Lincoln, NE August 1, 2017

From Papillion outside of Omaha we made the short trip to Lincoln, the state capital.  We had a reservation at Branched Oak State Recreation Area with a great full hook up site overlooking the lake.  Branched Oak Lake is the largest of ten Salt Creek flood control projects built by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to protect the city of Lincoln and surrounding communities.  The Branched Oak Lake Recreation Area is made up of an 1,800 acre lake and 3,960 acres of land.20170804_125954We stayed at Branched Oak for a week and spent much of the week relaxing and enjoying the lake views.

On Tuesday we drove into Lincoln to tour the state capitol building, named one of the Seven Modern Architectural Wonders of the World by the American Institute of Architects.  We did not find the building as visually appealing both inside or out as most of the other state capitol building we have visited.  The inside was very dark.  We rode an elevator to the 14th floor to the observation deck for a view of the city of Lincoln. IMG_20170801_104945IMG_20170801_105319 IMG_20170801_110952

The Capitol was built between 1922-32, the state’s third capitol building.  There is a 400 foot tower visible for miles.  It is said to be the first capitol building designed for function rather than as a memorial, and the first to deviate from the design of the U.S. Capitol. On top is “The Sower”, a bronze sculpture of a barefoot man casting grain seeds.IMG_20170801_110402IMG_20170801_111428IMG_20170801_11104620170801_111430IMG_20170801_110618IMG_20170801_111128IMG_20170801_111236IMG_20170801_111350

Remember I told you each state capital city has a replica of the Liberty Bell?  We found Lincoln’s in Antelope Park.IMG_20170801_145624

The University of Nebraska was founded in 1869.  We rode by Memorial Stadium, home of the Nebraska Cornhusker.  It was built in 1923 and was named in honor of Nebraskans who have sacrificed their lives in military service to the country.  It seats 90,000 and the stadium is said to be the third largest city in Nebraska on game days.  Every home day has been sold out since 1962.  Across the four corners of the stadium are words written by former Nebraska professor of philosophy Harley Burr Alexander.  My favorite is on the southwest front of the stadium:.  “Not the Victory But the Action, Not the Goal But the Game, In the Deed The Glory”.  I also like his words on the northwest corner:  “Courage; Generosity; Fairness; Honor; In these are the true awards of manly sport”.20170801_115002

IMG_20170801_151539We were looking for a geocache to do in Lincoln and noticed one located in a cemetery.  It said it was located at the grave of a famous actor/singer.  To get credit for the cache we had to name the person and the inscription on the tombstone.  We were intrigued so we set out to find it.  The grave belonged to Gordon MacRae.  He was best known for the movies “Oklahoma” and “Carousel”.  The inscription, by President Ronald Reagan, was “Gordon will always be remembered wherever beautiful music is heard”.

On Thursday we did drive an hour south to the 211 acre Homestead National Historic Monument of America located in the Tallgrass Prairie.  IMG_20170803_113129In 1862 President Abraham Lincoln signed the Homestead Act which granted 160 acres of land to anyone over 21 and head of a household who agreed to live on the land for at least five years, build a home and cultivate crops. It was part of Lincoln’s plan to modernize the west and end slavery. This prompted thousands of settlers to migrate west to the Nebraska Territory.  President Thomas Jefferson had proposed something similar in the early 1780’s.  Many in the industrial North hoped the Homestead Act would lure excess workers from crowded cities.  Eventually the Homesteaders created a vast market for agricultural equipment which helped factories in the east.  20170803_12312220170803_133059IMG_20170803_132912

One interesting example was barbed wire, invented by Michael Kelly in 1868 and Joseph Glidden in 1874.  Used by Homesteaders to fence off their property and keep off free ranging cattle that trampled crops, the barbed wire was mass produced in factories.  

This free land opportunity appealed to immigrants eligible to become citizens, former slaves who became eligible after the 13th Amendment abolished slavery and the 14th Amendment guaranteed equal treatment, Civil War veterans and women.  Foreign language advertisements distributed in Eastern Europe where famine in the 1870’s had destroyed crops and caused famine, promoted the idea of America, the Land of Plenty and the American Dream.  In the first half of 1862 twenty-five thousand Europeans, mostly Germans crossed the Atlantic.  By 1870 one fourth of the population of Nebraska was foreign born.  By the turn of the century, over two million Anglo-Americans, Italians, Danes, Swedes, Finlanders, Hollanders, Hungarians, Icelanders, Russians, Poles and Ukrarians had relocated to the Great Plains.  

But along with this Land of Plenty they were often unprepared to face extreme drought, prairie fires, hailstorms, tornadoes, grasshopper plagues and crushing loneliness.  270,000,000 acres of land in thirty states or 10% of U.S. controlled land was distributed to homesteaders. Surveyors, relying on the 1785 Land Ordinance Act, laid out 36 square mile townships.  This townships were then split into 640 acre (one square mile) sections.  These sections were  then subdivided into four 160 acre homesteads.  

160 acres was thought to be the ideal size for a family farm.  By 1900, 95% of Indian land had been lost to homesteading and other land politics. The Native Americans were forced from their ancestral homes and relocated to reservations, usually on the least desirable lands. A lot of the land was taken from the native American Indians. 20170803_13221920170803_13215620170803_132634IMG_20170803_132804

In 1976 the U.S. Congress repealed the Homestead Act.  According to a sign at the Heritage Center, there are more than 93,000,000 descendants of homesteaders today.

Along the sidewalk leading inside to the Heritage Center were outlines of each state included in the Homestead Act.  The square cut out in each state represented the amount of state land given in the Homestead Act.  20170803_11363720170803_113649


Florida Homestead about 1876

We visited the wonderful Heritage Center with a movie and many exhibits on the Western Expansion and pioneer life.  The monument is located on the site of the Daniel Freeman homestead.  Daniel Freeman was the first to apply for the free land on January 1,1863, giving him Patent #1.  His grave, along with his wife and family is located on the monument property.IMG_20170803_134654IMG_20170803_134601IMG_20170803_135226

In the Heritage Center they have computers where you can research family whose state was part of the Homestead Act.  Since Bill has relatives from Alabama, a Homestead state, he spent some time researching the park system’s sites.20170803_115748IMG_20170803_120041IMG_20170803_135649

Nearby is the Freeman School, the longest running one room schoolhouse in Nebraska.IMG_20170803_141447

On the way home we stopped in the tiny town of Malcolm, population 472, at Lippy’s BBQ.  It was the best brisket I had ever eaten.  So good that since it was only three miles from the campground we drove back the day before we left and bought pulled pork and more beef brisket to take with us to Missouri.

Next stop: Independence, Missouri

Lincoln Facts:

  • Lincoln was named one of Lonely Planet’s Top Ten Places to Travel in the U.S. for 2017 (Lonely Planet is the largest travel guide book published worldwide.)
  • Lincoln’s average yearly temperature is 63.1 with a January temperature of 35 and July average of 89.  Annual precipitation is 28.9 inches and annual snowfall of 26 inches.
  • Lincoln has over 6,000 acres of parks and natural land, 125 parks and 131 miles of trails.
  • Lincoln has a population of over 250,000, smaller than Omaha.

More Nebraska Facts:

  • Nebraska is the nation’s 16th largest state.
  • Famous Nebraskans include Fred Astaire, Marlon Brando, Warren Buffet, Gerald Ford, and Henry Fonda.

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