Saturday, December 27, 2008

Green Homesteading

by Doris Martin

Going green is currently being marketed as a new idea. But is it?

American Indians and homesteaders recycled not because it was popular but because it was a way of life. This lifestyle is demonstrated by rangers at Homestead National Monument each time they give the “Follow the Buffalo” program. It shows the importance of buffalo to Indians and the uses they made of all parts of the buffalo. For example, they used the skin for teepees and blankets, buffalo chips for fuel, muscles and tendons became glue, and for food. If you would like to hear this program contact Tina Miller, the education coordinator at the Monument.

Homesteaders also used their limited supplies in a variety of ways. It is sometimes referred to as “making do” An interactive exhibit at the Heritage Center demonstrates some of the uses they made of available goods. For example, small scraps of material left over after clothes were made became quilts, when beef were slaughtered the fat was used to make candles and soap, and native plants were used as medicines.

The American Frugal Housewife, by Lydia M. Child, begins with “The true economy of housekeeping is simply the art of gathering up all the fragments, so that nothing be lost. I mean fragments of time, as well as materials. Nothing should be thrown away so long as it is possible to make any use of it, however trifling that use may be; and whatever be the size of a family, every member should be employed either in earning or saving money.” It contains numerous ideas to save money and supplies and can be purchased in the bookstore at Homestead National Monument of America.

American Indians and homesteaders made the most of what they had. It sure sounds like they were going green long before it was trendy.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Happy Holdays from Homestead Congress

In the midst of the Civil War, President Lincoln signed into law two visionary programs that helped our people come together again and build America up. The Morrill Act helped States create new land grant colleges. This is a land grant university. The university in my home State was the first land grant college west of the Mississippi River. In these places, young people learn to make American agriculture and industry the best in the world. The legacy of the Morrill Act is not only our great colleges and universities like Rutgers but the American tradition that merit and not money should give people a chance for a higher education.

Mr. Lincoln also signed the Homestead Act that offered 100 acres of land for families who had the courage to settle the frontier and farm the wilderness. Its legacy is a nation that stretches from coast to coast. Now we must create a new legacy that gives a new generation of Americans the right and the power to explore the frontiers of science and technology and space. The frontiers of the limitations of our knowledge must be pushed back so that we can do what we need to do. And education is the way to do it, just as surely as it was more than 100 years ago.

Bill Clinton, March 1, 1993

It is the goal of Homestead Congress to tell the Homestead story and it is our sincere hope that our homestead stories, both modern and old, delivered through the frontier of blog technology have educated you, our readers, on and about the heroic homesteaders of America.

Many thanks to our 2008 contributors:

Todd Arrington, Homestead National Monument

Jesse Bolli, Homestead National Monument

Jerry Davison, Volunteer Homestead Congress

Denise Elmer, Volunteer Homestead Congress

Gene Finke, Homestead National Monument

Jessica Fleming, Homestead National Monument

Bernadette Korslund, Volunteer Homestead Congress

Dr. Leo L. Lemonds, author Nebraska Veterinary History

Manuel Hastings’s Memoirs

Lisa Roberts, Southeast Community College

Emery Stoops, author Prairie Pioneers

Happy Holidays!

A Brief Story of the National Christmas Tree

by C.L. Arbelbide

Friday, November 21, 2008

Nebraska Veterinary History Part VI


By Dr. Leo L. Lemonds

After World War II, the number of new veterinary graduates and the intensity and techniques of livestock production in Nebraska, expanded rapidly. There was an acceleration of the trend towards partnerships and group practices among veterinarians. Multi-person clinics became common and more large and small animals hospitals appeared especially in areas where the nature of livestock growing production and distances involved made it feasible to reduce travel time and provided a flow of surgical and obstetrical patients to permit maximum use of the veterinarians skills.

In rural areas, the pickup with the mobile veterinary clinic complete with refrigeration and hot & cold water, helped increase the efficiency of making rural calls. Later during this period the completely mobile small animal clinic for making house calls began in Lincoln and Omaha.

However, even at the present time, except for the Lincoln and Omaha areas, most of the out-state Nebraska veterinary hospitals are true “animal hospitals” with facilities geared for both large and small animals. The group practice generally provided veterinary services in a more advanced and refined form. It has enabled practice businesses to be more attractive and efficient, to provide laboratory and restraint equipment and to induce supervision of lay personnel in nonprofessional services.

During this period, Nebraska practitioner laboratories became equipped to investigate in depth and detail, the bio-chemical considerations to fit the “new look” in livestock production. In dealing with the large units of food animals reared under unnatural conditions and on un-natural feeds, the practitioner turned to the laboratory requesting metabolic profiles, nutritional analysis and pathogenic identification to fit the new requirements. Gradually the Nebraska practitioner must keep pace into an era of computer-managed, science-dominated livestock production.

Following World War II there has been the emergence of practitioner specialization. Nebraska veterinarians in ever increasing numbers have joined an increasing number of highly successful specialty groups such as the American Animal Hospital Association; American Association of Bovine Practitioners; American Association of Equine Practitioners; American Association of Swine Practitioners; American Association of Sheep and Goat Practitioners.

The rate of change in agriculture during this period in Nebraska was so rapid that it was difficult for many practitioners to understand what was happening and to make proper adjustments. The return in numbers of the pleasure horse was a source of joy and revenue to those veterinarians who loved the horse. Meanwhile, the pet animal practice became an integral part of almost every practice.

More veterinarians, especially in the larger Nebraska towns recognized the need to specialize exclusively in small animals. The dog and cat’s life had changed from the barn to that as a member of the family in the house. The veterinary service for small animals has now become sophisticated with radiology equipment, all kinds of new anesthesia weapons including a variety of inhalants, a wide variety of diagnostic equipment notably the blood chemical analytical units, specific agents treating illnesses and immunologic vaccinations to protect against a wide range of diseases.

The concept of bigness in animal production became a real shaping influence on food animal practice, often not in concert with professional philosophies of animal health. Thus, while family farms and the traditional requirements remained (even though becoming much larger), there were the new huge cattle feedlots and large swine-production units with a different philosophy of animal health – one in which treatment of the individual animal was not regarded as feasible.

This meant a search for a new role, one in which the veterinarian would initiate and plan programs of preventative medicine, an approach with much of the actual animal manipulations delegated to the producer. The large animal practitioner in Nebraska reacted to these changed circumstances by developing and experimenting with various approaches to provide his training and capabilities in the form most useful to the livestock producer.

Initially, programmed herd-health ventures ranged from simple gimmicks to sound programs representing major innovative thrusts. After the period of trial and error and adjustment, it seems probable that a form of programmed veterinary medicine will survive and grow. Another program being put into effect to ensure healthy livestock at this time by the Nebraska Veterinary Medical Association is a preconditioning plan of selling calves that have been castrated, dehorned and vaccinated prior to being sold that will help to reduce stress and disease.

Also confronting the farm animal practitioner was the awareness that high labor costs led to more mechanization and confinement-rearing livestock. This, in turn, presented the practitioner with a changing spectrum of diseases, different from those to which he had become accustomed under pasture-rearing conditions. As animals lived in a more and more completely man-created and man-controlled environment, there was an ever-increasing host of bizarre metabolic, nutritional and psychological problems.

The importance of genetics and the influence of intensively selecting breeding animals reflected itself in the practitioners concern for animal health. In the dairy cow, for example there were many vague metabolic and nutritional disorders associated with the great volumes of milk produced by highly bred cows. In feedlot beeves and in hogs, the singular rate of body weight gains imposed new and hard to under-stand disorders.

Concurrently there was a change in the distribution of the livestock population in Nebraska. The dairy cattle population diminished rapidly. Feedlots of cattle, often gigantic in size, began to appear sometimes in areas where there was nothing before. Likewise, large climatically controlled confinement hog operations appeared almost everywhere.

In 1967, the hog cholera control legislation, which prohibited the use of the live hog cholera viral vaccines, left many Nebraska veterinarians with a career decision to make. Long-time large animal practitioners with roots deep in the community were reluctant to relocate. Some embraced small animal practice or simply phased themselves out of the profession.

Later, the farm animal practitioner was encumbered with new concerns as he sought to use the most effective drugs in food-producing animals. Because drugs can produce residues in meat products, possibly with carcinogenic properties, this required certain new compromises in treatment to keep the veterinarians and the producer – client in compliance with drug residue and environmental quality control regulations.

Non-treatment drugs, those given as growth stimulants and disease preventatives, became a greater factor in the altered environment and the veterinarian because of his training, found himself pressured to be concerned with therapeutic agents quite removed from animal therapy.

Another of the changes in the Nebraska veterinary profession was the arrival in the 40’s of the first woman and black veterinarian, Dr. Ordella Geisler of Lincoln and Dr. A. B. Pittman of Omaha. There are now many women and black veterinarians in Nebraska and they continue to play an ever increasing role in Nebraska’s veterinary history.

Throughout their history Nebraska veterinarians have shown tremendous ability to reshape and redirect their activities to conform to changing needs and times. Some changes have been subtle and nearly imperceptible, others have been dramatic. While there remains many gaps to be filled in Nebraska’s veterinary history –some lessons from our past may provide some guidance to the future as each individual Nebraska veterinarian plays their role in its history.


A Century of Veterinary Medicine in Nebraska

Saturday, November 15, 2008

How to Harvest Native Seed

A Homestead Congress Blog Reader writes..."I'd love to hear more about how you collect native seed. We are doing similar work in Colorado."

Homestead National Monument Ranger Jesse Bolli responds...

Thank you for your interest in preserving native landscapes. Local seed collection is an important part of any restoration. By harvesting the seeds locally, you are insuring that the seed is adapted for your area. Many hands are very important in a successful seed harvest. At Homestead, we are blessed to have a very involved volunteer group and a supportive community which make the job easier.

We do not use any fancy equipment when we are harvesting seed. A bag to put the seed in, gloves and training are all we provide for the volunteers. The key to a successful volunteer harvesting event is to do your scouting beforehand. Know what plants you want and where they are abundant.

At Homestead, we start each event with an educational and safety message. This helps to inform the volunteers why what they are doing is so vital to preserving native vegetation. We then head to the prairie to collect the seed. Ripe seed heads easily come off by using your hand to strip the seeds into the bag. Each species is put in its own bag. We have found that it works best to work in smaller groups, ten or fewer, ensuring that each group has one person who can easily identify the species that need to be collected. If you are targeting rare species, you will need to have even smaller groups or work individually. I have also found that it is helpful to make small guides for the volunteers to remind them what species we are targeting.

If hand harvesting is not feasible for the amount of seed that you need you may be able to rent or borrow a mechanical seed harvester that can be pulled with an ATV or tractor to speed up the process. Local Nature Conservancy and state game agencies would be a great place to start looking for a harvester to rent.

Other sources of interest

Inventor Helps Grasslands Go Native
ScienceDaily (Nov. 1, 2006)

Restoring California's native grasses
Agricultural Research, May, 2004

Wildlife Habitat
Warm Season Grasses for Wildlife

Friday, November 7, 2008

Nebraska Veterinary History Part V


By Dr. Leo L. Lemonds

Within this period or era of Nebraska veterinary history, there was an early period of retrenchment for the profession, a depression and a World War. In 1925, Dr. V.A. Moore wrote, “There has never been a time in the history of veterinary medicine in America when there was a like, or even an approximate succession of events which seem so to threaten veterinary medicine as those which have been recorded in the last few years.” (Jr. AVMA, July 1, 1976, p.58) This period had the agricultural depression of the early 1920’s financial panic of 1927-28 and the economic depression of the dry 1930’s in Nebraska.

The “veterinary depression” of the 1920’s may have been the greatest impetus to the advance of small animal medicine in veterinary medical practice history in Nebraska. It was also during this period that many dog and cat hospital facilities were built, usually in conjunction with large animal facilities. In 1928 the method of immunizing against distemper with the Laidlaw-Dunkin vaccine and in the 1930’s the first tissue vaccines for immunizing cats against feline distemper also gave impetus to small animal practice.

The character of the horse population had changed drastically in this era. Such factors as the movement of tractor harnessed power to the grain fields had simply wiped out the wagon hauling horses’ enroute from the barn to the field. The trolley car in the larger cities such as Lincoln and Omaha no longer used horses. Later – the automobile and truck removed the frayage horses that hauled coal, beer and other goods in most Nebraska towns.

Then came the modern road building era which helped bring farm products, along with the railroads, into the growing cities. Along with the improvement in roads, there also developed an improvement in communications through the telephone. This often expanded the boundaries of a veterinary practice.

The 30’s with its severe depression hit Nebraskans hard. Not the least of which was the veterinarians of that period. Many practitioners left to work for the state and federal Bureaus of Animals Industries in tuberculosis and brucellosis eradication and meat inspection programs. Many remained with the bureaus – others came back home when the economy improved. Some just simply stuck it out in their home towns as best they could – often taking food and other goods as pay.

The assignment to the veterinary profession of the responsibility of livestock auction markets helped many of the large animal practitioners to survive. Later in this period, farm flocks of poultry began disappearing and poultry production was the first of the industries to move into huge-mass production units mostly in southern states. In general, poultry practice was subtracted from the farm animal practice scene.

The greatest shaping influence on farm practice during this era began to occur just before mid-century as the pharmaceutical industry made available to the practitioner so many “miracles” in bottles, tablets and syringes.

The farm animal practitioner of the early 1900’s has been conducting his lonely farmyard struggle with his art and an assortment of available drugs. In his effort to treat pneumonias, septicemias and indeed all infectious diseases, he had to depend on substances which today might sound more like an incantation than ingredients for a prescription – iodine, mux vomica, gentian, ginger, pilocarpine, aconite, camphorated oil, strychnine, copper sulfate, magnesium sulfate, zinc oxide, petrolatum, chloral hydrate and autogenous bacterins.

Then at the end of this era and after World War II, from a dye (Prontosil) a host of chemical compounds was spawned including the sulfa drugs. From nature’s garden, many substances were divided and fractionated. From animal tissues, extracts were characterized and the architecture of complex body molecules unraveled in the highly productive search for new agents of therapeutic value. Products of bacteria and fungi were meticulously reaped and the miracle of antibiotics such as penicillin became a reality.

As the Nebraska practitioner systematically discarded the liquids and powders which he formerly used, he also had to divest himself of a similar amount of presumptive diagnosis and symptomatic treatments. Complex drugs did not necessarily make the job simpler and easier. The greater the drug, the greater must be the comprehension and skill of the user. Each new drug had a spectrum of features demanding understanding and respect.

Finally some of the more specific things that made farm practices easier at the end of this period, were such things as epidural anesthesia (spinal) for cattle, the sophisticated calf-pullers and by the early 1950’s the 2-way radios in almost every practice.

The 2-way radio greatly increased the efficiency of veterinary practices and literally replaced the use of the old party-line telephone. For the busy practitioner, warm meals became more common.

Following World War II, the Nebraska veterinary profession reached its greatest peak in respectability and professionalism. The post-war era was to be a great period of fulfillment for Nebraska veterinarians.

Other articles of interest

College of Veterinary Medicine, Iowa State University
A Brief History

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Tallgrass Prairie Seed Collecting at Homestead National Monument of America

In order to connect with nature one must interact with nature…

The tallgrass prairie was once a vast ocean of grasses, flowers, animals and insects. This tallgrass prairie was the dominant landscape covering over 240 million acres of the North American Great Plains before 1820. By 1900, this dominant landscape was slowly turning to farmland and the once vast prairie was left to scattered remnants. Today, less than two percent of the original 240 million acres of the tallgrass prairie remain.

Homestead National Monument of America contains 100 acres of this special prairie land, but not without effort. The monument was created in 1936. The prairie had already been transformed from its original state and needed restoration. The goal was to not only restore the prairie, but to recreate the view of what Daniel and Agnes Freeman saw when they made their homestead claim. The tallgrass prairie at Homestead National Monument of America is the oldest restored tallgrass prairie in the National Park Service and the second oldest in the nation.

The restoration, although spanning over 60 years, is still ongoing. The management needed to keep the prairie healthy is the work of its stewards. Hands-on stewardship aids in the appreciation and respect for ecosystems that are disappearing. From controlled burns, thicket and exotic plant removal, to native seed harvest, it is with this help the prairie will survive.

Homestead National Monument of America has been harvesting native plant seeds each weekend in October. Children, parents, grandparents and friends have all waded into the prairie to pick and gather seed from grasses and flowers to support the future of this special place.

To stand within the prairie, among grasses and flowers that stare you in the eye is a unique feeling. One can’t help but think of the pioneers that traveled through this mysterious and wondrous ecosystem. The awe that its vastness one inspired is truly imaginable when harvesting seed.

 Southeast Community College students assisting with seed collection.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Nebraska Veterinary History Part IV


By Dr. Leo L. Lemonds

From 1900 to 1918 most Nebraska veterinarians could be pictured as large animal practitioners. Until automobiles and roads became more reliable, those in rural Nebraska still traveled dirt roads by horseback, buggy or cutter. There were some creditable animal hospitals developing in a few towns and interest in doing some small animal practice began following World War I and the demise of horses for farm horsepower. The tractor was here to stay.

However, by and large, an office in a livery stable was still common. There were few partnerships. The solo practitioner was the usual and the totality of veterinary medicine was what he could do with his hands, his back, and his little black bag. His treatments were often secret and jealously guarded although the components were usually commonly known.

During every disease epidemic – notably equine encephalomyelitis, hog cholera, tuberculosis, infectious abortion and others there were all kinds of unscrupulous persons taking advantage of the situation with magic remedies that would cure anything. The food animal practitioner in Nebraska has a long history of competing against non- professional interests with a system of standards hostile and inferior to his own.

It was during this same era that another development occurred that was to reshape the character of many large animal practices, the production of anti-hog cholera serum. A demonstration at the Kansas City Stockyards was brought about in 1909. Shoats were injected with live virus alone or with anti-serum concurrently. The serum – treated pigs remained healthy while the others died. Soon after the conclusion of this experiment, the development of commercial hog serum companies began at Kansas City. From this point, many practices in Nebraska’s heavy swine producing areas became principally concerned with the administration of great volumes of hog cholera serum and virus. However, in retrospect, it may be seen that this activity may have caused some damage to the total usage of the practitioner. Many did not even own a stethoscope.

Small animal medicine began during this period in Nebraska, but was still an adjunct to large animal medicine, primarily equine medicine. Only a small number of veterinarians gave any considerable portion of their time to small animals and a few hospitalized dogs and cats. Most well-qualified veterinary practitioners did not feel complimented when their horse-owning clients requested them to give attention to ailing dogs. In such instances, attention given to a dog or cat was usually gratuitous.

In the period just prior to 1900 and during the early part of the 20th century the Department of Veterinary Science at the University of Nebraska developed many scientific breakthroughs including the production of blackleg vaccine and hog cholera anti-serum.

From the standpoint of the graduate veterinarian in Nebraska the passing of a licensure law in 1905 marked the beginning of the end of non-graduates practicing veterinary medicine. While the “grandfathers clause” permitted many to continue practicing with a permit, they could no longer attach the title of Doctor of Veterinary Medicine to their names.

Bibliography: A Century of Veterinary Medicine in Nebraska By Dr. Leo L. Lemonds

Further readings:
Dr. O.M. Franklin
Horse Doctor — Compliment or Insult

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Nebraska Veterinary History Part III


By Dr. Leo L. Lemonds

The year 1896 has been accepted as the official beginning of the NVMA (Nebraska Veterinary Medical Association). However, from the pages of the American Veterinary Review, it is clear that the NVMA was active for several years before 1896. As early as 1888, the NVMA had a meeting and adopted a constitution and by-laws and elected a set of officers. At that meeting Dr. Julius Gerth Jr., adequately stated the objects and purposes of establishing the NVMA.

Again in 1891, the American Veterinary Review gives reports on three NVMA meetings that year. The first meeting in January never mentions the 1888 original organization of the NVMA. Again it adopted a constitution and by-laws and elected a set of officers. This group also discussed having only graduate veterinarians as members of the NVMA and to obtain legislation favorable to professional veterinarians. The earlier meeting that put out a call to veterinary surgeons to meet, apparently included reputable or established non-graduates also.

At this time it is not known whether the 1888 and 1891 groups failed to keep going or for what reasons the 1896 meeting claimed to be the first official meeting. It may be that the first charter was then granted and that legally that was the first years of the NVMA.

The following report on the 1888 NVMA meeting taken form the June, 1888, American Veterinary Review:

"Nebraska Veterinary Medical Association
Pursuant to a call issued some time since, a meeting was held at the Paxton Hotel for the purpose of forming an organization of the veterinary surgeons of Nebraska. The following gentlemen were present: Drs. L.H. Simpkins (Kearney), WS.M. Osborn (Fremont), C. Brittel (St. Edwards), M.A. Bailey (Albion), A.W. Carmichael (DeWitt), W.S. Brayton (Beatrice), G.R. Young, Richard Ebbitt, H.L. Ramacciotti (Omaha), J. Gerth Jr. (Lincoln)."

The meeting was called to order by Dr. Julius Gerth Jr., who was made temporary chairman. In taking his seat Dr. Gerth stated that the object of the proposed Association was to promote a fraternal feeling among the members, elevate the standard of the profession by scientific discussion and intellectual intercourse and that by organization it would bring the profession into notice and add to it more responsibility and give it more dignity and honor. He thought the profession a very important one, and that organization was necessary to keep it from retrograding.


Sunday, October 5, 2008

Homestead National Archives Goes Digital

Partners to Begin Records Digitization

by Todd Arrington, Historian
Homestead National Monument of America

Homestead National Monument of America and several partners recently announced plans to begin digitizing some of the estimated 30 million homestead records housed in the National Archives. Homestead case files contain valuable historical and genealogical information about homesteaders, their families and daily lives, property, and much more. The records also shed light on the lasting changes initiated across the country by the Homestead Act of 1862. The plans were announced at a public event held September 18 at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL).

The Homestead Act allowed any qualified individual to claim up to 160 acres of public land for the purposes of settlement and cultivation. After a five-year residency period and the successful completion of improvements, the land became the private property of the claimant. The law became effective January 1, 1863 and remained in effect until 1986. Over those 123 years, the U.S. government distributed 270 million acres of land in 30 states. Every homestead claimed generated a paper record that still exists in the National Archives.

Two major developments were announced on September 18. The first was the unveiling of an online index to approximately 65,000 homestead records from the Broken Bow, Nebraska U.S. land office. The National Archives microfilmed these records in partnership with the monument and UNL in 2006; volunteers and staff from those organizations spent over a year indexing them. The online index is available at

The second development is the creation of a new partnership to digitize homestead records and put them online for public research. The National Archives has agreed to the digitization of the records of the Nebraska City/Lincoln land office, which operated from 1868 to 1925. This project will create digital copies of approximately 300,000 documents and will involve several partners.

FamilySearch, Inc., is based in Salt Lake City and is the genealogical research organization of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Trained FamilySearch volunteers will work in the National Archives to make the digital copies. is based in Lindon, Utah, and will host the images on its website. FamilySearch and Footnote are both official online partners of the National Archives. Visitors to Homestead National Monument of America, all FamilySearch libraries, the UNL libraries, and all National Archives locations will be able to access the homestead records on free of charge; those researching from home will be subject to Footnote’s monthly subscription fee. The University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Center for Digital Research in the Humanities will provide corrections and enhancements to the general Footnote index. Funding for digital cameras was provided in part by the Federation of Genealogical Societies. Representatives of all partners were on hand for the September 18 announcement.

“This project is absolutely outstanding and is an important undertaking for the National Park Service,” said Director Mary Bomar. “The legislation that created Homestead National Monument of America specifically states that it should be a repository for literature applying to settlement that occurred under the Homestead Act. What more important literature is there than the actual records of everyone that homesteaded? We are proud to work with the National Archives and the other great project partners to make the vision of having these records available to the monument’s visitors a reality.”

Lincoln land office documents should begin appearing on by early next year. Once those 300,000 images have been completed, the monument hopes to keep the project moving forward and eventually have digital images of all 30 million homestead records available for public and scholarly research.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Nebraska's Veterinary History Part II


by Dr. Leo L. Lemonds

It may never be known when and where the first graduate veterinarian stepped foot within the boundaries of Nebraska. However, on the basis of data now available, Dr. W.A. Thomas of Lincoln may have had that honor. He later became State Veterinarian in 1904.

Dr. Thomas, in May of 1937, wrote the following: “I came to Lincoln April 1, 1881, and located a veterinary practice of medicine, as far as I know the first to locate in the state. I found men here and in other localities treating diseased animals. These men were called horse doctors, three in Lincoln, one in Firth, one in Valparaiso. There were men who castrated animals who were experts in the work, often charging farmers less than the charge of a veterinarian later on. In those days many farmers treated their own livestock as best they could."

“In those days every well-to-do individual had a horse and buggy or spans of fine horses, also a cow in the city. Every town had a livery stable; Lincoln had several, many of them were of a barrack construction of boards, fire-traps. The livery stable I think did its part in the distribution of glanders in horses with which the state was saturated at that time.”

“In the summer of 1881 there was an outbreak of anthrax in cattle in Lincoln – 52 died of the disease, all dairy cattle. Franklin brothers were the heavy losers; others who had one or two cows – lost them. This outbreak occurred on the bottom land in the vicinity of Gooches Mill. The animals were all skinned and buried on the bank of Salt Creek. With the history of the disease in the Orient we would expect an annual visitation of the disease which never occurred. I attribute its non-occurrence to the repeated inundation to which the land was subject at that time, there being no marshy land; the land at the time was open pasture.”

While graduate veterinarians arrived rapidly in the 1880’s following Dr. Thomas of Lincoln, the need for veterinary education was recognized much earlier. In 1860 the University of Nebraska was to be established and provided that an agricultural college be started at an early date with, among others, a professor of Veterinary Surgery. However, it was the fall of 1872 before the opening of the Agricultural College was a reality. It was the summer of 1886 before Dr. Frank Billings was hired as the first veterinarian on the staff.

The summer before Dr. Billings’ arrival, Dr. Julius Gerth Jr., appointed by the state legislature, became Nebraska’s first State Veterinarian on July 8, 1885; he resigned October 1, 1888.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Nebraska Veterinary History Part I

From the time of Nebraska’s first settlers until almost 1890, the self-proclaimed animal doctors – hoss doctors, cow-leeches and quack “veterinary surgeons” – were the only ones a farmer could turn to for help with ailing livestock.

A farmer could rely on his own expertise, usually a mixture of superstition and common sense, but in this new land he was encountering new conditions and problems. Infrequently, if he could read, this expertise was no more than what he could find in the text of a common-use, homecare encyclopedia book on animal diseases or the farriery art. His stock roamed freely outside the fences Nebraska law required around the crops. In their roaming they mingled with livestock of other homesteaders and under such conditions, maladies could spread through a whole community like a grassfire. It also was the common practice for livestock to winter on the range, foraging for themselves and having only an occasional haystack for shelter. By spring, a good share of them were almost starved.

While this might sound callous now, farmers did care for their livestock. It was important as the family livelihood, transportation, farmpower and as a source of food. The primitive and brutal treatments the animal doctors used were familiar ones to the farmer and he thought them necessary to bring about a cure. Remember, it was still the time of many quack doctors for humans and animals. It was the era of many useless patent medicines that were advertised widely in newspapers and farm journals, claiming quick cures for practically everything, including maladies not heard of.

People, in general, were so ignorant about medicine for themselves or their livestock, that they were superstitious of its powers and the qualifications of its practitioners. The general opinion was that certain individuals were meant to be doctors and had been endowed from birth with the necessary ability and touch. Why, then, did they require any special education? Had there been scientifically trained veterinarians available, farmers probably would have gone to their village medicine man anyway, certain that a college-trained veterinarian would be far less knowledgeable than a man who had been a stable-keeper, skilled horseman, blacksmith, teamster, groom, plowman or physic monger (a rural druggist or chemist). They assumed men from such backgrounds were bound to know all about horses, and therefore would be more qualified as horse doctors in the most-used treatments of “bleeding, burning, blistering and physicing.”


A Century of Veterinary Medicine in Nebraska
By Dr. Leo L. Lemonds (1982)


Dr Frederick Humphreys

Sunday, September 14, 2008


Homesteaders encountered many very challenging and endless difficulties. As soon as they had solved one, another one came. Their survival depended on their victory over each test. Clint has finally planted his crop, the corn is nicely coming up but it is not time yet to relax. To his despair, the prairie dogs are robbing him. The fight is uneven: Clint is alone against a multitude. How discouraging!

"As the corn came up, prairie dogs would get out at daylight and cut the stalks at ground level, especially in a strip where their town pointed out into the forty acres that was being broken. Clint would chase them with his knotted rope, but they always beat him to their dens. Then a dozen or more “dogs” from nearby dens would peek above the earthen rim, with just one tiny eye showing, and bark mocking disapproval to the rhythm of their beating tails. He tried poison that cost him a precious dollar and a half, but the prairie dogs would not eat it. To dig them out was impossible. Their underground passageways were almost endless. Trying to shoot them was too costly. Across the prairie there was an endless panorama of circular mounds, all housing this destructive vermin?"

"Clint had struggled to get his land and had risked his life to dispel the Blackbeard gang. Now the prairie dogs were robbing him of the soil’s use and threatening his very survival. It was his living not theirs. Would they drive him off the land as they had already dislodged several of his original neighbours? They just sold out for the going rate of one hundred dollars for their 160-acre homesteads and left. Those who knew Clint knew that he would not leave. He would find a way. He would stay."


Theodore National Park Praire Dogs

Park Releases Final Prairie Dog Management Plan

This excerpt is from Prairie Pioneers, a novel written by Emery Stoops, Vantage Press, Inc. Page 88

Sunday, September 7, 2008

National Park Service Inventory and Monitoring Program

National Park managers across the country are confronted with increasingly complex and challenging issues that require a broad-based understanding of the status and trends of each park’s natural resources as a basis for making decisions, working with other agencies, and communicating with the public to protect park natural systems and native species. As part of the National Park Service’s effort to “improve park management through greater reliance on scientific knowledge” the Inventory and Monitoring (I&M) Program has been created to collect, organize, and make available natural resource data and to contribute to the Service’s institutional knowledge by facilitating the transformation of data into information through analysis, synthesis, and modeling. Because most units in the National Park System do not have enough personnel or resources to do this alone, regional teams have been created to accomplish the goals of the Inventory and Monitoring Program.

Homestead National Monument of America is one of fifteen units in the National Park System in the Heartland Network and Prairie Cluster Prototype. The Heartland Network conducts mammal, fish, bird, and vegetation surveys at Homestead NM of America.

In May and June of 2008 and 2009, staff from the Heartland Network and Prairie Cluster Prototype will conduct a “point count” to record the kinds and numbers of birds on the prairie and in the woodlands at Homestead NM of America. Prairie bird species are on the decline and the “point count" will help Homestead management determine sound management practices. The count will be taken at specific spots on the prairie and in the woodlands by standing in one spot for five minutes, listening and watching, and then recording the observations. Heartland Network staff will conduct the “point count” again in 2013 and 2014. In 2010, 2011, and 2012 volunteers will conduct “point count” using the exact same “points” and procedures.


Heartland Network Inventory & Monitoring Program

Vital Signs Monitoring

Monday, September 1, 2008

Fresh food for the homesteading travelers…

Manuel Hastings remembers his family en route to their homestead. He was then 4 years old. The family left Oklahoma for New Mexico in 1929 after the Dust Bowl. For the trip, the father had converted two models T into trailers.

“ Under the back of the first trailer, they had built a chicken pen. A number of chickens would ride until we stopped each evening. At dusk, they would return to the pen to roost for the night. We had one hen that was sitting on eggs and the other chickens would lay and furnish us with fresh eggs each day. When we started out, I had a pet ginnie and she laid speckled eggs. Ginnies were about the size of a chicken. We had problems getting her back into the coop each night at the back of the trailer, so we had a good dinner and cooked the ginnie like fried chicken.

Excerpt from Manuel Hastings’s memoirs. His parents homesteaded near Pie Town, NM in the 1930s.

Virtual Tour Chicken House
Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve Cottonwood Falls, KS

Friday, August 22, 2008

Old Pup was my best friend

Manuel Hastings remembers his childhood in New Mexico where his parents homesteaded in 1929.

“Someone had given us a dog. It was reddish brown with white legs and stomach with a brown and white tail . . . Since we got him as a pup, that name stuck with him as long as we had him. He was referred to as “Old Pup.” I dearly loved this dog and everywhere I went, he would go with me whether I walked or was riding a horse. He would be with me and continually stayed within a few yards of me while hunting. He would often tree a porcupine. At first he would bite at them and get quills in his mouth. We would have to pull them out with pliers. It would hurt so badly, he would almost want to bite at us. But he knew it had to de done.”

Wind Cave National Park--Porcupine - Erethizon dorsatum

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Fire and the Restoration of Homestead NM Grass Prairies

Before Americans of European descent settled on the Great Plains fire would have periodically occurred in the woodlands area that is now part of Homestead National Monument (NM) of America. The woodlands of the Monument would have had a much different composition and look than they do today as the “tall grass prairies once covered 140 million acres of North America. [but] Farming, urbanization, and invasive plant species have reduced this ecosystem to 1% of its original range” (NPS Fire and Aviation Program).

Management of Homestead NM would, if possible, like to return the woodlands to their pre-settlement composition and look. An example of this fire management can bee seen at:

Homestead National Monument of America Presentation - FLASH
An interactive story of maintaining the tall grass prairie in Nebraska through prescribed fire.

To help obtain this goal the Homestead National Monument of America is conducting a hydrology project for Cub Creek and the woodlands surrounding Cub Creek with the aide and assistance of the Great Lakes Northern Forest CESU and Michigan Technological University of Houghton, Michigan. The primary focus of the project is to determine where the trees in the woodlands acquire their water. This will be completed by comparing the different oxygen isotopes found in the rainwater, ground water, soil moisture, and creek water to what is in the cambium of bur oak trees. Three sites in the woodland will be monitored. One of the ultimate goals is to determine the feasibility of re-introducing fire into the woodlands; therefore this project is very important in determining the feasibility of the re-introduction of fire.

A Homestead NM partner in this venture is the Cooperative Ecosystem Studies Units (CESU) National Network. CESU is a network of collaborative units established to provide research, technical assistance, and education to resource and environmental managers responsible for federal land management, environmental, and research agencies and their potential partners

“Cooperative” emphasizes that multiple federal agencies and universities are among the partners in this program. “Ecosystem Studies” involves the biological, physical, social, and cultural sciences needed to address resource issues and interdisciplinary problem solving at multiple scales and in an ecosystem context. The resources studied encompass both natural and cultural assets.

Homestead National Monument of America is located within the boundary of the Great Plains CESU. The Great Plains CESU is administered by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. However to complete its needed projects Homestead NM of America can work with any research university in the Great Plains CESU or any research university in another CESU.

Links to the Cooperative Ecosystem Studies Units (CESU) National Network

Saturday, August 9, 2008

The Homestead Honeymooner Highway

For our honeymoon trip… let’s go find a homestead…let’s hope our honeymooner’s were well matched as they made their way through the 1,488 miles of the Alaska Highway. First know as the Alcan Highway this meandering road stretches from Dawson Creek in British Columbia through the Canadian Yukon into Alaska ending at Delta Junction just south of Fairbanks. Known as the last frontier of homesteading, 3,277 homesteads were built on 363,775 acres or about 1% of Alaska’s total state acreage until 1986. (As illustrated on this map of Alaska located on the walkway of the Heritage Center at Homestead National Monument).

In the January 24, 2007 edition of the Anchorage Daily News, we learn about two modern day homesteader honeymooners, Robert W. Brown and Alpha Mae Harrison. Mr. Brown “joined the U.S. Army for a chance to come to Alaska in 1948. On April 15, 1952, Bob traveled back to New Mexico and married his best friend’s sister and childhood sweetheart, Alpha Mae. They spent their honeymoon driving the newly constructed Alaska Highway to Alaska. They settled in the East Anchorage home site area, building many East Anchorage roads and maintaining them for years. Bob and Alpha built two East Anchorage homes and homesteaded in the Big Lake area in 1962. Bob cleared land for many of the Big Lake and Willow homesteaders.”

While it does not seem very romantic to go and find a homestead during a honeymoon it has been done. We see here again the very practical and focused mind of the homesteaders!

For additional stories on the Alaska Highway see:

Recreational Resources of the Alaska Highway and Other Roads in Alaska

The Alaska Highway A Yukon Perspective

Driving the Alaska Highway: It's still a great adventure

Alaska Highway Photo Album

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Death of an Indian Child

Homesteading meant displacement of native Indians. By the Treaty of Echota, the Cherokees had to leave their land under very dire conditions. Emory Stoops in Prairie Pioneers (p. 43), paints the final day and burial of a young Cherokee.

"Cherko, ten years old, tried to walk and do everything that his father, Josiah, could do. He kept up with his older brothers and sisters. [But] Before the party reached western Kentucky, his mother, Sekwana, had fallen many times with exhaustion and had to be placed in one of the wagons. Cherko’s crude shoes had worn out, and his feet were bleeding and cold. Others, too, were leaving red splotches in the snow. None of his family had been able to bring sufficient clothing to resist the bitter winds of winter. Rain, sleet, and snow bedeviled them by day and soaked their inadequate blankets by night."

"The day after Cherko’s mother, Sekwana, was placed in the wagon, his older brother awoke with a high temperature and coughing from the sleeping in wet, cold clothes and blankets. He, too, was placed in the wagon, but that night he “went out of his head” with high fever and died of pneumonia before dawn. He had to be buried. Burial was crude, hurried, and cruel. Some of the stronger men helped Josiah dig a shallow trench. The body, not quite cooled, was wrapped in his own wet and dirty blankets and lowered into the trench. A younger chief uttered a few words in Cherokee. The army bugle sounded march. Older men shoved wet and mucky dirt over his young face and his two-thirds grown body."

"Here he would lie, remembered only by his kin, in an unmarked, unremembered place."

Links of interest:

New Echota

Official site of the Cherokee Nation

History of the Cherokee

Constitution of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma

Trail of Tears National Historic Trail

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Why the Homestead Act?

Why did the 37th United States Congress pass the Homestead Act which was signed into law by President Abraham Lincoln on May 20, 1862?

Was it because of Manifest Destiny? Manifest Destiny was a 19th century concept concerning U. S. territorial expansion that promoted the idea that it was the destiny of the United States to control North America from Coast to Coast. It was the belief it was the destiny of the United States to spread democracy, “America” culture, and the American economy over all of North America. Some believed that expansion into "uncivilized" regions would spread progress and democracy. It was convenient for all to think that they had the divine right to acquire and dominate because they had the proper economic system and the most developed culture and belonged to the most advanced race. To some people in the 19th century it was more than “destiny,” it was a “pre-ordained by Providence” for America to expand Coast to Coast.

Was the Homestead Act passed to promote big business and aid American industrial expansion? As a result of the Mexican War [1846-1848] what is now California, Nevada, Utah, New Mexico, Arizona, and Texas, and a good portion of what is now Colorado became United States territory. To tie the existing States together with this new western territory is was deemed essential to build a transcontinental railroad. But this would mean building a railroad across the Great Plains which had been designated “Permanent Indian Territory” by the Indian Removal Act of 1830. To remedy this the Kansas-Nebraska Act was created in 1854 opening up most of the Great Plains for settlement and leaving just Oklahoma as “Permanent Indian Territory” [see the Homestead Congress blog from March 22, 2008]. The Act creating the Transcontinental Railroad was signed into law on July 1, 1862, just a few weeks after the Homestead Act was signed by President Lincoln. A railroad across the Great Plains needed customers. Was the Homestead Act created to speed up settlement of the Great Plains so the railroad would have customers? The newly expanding industries of America needed to produce and sell more. Settlement on the Great Plains would create new markets for American Industry. Was the Homestead Act created to aid American industrial expansion? Are Manifest Destiny and Industrial Expansion linked?

Was the Homestead Act designed to meet the Jeffersonian ideal of a nation of yeoman farmers? Thomas Jefferson believed the yeoman farmer best exemplified virtue and independence from corrupting city influences. He opposed industrialization. Jefferson specifically believed "Those who labor in the earth... are the chosen people of God, if ever he had a chosen people." He believed government policy should be for the benefit of the farmer. He wanted a nation of yeoman farmers.

Was the Homestead Act passed for a higher ideal—an ideal expressed in the Declaration of Independence, that all men had the right to pursue happiness? It was long presumed Jefferson's phrase meant just as it was described by U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Stephen Johnson Field in 1884: “Among these inalienable rights, as proclaimed in that great document, is the right of men to pursue their happiness, by which is meant the right to pursue any lawful business or vocation, in any manner not inconsistent with the equal rights of others, which may increase their prosperity or develop their faculties, so as to give to them their highest enjoyment.”

These Presidents of the United States believe the Homestead Act was created to facilitate this higher ideal.

Harry S. Truman, June 4, 1948: “The newcomers quickly learned their way about and soon felt at home. The Homestead Act of 1862 provided them, as well as many other pioneers, with an opportunity ….”

Lyndon B. Johnson, August 26, 1965: “Like the lawmakers in our past who created the Homestead Act….we say that it is right and that it is just, and that it is a function of government, and that we are going to carry out that responsibility to help our people get back on their feet and share once again in the blessings of America life.”

Ronald Reagan, August 1, 1983: “This promise was made real, thanks to the hard work, the dedication, and commitment….of the America people….to law’s that created opportunity; for example, historic legislation like the Homestead Act….”

George H. W. Bush, November 28, 1990: “Abraham Lincoln's Homestead Act empowered people; it freed people from the burden of poverty. It freed them to control their own destinies, to create their own opportunities, and to live the vision of the American Dream.”

George W. Bush, January 20, 2005: “In America's ideal of freedom, citizens find the dignity and security of economic independence instead of laboring on the edge of subsistence. This is the broader definition of liberty that motivated the Homestead Act, the Social Security Act, and the GI Bill of Rights.”

Abraham Lincoln, July 4, 1861: “This is essentially a People's contest. On the side of the Union, it is a struggle for maintaining in the world, that form, and substance of government, whose leading object is, to elevate the condition of men---to lift artificial weights from all shoulders---to clear the paths of laudable pursuit for all---to afford all, an unfettered start, and a fair chance, in the race of life. Yielding to partial, and temporary departures, from necessity, this is the leading object of the government for whose existence we contend.”

What do you think?

Saturday, July 12, 2008

The Spirits of Modern Homesteading

Thanks to the amazing photographs of Solomon D. Butcher, the thought of homesteaders brings to my mind a very precise image: I see a proud but stern family: the shy daughters, dressed in the same fabric; the sons obediently lined up next to them, mom holding a baby and dad, a large brim hat in hands, looking tired but pleased by this togetherness. The conjugal bed and their cattle have been displayed in front of their dreary dugout for all to admire.

Through the seriousness of this family, I grasp the importance of this moment. This humble and nameless family knows, it seems, that a page of the American history is being written. It is witnessing gracefully the hardship of its life to the future generations.

These aged photographs could lead us into forgetting the more modern homesteaders: the ones who up to 1986 benefited from the Homestead Act in Alaska.

The recent obituaries of the Anchorage Daily News (2007) unveil these modern homesteaders and from their life story, we can recognize the early pioneers.

The love of land and of outdoor life is a must for any pioneer.

Scott McKean, (born in 1955) fell in love with Alaska and decided to make it his home… He homesteaded land in close proximity to Lake Larson near Talkeetna, where he was building a cabin of his own…. Scott loved fishing, camping and everything to do with nature. He led an adventurous life, hitchhiking across the United States several times…(Anchorage Daily News, June 13, 2007).

Like a true pioneer, Beulah Mary Colborn, born in 1921, knew the importance of postponing domestic comfort in order to develop a future income.

In the 1950s, during the territorial years, she began the homesteading process in Big Lake. Living in a wall tent, she and her husband built a sawmill, erected a two-story home and ran a service station for the local airstrip and community (Anchorage Daily News, July 20, 2007).

Beulah Mary Colborn testified that education was important for any pioneers. In addition to home schooling her own children, she was instrumental in developing the first Quonset hut school in 1960 (Anchorage Daily News, July 20, 2007).

As you can guess, traveling to their destination was easier in the 1950s. The new Alaskans used the highway en route to their land, quite unimaginable in the first days of homesteading. Dolores (Maxine Pullen) and Harvey drove up the Alaska Highway, arriving with their children and all their belongings in 1958. They crossed into Alaska on the day Alaska became a state (Anchorage Daily News, July 11, 2007).

It is easy to discover through these antique photographs, as well through these contemporary obituaries, the true spirit of the pioneers: goal oriented and hard working persons.

Editor's note: The photograph is not a picture of Mr. McKean but rather an illustration of a modern Alaskan homestead.

Sunday, June 29, 2008


At springtime, the farmer of today always feels a rush of excitement at the start of the planting season. In this excerpt from Prairie Pioneers, a novel written by Emery Stoops (1999, 2003, p. 81) Clint, a pioneer in the Oklahoma strip, feels even a greater excitement. For the first time in this land’s history, it is being plowed.

By February 15, snow from the blizzard had thawed again, and it was time once more to plow sod. Clint gripped the handles of his plow, listened to the clank of metal-tipped tugs transferring power to the hooks of on singletrees, heard the crunch of sod roots and the gentle panting of Nell and Bess as they leaned into their stretching collars with a ton of pressure. He watched a twelve-inch strip of sod rise and curl across the shiny moldboard of his plow and leave a black ribbon of soil that had not seen the sun during the last million years. There was the smell of leather mingled with steamy sweat, dust from dried grass, and the aroma of newly turned soil. Clint felt at one with his universe. The sounds, the sight, the smell, the feel of this turning prairie soothed his determined soul.

"There is something about plowing sod,” Clint said to Lylie that evening, “that just makes me feel terribly good. It wears me out, but it makes me feel…feel so satisfied. It’s like a fish getting back to water. I just feel like I’d always been a sod buster.”

He tried to find words and then continued, “I guess God made us out of soil, and we just long to get back into it”

Tuesday, June 24, 2008


Do you know about locusts? As a kid did you look with wonder at their shells in your yard? Wait a minute; those weren’t locusts. Those were cicadas.

So, if those weren’t locusts then exactly what is a locust? Locusts are “mysterious creatures, whose sudden irruptions are their defining attribute. In biological terms, a locust is a type of highly mobile grasshopper with the capacity to attain enormous population densities and a proclivity for aggregating and traveling in bands [as immature nymphs] and swarms [as winged adults].” There are only ten species of locusts. [1]

Which one of these ten species of locusts ravaged the central part of the United States in the 1870s? You have heard those stories, right? If you have any locust stories in your family oral history please share them by clicking on the comment button below.

Cicadas are stumpy, clear-winged insects that resemble large aphids. Cicadas are in an entirely different insect order from grasshoppers and locusts. The misnaming of cicadas as locusts began in the 1600s and continues to today. Cicadas lay their eggs on plants while locusts lay theirs in the soil. Cicadas live below ground as nymphs while locusts live above ground. Cicadas feed sparingly as adults while adult locusts devour everything. Cicadas live in the vicinity of where they emerge while locusts migrate in swarms.[2]

A cicada is an insect with large eyes wide apart on the head and usually transparent, well-veined wings. There are about 2,500 species of cicada around the globe, and many remain unclassified.

Cicadas live in temperate to tropical climates where they are among the most widely recognized of all insects, mainly due to their large size and remarkable acoustic talents.

Cicadas are sometimes colloquially called "locusts," although they are unrelated to true locusts. They are known as "dry flies" because of the dry shell they leave behind. Cicadas do not bite or sting, are benign to humans, and are not considered pests.

The cicada grows up to three inches. Cicadas suck juice from tree roots when they are larva. Once the female cicada comes above ground, she mates. Then she lays her eggs and dies. The cicada can lay four hundred to six hundred eggs. The adult cicada lives in trees. Adult cicadas live for thirty to forty days. A cicada can chirp so loud you can hear it from half a mile away. A male cicada abdomen has two drum like sound chambers.

There are two main kinds of periodical cicadas in the United States. One kind spends 17 years as a nymph feeding on tree roots while living below ground, and the other lives underground for 13 years. Then each type, as if on some signal, emerges at the same time from the ground. They change into adults, lay eggs, and after a few weeks, they die. We don't see the next generation until 13 or 17 years later.

But don’t we see and hear cicadas every year? How do you explain that?

[1] Lockwood, Jeffrey A. 2004. Locust. New York: Perseus Books. Page 27.
[2] Lockwood, Jeffrey A. 2004. Locust. New York: Perseus Books. Page 28.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Flag Day

I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

According to the Information Please (2007) web site the original pledge of allegiance was published September 8, 1892, in a Boston publication titled The Youth's Companion. Credit for the writing of the pledge was attributed to both James B. Upham and Francis Bellamy, a member of the magazine's staff. The United States Flag Association determined in 1939 that authorship be given to Bellamy. On June 14, 1954 the phrase "under God" was added to the pledge .

Today on Flag Day, June 14, 2008, at Homestead National Monument there was a Naturalization Ceremony. Over 50 new citizens swore their allegiance to the United States of America. Perhaps President Bush's (2005) statement describes some of the feelings and thoughts our newest citizens may have experienced during this ceremony.

In America's ideal of freedom, citizens find the dignity and security of economic independence instead of laboring on the edge of subsistence. This is the broader definition of liberty that motivated the Homestead Act, the Social Security Act, and the GI Bill of Rights. And now we will extend this vision by reforming great institutions to serve the needs of our time. To give every American a stake in the promise and future of our country, we will bring the highest standards to our schools and build an ownership society. We will widen the ownership of homes and businesses, retirement savings, and health insurance, preparing our people for the challenges of life in a free society. By making every citizen an agent of his or her own destiny, we will give our fellow Americans greater freedom from want and fear and make our society more prosperous and just and equal.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Promised land…

Here are the first impressions of a 4 years old boy, finally reaching the family homestead. Because of the Dust Bowl, his family had left Oklahoma to settle to New Mexico in 1929.

All of the homesteads had beautiful gardens, corn fields and bean patches. Someone took us out to a section of land. We could smell the piƱon and pine trees. What a peaceful and lovely place it was! I remember standing there, looking up to the top of the Alegra Mountain and saw a big rainbow in the sky.

An excerpt from Manuel Hastings’s memoirs. His parents homesteaded near Pie Town, NM in the 1930s.

Savoring Pie Town

Friday, May 30, 2008

Evelyn Sharp: A Special Homesteader of Her Time

By Lisa Roberts
Southeast Community College

How many of you wanted to fly when you were kids?

I 'm sure many of you have heard of Daniel Freeman? But have you heard of any female homesteaders? Evelyn Sharp was a special homesteader of her time.

I would like to pay tribute to Evelyn Sharp a woman whose family Homesteaded in Ord, Nebraska. I would like to honor Evelyn Sharp who was a homesteader in Nebraska, and a female pilot who started lessons in 1935 when she was 16 (Pappas, 2001) and later flew in WWII with the Women’s Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron (WAFS) (Bartels, 1996).

Evelyn Sharps first years as a homesteader.
The Sharp family moved to Ord, Nebraska in 1924 on land they claimed under the Homestead Act (Pappas, 2001). But the Great Depression forced the Sharp family to move into town and sell their farm in 1929 (Pappas, 2001).

Evelyn attended a two room school house that was a long way from her house. So she rode her horse Chalky to school. Evelyn’s days at Ord High School were spent enjoying athletics. Her favorite school activity was the Girls Athletic Association that met twice a week. She especially liked soccer . In 1937 when she graduated, she won the distinction of being the “best girl athlete” in her class. As Evelyn was growing so was her interest in flying (Pappas, 2001).

Evelyn Sharps first years as a pilot.
During the years that Evelyn studied aviation she began to figure out what she wanted to use her skills in flying for. Have any of you watched air shows? Those shows and tricks are what first spiked Evelyn’s interest in flying. Her first flying lesson was when she was 16 years old in 1935 (Pappas, 2001).

According to Pappas in the 2001 book More Notable Nebraskans Jack Jefford was a barnstormer, who first taught Evelyn to fly as a way to pay his room and board to her father for staying at their boarding house. At age 18 she was one of the youngest people to earn her commercial pilot’s license. She could now fly other people around (Pappas, 2001).

During Evelyn’s journey to get her first plane from Omaha NE the town of Ord NE chipped in money to help her pay. Her parents could not afford to buy her a plane, so her father John Sharp went around town and asked if anyone would chip in. The plane would benefit everyone not just Evelyn she could help others (Pappas, 2001).

In the fall of 1937 Evelyn and her father went to Omaha and picked up her first plane. She was the first to fly into Grand Island Airport when it opened. She entered the Lincoln School of Aviation in 1938 (Pappas, 2001).

She did many things from instructor to mail transporter until the WWII began. Once she joined the war, Ms. Sharp added many contributions; her thousands of hours of flying time were only one. Some of the planes Evelyn flew were much like the planes in the movie Flyboys about WWI.

Evelyn Sharps first years in the WAFS.
In 1942 Evelyn Sharp joined the WAFS. But the women did not receive the same pay or death benefits or insurance as the men. She had flown over 3,000 hours and was the most experienced pilot to join the WAFS (Bartels, 1996). Over 1,000 women pilots joined the WAFS to do transport, they were not allowed to go into battle. On April 3, 1944 Evelyn took off in a P-38 from Pennsylvania, headed out to California (Bartels, 1996).

She went through her check list as she started up the plane and received the ok to taxi down the runway. She lifted off the runway at 10:29 A.M. As soon as the plane lifted off, the left engine of the planed failed (Bartels, 1996).

According to Bartels in the 1996 book Sharpie the Life Story of Evelyn Sharp she had three places to land: in Harrisburg over homes, in Susquehanna a river, or try for Beacon Hill. The plane went down over Beacon Hill. The clock in the cockpit stopped at 10:30 A.M. Evelyn died in that mission in 1944.

Now that we have paid tribute to a Nebraska homesteader Evelyn Sharp lets review: she was a Homesteader since age 5, she was best girl athlete in her class, she was one of the youngest pilots to get her commercial license, and she was a transport pilot for WWII.
She achieved many things in a short time. Many of us, as kids, probably watched pilots, or barnstormers, much like Evelyn Sharp—if you have a dream go for it.


Bartels, D.R.A. (1996). Sharpie the life story of Evelyn Sharp. Lincoln, NE: Dageforde Publishing.

Pappas, C. (2001). More notable Nebraskans. Lincoln, NE: Media Production and Marketing, Inc.


Homesteading Legacy Banners

Evelyn Sharp Bio

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Check Row Planters

Corn planting has been in full swing. Many modern corn planters plant 16 rows at a time and some of the most modern planters use the Global Positioning System [GPS] technology to keep their rows straight. Technological advances are ever present in agriculture.

About 1890 one of the technological advances was planting corn with a two row check planter which was pulled by horses. This type of planter was manufactured from 1890 to 1941 and was used well into the 1950’s only by then farmers or the manufacturer had converted them to be pulled by tractors.

On Saturday May 17, 2008 the Heritage Center Farm Field at Homestead National Monument was planted to corn using a John Deere two row check planter that had been manufactured between 1908 and 1910. About 20 to 25 people watched as Gary Higgins used his team of horses and two row check planter. Mr. Higgins was assisted by Glen Brinkman and Ranger Jesse Bolli who moved the “trip wire.”

The “trip wire” which has knots in it every 42" was strung across the field. The wire was fed through a lever and rollers which are attached to the planter. When a knot hits the lever, the lever is pushed down and the corn is dropped.

The rows planted by a two row check planter are 42" apart and a hill of corn is planted every 42" with usually 4 or 5 seeds per hill. Cultivating [tilling the soil between the rows to remove the weeds] could occur with the rows and across the rows in a checker board pattern. The rows had to be 42" apart to allow the horse to walk between them to cultivate and harvest. Today, the corn rows are 30" apart.

In order to keep the rows straight a marker arm drags in the dirt creating a furrow to be used to center the planter on for the next trip across the field. Today, a few farmers are using the GPS technology, but most still use the marker arm with a single disc on the end to mark where to go next and keep their rows straight.

The planting that occurred at the Homestead Heritage Center on May 17 took about 2 hours to plant 1 acre of corn. About 10,000 to 15,000 kernels of corn were planted. Modern farmers with 16 row planters, on average, plant about 13 acres in an hour and about 30,000 to 40,000 seeds are planted per acre.

A good yield of corn planted using the two row check planter was about 60 bushel per acre with the average closer to 30 bushels per acre. Today 150 bushels per acre is average with some fields producing over 200 bushel per acre.

The two row check planter was amazing to some in 1890 just as using Global Positioning System technology in planting corn is amazing to some of us today.

In June, if conditions allow, Gary Higgins may be cultivating the corn at Heritage Center Farm Field at Homestead National Monument using his team of horses and late 19th or early 20th century technology. Look for an announcement.

Saturday, May 17, 2008


During President Abraham Lincoln’s first term in office the 37th Congress passed five monumental pieces of legislation. Princeton Professor and renowned Civil War Historian James McPherson argues that these five pieces of legislation constitute a "second American Revolution." This legislation included:

The Homestead Act
The Land-Grant College Act [Morrill Act]
The Pacific Railroad Act
The creation of an income tax
National banking and legal tender acts

Of these five acts, the Morrill Act and the Homestead Act were important in creating social mobility. Social mobility is the degree to which an individual's social status can change throughout the course of his or her life or the degree to which that individual's offspring and subsequent generations move up and down the class system. Social Mobility is the promise that lies at the heart of the American Dream.

This short piece will concentrate on the Morrill Act.

The Morrill Act was first proposed by Representative Justin Smith Morrill of Vermont, in 1857, and was passed by Congress, in 1859, but it was vetoed by President James Buchanan. In 1861, Morrill resubmitted the act with the amendment that the proposed institutions would teach military tactics as well as engineering and agriculture. The Morrill Act was signed into law by President Abraham Lincoln on July 2, 1862.

Since colonial times, basic education had been a central tenet of American democratic thought. By the 1860s, higher education was becoming more accessible, and many politicians and educators wanted to make it possible for all young Americans to receive some sort of advanced education.

The act gave to every state that had remained in the Union a grant of 30,000 acres of public land for every member of its congressional delegation. Since under the Constitution every state had at least two senators and one representative, even the smallest state received 90,000 acres. The states were to sell this land and use the proceeds to establish colleges in engineering, agriculture and military science. Over seventy "land grant" colleges, as they came to be known, were established under the original Morrill Act.

A second Morrill Act in 1890 was also aimed at the former Confederate states. This act required each state to show that race was not an admissions criterion, or else to designate a separate land-grant institution for persons of color. Some of the colleges and universities which eventually evolved from the Morrill Acts are several of today's Historically Black colleges and universities. Though the 1890 Act granted cash instead of land, it granted colleges under that act the same legal standing as the 1862 Act colleges; therefore, the term "land-grant college" properly applies to both groups.

Later on, other colleges such as the University of the District of Columbia and the "1994 land-grant colleges" for Native Americans were also awarded cash by Congress in lieu of land to achieve "land-grant" status. With a few exceptions, nearly all of the Land-Grant Colleges are public.

The importance of the land grant colleges cannot be exaggerated. Although originally started as agricultural and technical schools, many of them grew, with additional state aid, into large public universities which over the years have educated millions of American citizens who otherwise might not have been able to afford college.

Perhaps your alma mater can be found in the list below.

Land Grant Colleges
[* denotes Historically Black colleges and universities]

Alabama A and M University*
Auburn University
Tuskegee University*
University of Alaska System
American Samoa Community College
University of Arizona
University of Arkansas—Fayetteville
University of Arkansas—Pine Bluff*
University of California System
Colorado State University
Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station
University of Connecticut
Fort Valley State University*
Delaware State University*
University of Delaware
University of the District of Columbia
Florida A & M University*
University of Florida
University of Georgia
University of Guam
University of Hawaii
University of Idaho
University of Illinois—Urbana-Champaign
Purdue University
Iowa State University
Kansas State University
Kentucky State University*
University of Kentucky
Louisiana State University System
Southern University*
University of Maine
University of Maryland—Eastern Shore*
University of Maryland
University of Massachusetts—Amherst
Massachusetts institute of Technology
Michigan State University
University of Minnesota
Alcorn State University*
Mississippi State University
Lincoln University*
University of Missouri
Montana State University
University of Nebraska
University of Nevada—Reno
University of New Hampshire
Rutgers—The State University of New Jersey
New Mexico State University
Cornell University
North Carolina A & T State University*
North Carolina State University
North Dakota State University
The Ohio State University
Langston University*
Oklahoma State University
Oregon State University
The Pennsylvania State University
University of Puerto Rico—Mayaguez
University of Rhode Island
Clemson University
South Carolina State University*
South Dakota State University
Tennessee State University*
University of Tennessee
Prairie View A & M University*
Texas A & M University
Utah State University
University of Vermont
University of the Virgin Islands
Amer. Indian Higher Ed. Consortium
Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
Virginia State University*
Washington State University
West Virginia University
West Virginia State University*
University of Wisconsin--Madison
University of Wyoming

For further reading:

Allen Nevins, The State Universities and Colleges, 1962
Fred F. Harderoad, Colleges and Universities for Change, 1987
Ralph D. Christy, A Century of Service: Land-grant Colleges and Universities, 1890-1990, 1992