Nebraska Prairie Museum

Nebraska Prairie Museum 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!


From the Stereoscope – January 2010
The GREAT Depression
by Susan Perry

As we gather stories about the Great Depression of the 1930s, I have wondered what the conditions were in Holdrege during that time. Many of us have heard dust bowl stories with tons of dirt blowing and no crops and I have heard that my bassinet was covered with dampened cheese cloth to keep the dust away. I was told that my dad was paid with a chicken or eggs for much needed items in The Golden Rule Store. I am guessing that each of us my age could add some personal tales to this article.
The City Fathers
In 1933, city wide, here are some of the things that were happening. The city budget had been trimmed drastically, ($77,170.11) and the wages of all (9 or 10) city workers had been cut $4,500. This meant a 12 percent reduction in city taxes from the previous year. Some appointments that would have called for a salary were not filled, and when the mayor presented the council with the name and impressive credentials for the vacant light, water and sewer commissioner, the council overrode his recommendation and did not fill the position. The library was funded with money in a designated category, and when their total would exceed that amount, the library was facing having to close its doors. Just a month after the first budget “slash,” the council found another $10,000 to cut, so I am concluding that the city was dealing with the depression as prudently and conservatively as possible.
The Red Cross
Within the county several hundred women were among the 600,000 volunteers making
garments for the Red Cross to distribute to persons in need. There were more volunteers at work during this time than during the First World War, reported the national headquarters. Over 10,000 branches of the organization were active in clothing and feeding the needy. In the first four and a half months of this year enough government cotton, (5,597,558 yards) was put in the hands of the volunteer seamstresses to make 30,000,000 garments.
Over 300 area ladies were among the 88,920 women volunteers engaged in relief activities. Their accomplishments were among the making of 3,810,000 surgical dressings, 3,000 layettes, 21,000 miscellaneous articles and 33,000 Christmas bags besides the clothing items mentioned earlier. In more populated areas, many more types of services were provided for those who needed them.
Holdrege Welfare Society
This loosely knit organization was formed to respond to need within the area. They met
infrequently, as all those involved were already busy business people, yet their committees functioned well to find ways to help those in dire need.
The visiting committee: This group inspected homes and situations. I am assuming that this was a way of verifying the statements of those applying for help. Twenty-eight of these were done, and most of them were repeats from the year before.
The distribution committee: “had a very busy fall and winter giving out 89 suits of underwear, 24 pair of overalls, 19 sweaters, 185 pair shoes, 52 ladies’ and girls’ coats, 28 men’s and boys’ coats, 70 hats and caps, 59 shirts, 109 pair stockings, 7 pair mittens, 170 dresses, 18 bloomers, 14 suits, 14 quilts and blankets, 8 mattresses and 229 miscellaneous articles, making a total of 1,088 articles. Besides these, special efforts were made to secure articles such as dishes, cutlery and furniture to help unfortunates who had fires and had lost all their household goods.”
The employment committee: There were no jobs available to send the unemployed to, so this group of men devised the woodpile method of aiding those who needed help. Most of their volunteer time was spent finding enough wood to keep a supply on hand for those wanting to work for a meal. No chits for meals were given, but a man could chop wood and receive a half loaf of bread, a can of beans and two ounces of coffee. Each ration was worth eight cents a person.
This woodpile assistance method worked in two ways; the men chopped for food, and the accumulated wood was distributed to those needing fuel. A total of 46 loads of wood were given out. Over the past year 372 had worked in the wood yard. This did not include the local people who were allowed to chop wood for half, in that way securing their own fuel.
So these locals paid in, so the committee could get more wood and needed food to dole out, so the people could chop for food and fuel, so the fuel could be distributed to the needy, so the committee started over again.
Special committees: Two of these were the clothing and the Christmas ones.
Specials appeals were made for donated clothing items and a supply room was kept in the courthouse, “where the needs of the deserving could be taken care of.” The Christmas committee distributed 52 baskets, 8 more than the year before. They too had the job of getting the food accumulated to portion out in the baskets.
All committees kept meticulous records, which were open to public scrutiny, so anyone could find out the recipients of any and all aid. The right to privacy had not been invented yet, but the public trust ethic was most important to the community. So was their keen sense of compassion, which was foremost in all their dealings in 1933 as all were struggling, in varying degrees, to survive the GREAT depression.
* * *

Stereoscope – Jan 2010Three Gun Wilson Swoops Down As Church Bells RingHoldrege Progress October 31, 1932Five Simultaneo...

Stereoscope – Jan 2010
Three Gun Wilson Swoops Down As Church Bells Ring
Holdrege Progress October 31, 1932

Five Simultaneous Raids
by Twenty Officers With Federal Warrants
Land Four Holdrege People
in Federal Jail at Hastings
While Other Are Held Here

A few minutes before the last church bells rang in Holdrege Sunday morning, a series of simultaneous raids on residences where liquor was alleged to be sold, resulted in fourteen arrests of local people on liquor charges.
According to officers the following were arrested: D. S. Hayes, Carrie D. Wilmore, Herbert Hedstrom, Mr. and Mrs. Emil Steinke, Vona Hopkins, Lester Freeland, Opal Bragg, Ellen Lantz, Ray Verbeck, Vivian Davis, Lester Cobb and Joe McKean, all of Holdrege and Enos Clark of Wilcox.
The raiding squad was composed of 20 officers, headed by Harold (Three Gun) Wilson, federal prohibition enforcing officer and included the local police force, sheriff, city attorney and Kearney county officers, in addition to a number of federal officers.
Five raids were conducted at the same moment, 10:50 Sunday morning, after the officers had met outside the city limits and received their final instructions from their chief. They were armed with federal search warrants and all arrests were made on federal warrants.
Raids were made at 820 Logan Street; 510 Garfield Street; Faggerberg apartment; 203 Tilden Street; 512 Grant Street; and 724 Arthur Street. In addition, a raid was made on an alleged bootlegger at Wilcox. In every case, it is alleged quantities of liquor were taken by the officers as evidence.
As a part of the same clean-up tour, the officers made several arrests in Kearney county when Wilson and his federal men went on to Minden.
Information concerning the raid created a sensation at the Presbyterian church services Sunday morning, when Mayor Frank Anderson, who spoke there was called from the church. After returning he concluded his address with the information that there would be no liquor sold in Holdrege that day and told his audience about the series of raids.
According to City Attorney Storms, indictments are being prepared for the entire group. A number of patrons of the alleged bootleggers, who were taken in the raid, have been dismissed. Mr. and Mrs. Emil Steinke, Mrs. C. D. Wilmore and Herbert Hedstrom were taken to Hastings and confined to the federal jail there. The others are being held in the county and city jail here.

Congregational Churches in Phelps County(*date of original article is unknown)As printed in the June 2010 Phelps Helps N...

Congregational Churches in Phelps County
(*date of original article is unknown)
As printed in the June 2010 Phelps Helps Newsletter

Darlene Samuelson, a volunteer at our library has just completed an index of Congregational church members in Phelps County, Nebraska. The communities include Holdrege, Loomis and Bertrand. We do not have the records for the Urbana Congregational, a country church that was located in the Rock Falls Township, Phelps County but do have good information about this church.

The first Congregational organization in Phelps County was brought about by Samuel Eveland, a theological student from Chicago Seminary, sent into Phelps County by the American Board of Home Missions. He arrived in Phelps Center in June 1883, and with his coat over his shoulder, walked to Whitewater P. O. kept by S. M. Millard, one mile south of what is now Bertrand.

In this locality were several families from Iowa, Wisconsin, and Illinois with no church organization. Rev. Eveland stayed in the community for a short time holding meetings in the homes. From the interest thus created, a Congregational organization was formed on September 23, 1883 in the Millard Schoolhouse with the assistance of Rev. W. H. Forbis and State Superintendent C. W. Merrill. Out of these efforts came the organization of the Urbana Church in 1884 with the Pierce, Griffith and Thomas Families as its members. The Whitewater organization was disbanded and the members took part in organizing the Bertrand Congregation in September 1885. Rev. C. H. Huestis, the first pastor, was called and a church building was erected.


502 East Avenue Thru The YearsStereoscope – April 2010Excerpts from early Holdrege Daily CitizenIn the 1890’s, the Hampt...

502 East Avenue Thru The Years
Stereoscope – April 2010

Excerpts from early Holdrege Daily Citizen
In the 1890’s, the Hampton Hotel was one of Holdrege’s showplaces. The building was razed in 1938. Memories of the big times within its walls lingered with many of the Holdrege residents of the time. The hotel was built with brick manufactured in Holdrege. It was located at 502 East Avenue—the present site of the Holdrege Municipal Building.

The brick, three-story, 75x100 ft. Hampton Hotel replaced the frame Hampton House which stood at the same location. E. S. Hampton came to Holdrege in 1885 and purchased the Commercial Hotel, which name he changed to the Hampton House. In the fall of 1887, he doubled the capacity of the hotel, and by the fall of 1888, it was a large 2-story structure. When the new brick building was built in 1891, a part of the old Hampton was moved back on the alley to the east and used as a barn.

Some 900 invitations were mailed out for the gala opening of the Hampton Hotel on a Friday night, March 6, 1891. Commercial men and their friends, as well as citizens of Holdrege were all invited. There was dancing until 11 p.m. followed by a banquet. Dancing continued well into the morning hours. Hastings, McCook, Oxford, Curtis, Blue Hill and Edgar were among the towns represented.

The Citizens had this to say in their report of the event: “It is doubtful, if ever there was a finer spread in the state than the banquet at the Hampton.” Guests were loud in their praise of the new hotel and its furnishings and the banquet and regal manner they were received by Landlord Hampton and wife. It is one of the finest hostelries in the state, outside Lincoln and Omaha. The building alone cost $26,500 and it has 40 rooms for guests with all the modern improvements.”

Later news stories in the Citizen indicated the hotel was sold at sheriff’s sale in April of 1898 to satisfy a tax lien. It was bid in at $16,650 by the bondholders. Various other operators followed the Hamptons before the hotel was closed. Chas. Steinke bought the Hampton in 1906, purchase price at the time being reported as $25,000. Mr. Steinke and his wife were former operators of the Central Hotel, originally the Holdrege House, which in later years was known as the Selma.

The Hampton Hotel was not operating at the time the city purchased the lots on which it stood in the late summer of 1938. By September 22, 1938, the building had been dismantled and the land cleared in preparation for the erection of the Holdrege Municipal Building which now stands on the site.

From the April 2010 Stereoscope - a Long one but good!The 1935 Republican Flood Seventy-Five Years Later Written by Sand...

From the April 2010 Stereoscope - a Long one but good!
The 1935 Republican Flood
Seventy-Five Years Later
Written by Sandra Salter

Plans are being made to honor those who lost their life in the Republican Valley Flood by marking each known person’s grave with a special marker on Memorial Day 2010.

It is believed that 113 people lost their lives and some family members were never found.

The Story of the Flood
The Terrible Loss of Life, The Bravery of the Volunteers and the Families That Survived

After years of drought in Nebraska, rain was a welcome site in May of 1935. It started raining in eastern Colorado on May 30 and continued for two days dumping 15 inches of rain. The Arikaree River and South Fork of the Republican River poured out of their banks, releasing flood waters on the 100-mile rampage of death and destruction. In South Central Nebraska, news came to the Republican Valley families that there might be flooding. Few took it seriously as there had been such warnings in 1905, 1915 and 1923 with little to moderate flooding happening.

However, this time the heavy rains came and on May 31st news came that Cambridge, Nebraska was already under five feet of water. Then, at 1:00 a.m. on June 1st literally, a wall of water came into Oxford cresting at sixteen feet high. The Oxford Standard story said, “When the houses began to fill up, and were finally toppled over by the force of the swift current, shrieks for help could be heard, but shrouded in darkness, nothing could be seen.” It was reported later that in Oxford 20 houses were demolished and that loss of farmlands and property would be at least a half million dollars.

Death was everywhere along the valley from the Nebraska-Colorado border and as far down stream to Franklin, Nebraska.

On Saturday, June 1st, Holdrege National guards headed by Ed Gillette and Second Lieutenant Bernard Dahlstedt and Sergeant Levi Londborg set up camp in Oxford. The Holdrege fireman also rushed to help with the rescue.

That same day, World War I veteran and Holdrege fireman, Glen M. Anderson, lost his life when the boat he was on overturned as he sought to pull a stranded person to safety. Anderson was sited as he was swept beneath two different bridges downstream. The Kearney Hub reporter said he was yelling for help both times, but couldn’t be reached. His companion was also missing and it is unknown what happened to him. Mr. Anderson left a wife Elnora and children, Wanda, age 10; Lorraine, age 8 and G. M., age 6. A huge crowd attended Anderson’s funeral at the St. Elizabeth Episcopal Church. He is buried at Prairie Home Cemetery near Holdrege.

Hundreds of stories have been written by the families that survived. Here is a newspaper story found in our library:

The Fuchs Family of Oxford

As told by Howard Fuchs who was 2 ½ years old at the time
By Ann Brown Regional Correspondent
(Undated article probably written in 1985)

Probably no one suffered more loss then the Fuchs family. Out of 11 family members only four survived. The Fuchs family lived a quarter of a mile from the river and although the family had been warned of rising water they were not fearful and decided to stay. Another reason for staying was that Howard’s sister had chicken pox.

It was about midnight when Howard’s dad saw the wall of water coming when a flash of lighting lit up the night sky. The family went to the upstairs of the two story house, a hole was made in the roof and they climbed a ladder to the roof of the house. “A friend, Ralph Blauvelt and Howard’s sister, Willis Lu were on the north side of the roof.
Howard and his parents were on the other. It was ‘Kind of thrilling’ when the house began to float. Fuchs said it drifted several miles, hit a tree and broke apart. The north half, along with Blauvelt and his sister, fell into the water. They were lost immediately in the swirling waters.”

“We were also in the water, but Dad was a strong swimmer. Fuchs was being pulled by his dad, while his mother held on to the back of dad’s overalls. His mother let go after Willis Lu was drowned. His sister’s body was found months later. His mother’s body was never found.”
Fuchs and his dad made their way to an island where the water had receded. His dad retrieved Fuchs’s baby bed, bedding and the family dog, Jack, as they floated by.

“He slit the mattress with his pocketknife and put me and the dog in it and we went to sleep.” Fuchs said, “When the sun came out, he took a good look at me. I had chicken pox, as if he didn’t have enough on his mind.”

They were on the island for three days and most of the four nights, until being rescued by the National Guard and three Oxford men. They ate canned food his dad had retrieved by swimming to a damaged house on the south side of the river and drank river water.

Fuchs said he cried for his mother. “He (Dad) finally explained that mom was gone and we would probably never see her again and I guess I never asked anymore.”

At a first aid station in Oxford, they found his maternal grandparents, who had spent the night of the flood on a windmill tower, and his dad’s father and brother, Charles and Herman.

Fuchs and his father stayed with family in Oxford for six months until his maternal grandparents’ house was cleaned. They learned his paternal grandparent’s house had filled with water and exploded.

Hermie and Granddad got to a tree and the rest were lost; Fuchs said “Out of a family of eleven, there were four of us left.”

The seven who died were his mother, sister, grandmother, two aunts and two cousins.

“I do get a kind of funny feeling about this time of the year,” he said about the anniversary of the flood, “Particularly this year with all the rain, since it’s very similar to what it was in ‘35.”

The tragedy produced many heroes. The late W. C. Bartlett of Alma wrote, “Those who did not see this terrifying flood cannot realize the courage it took to venture into its swirling torrents in hastily constructed boats, especially by men unused to boats and unfamiliar to high waters.” —END


Holdrege, NE

Opening Hours

Monday 10:00 - 17:00
Tuesday 10:00 - 17:00
Wednesday 10:00 - 17:00
Thursday 10:00 - 17:00
Friday 10:00 - 17:00
Saturday 13:00 - 16:00
Sunday 13:00 - 16:00


(308) 995-5015


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Does the museum have names of the German P.O.W.'s from WWII?
Nala our 3-year-old Female Husky has now been missing for one year from the Arnold, NE area since 2/9/18. She is Grey/Black, Blue Eyes and a White face. We believe someone passing through the Nebraska area may have picked her up and without tags or collar was unable to contact us. If you have seen her or know someone who might have her, PLEASE help us bring her home. We are offering a $2000 reward for her safe return. 402-214-4737
Long day, but it was a lot of fun.
Movie night at the Nebraska Prairie. 34 individuals had free popcorn, coffee, water and movie, starring John Wayne in his first mayor roll, the 1930 “The Big Trail”. Great time. Thank-you to everyone that came out.
Board members overseeing nonprofit organizations in Phelps and Gosper counties should check out the Nonprofit Board Boot Camp in Holdrege, November 8. This intense training/update will help novice and seasoned board members better serve their organizations. Pre-registration required. For more information contact NE Extension Educator, Carroll Welte at 402.374.2954.
Allow yourself ample time to take in this wonderful museum.