change in county seat location.
Holdrege Builds First Frame Courthouse
The town of Holdrege had pledged to build, without charge to the county, a two-story “commodious” courthouse, if the seat of government was moved there. On the other hand, if the county seat was to remain at Phelps Center, bonds would have to be voted for to construct a new courthouse. This probably aided in swinging sentiment toward the official removal of the county seat to Holdrege.
In the meantime, Holdrege went ahead with construction of the two-story building which was to house the courthouse. The cornerstone of this structure was laid on the first anniversary of Holdrege – October 10, 1884. A report of the event, which appeared in the Nugget of October 15 said: “The ceremonies, on the whole, were impressive and when the courthouse stands thereon as a witness of the public spirit and enterprise of the citizens of Holdrege, Phelps county will ratify their action and as a reward for their generosity, her voters will cast their ballots for the county seat at the Magic City.”
A bitter election on November 11, 1884 settled the argument and Holdrege was declared the county seat. The Nugget reported: “Phelps County now has a courthouse, the cost of which will reach over $3,000.00 and a courthouse square of which no town need be ashamed, located near the business center of Holdrege, a free gift to the county, by the citizens of our town.”
The New Courthouse Is Built
Then on August 3, 1909, a petition signed by 1039 voters and tax payers of Phelps county was presented to the Board of Supervisors. The petition stated the frame courthouse building was not fireproof and inadequate, and requested the Board of Supervisors to submit to the voters of Phelps County a proposition of bonding the county to the extent of $100,000.00 for the purpose of erecting a new courthouse and jail building. The Board of Supervisors unanimously voted to pass the resolution to submit the question to the voters at the general election in November 1909. The resolution was voted on and passed 1,305 votes to 1,080.
On January 10, 1910 a request for bids was advertised. On February 8, 1910 bids were received and after a day and night session, the bid of Rowles and Bailey of Oklahoma City was accepted and they were awarded the contract for the construction of the new building for the sum of $80,819.00. At the same time, P.N. Kjar was awarded the separate contract for $7,925.00. G.A. Anderson was employed as the building superintendent.
The county offices were then moved, packed and crowded into a little brick jail building. The old frame courthouse was sold at public action for $500.00 and was torn down by the purchaser and on the first day of July 1910 the first dirt for the new excavation was moved.
Everyone was happy when the big day came to “lay the cornerstone.”
On December 1, 1910, the Holdrege Citizen reported on the grand cornerstone ceremonies held on the prior Saturday. A large crowd of people were in attendance on the windy day. Glover Post No. 111, G.A.R. was in charge of the cornerstone laying. Commander John F. Diener of the Department of Nebraska was present from Syracuse, also Past Commander John Maxson of Minden. These men had direct charge of this portion of the exercises and used a ritualistic ceremony in which members of Glover Post and Company E participated.
The cornerstone was not in reality laid on Saturday. To state things correctly, the two cornerstones (for there were two small stones joined together) were in place Friday where they remained covered by a strip of bunting until unveiled Saturday afternoon. The stones are beautiful pieces of dark Warsaw granite and were placed in the southwest corner of the building. On the south face is chiseled the names of the 1910 board of supervisors and county clerk, C.L. Hedlund. On the west face this inscription appears: “Laid by Glover Post No. 111, G.A.R.; November 26, 1910 – W.F. Gernandt, Fairbury, Nebraska, architect; Rowles & Baily, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, contractors; G.A. Anderson, superintendent.”
Articles placed in the strong box included articles found in the old cornerstone box which was laid October 10, 1884: one copy of the Phelps County Pioneer dated August 28, 1879; one copy of the Nebraska Nugget dated June 25, 1884; one copy of the Holdrege Republican dated September 10, 1884; and eight business cards of 1884.
New articles added to the list included: one 1909 copy of Arnold’s Complete Directory of Phelps County, one copy of the Holdrege Citizen, one copy of the Holdrege Progress, one copy of the Loomis Sentinel, one copy of the Bertrand Herald, one sample copy of the Phelps county courthouse and jail bond, annual statement of the following banks – City National Bank of Holdrege, First National Bank of Holdrege, First National Bank of Loomis, Farmers State Bank of Loomis, First National Bank of Bertrand, First State Bank of Bertrand, Atlanta State Bank and Funk Bank, one photograph of the 1909 Phelps county supervisors and county officers, notice of cornerstone laying with program of November 26, 1910, one copy of the 1910 delinquent tax list, roster of Glover Post No. 111 G.A.R. of Company E 2nd Infantry N.N.G., small bottle containing sample of grass wheat gown on the SE1/4 of Section 18-5-17 in 1880, a short history of Phelps county, one copy of the January 10, 1888 Nebraska Nugget (Booster Edition), one complete certified history of the 1909 bond election, some coins, one photograph of the old courthouse, one photograph of the Christian Orphans’ Home, one perfect corn ear raised by Sam Shrock in 1910, and some business cards.
Some delays were caused by failure to receive shipments of material on time, so that it was not until June 13, 1911, that the keys of the new building were turned over to the county by the contractors. However, by August 12, 1911, the last county official had moved into the new building and every official department of the county was placed in “convenient and sumptuous” quarters.
After the courthouse was built and the grounds landscaped, Andrew Urbom supervised digging up large trees in the Fleischman grove south of Holdrege and having them transplanted to the courthouse square.
The original contract price for the construction of the new building was $80,819.00. Naturally, during its construction certain changes and improvements were made. Contracts for improvements included:
Extra marble $3,516.00
8 Vault doors 520.00
Cell Walls 286.00
Detention Cell 46.25
Terazzo Floors 455.00
The total cost of the building and improvements was $107,072.00.
Improvements, Remodels and Additions
Early on, there were two Civil War canons given to Phelps County and mounted on the courthouse lawn. These cannons, unfortunately, were victims of the metal drive during WWII.
Sometime along the way, an elevator was added and nice, large remodeled men’s and women’s restrooms were installed on the basement level.
In more recent years the courthouse has received new electrical wiring and a heating system. And of course there was the Phelps County Justice Center addition which not only added space to the Phelps County Sheriff office, the Nebraska State Patrol office and the jail area, but expanded the County Clerk and Treasurer’s offices.
Thanks to our Phelps County ancestors, we have beautiful stone courthouse that everyone can be proud of.
N HIGHWAY 183
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