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