Revealed: Legacy of Nebraska


  Here's the whole twist...

Box Image  Puzzle Image

Todd A. Williams, a Nebraska native and nationally acclaimed artist, was commissioned to create paintings representing each county in Nebraska to commemorate the state's 150th Year of Statehood (1867 - 2017).  A small sampling of these works are included within this puzzle.  Information about each of these images (included below) can also be found in his Legacy of Nebraska Book which can be ordered at:

Legacy of Nebraska Revealed:

A) Czech Festival – Saline County
2016, Oil, 12 x 16

Though not all residents in Saline County are Czech, the town of Wilber has the most fame in the county as the official “Czech Capital of the USA.” Immigrants from Czechoslovakia settled in several regions of Nebraska. Many of these first-generation Americans found the rolling hills to be reminiscent of their homeland. Dwight, Milligan, Ord and Omaha had large populations and successful Czech heritage festivals, yet Wilber retained the reputation for preserving the cultural heritage. The town has become the site of a large annual festival.

Saline County has one of the longest battles over the county seat. In 1867, Swan City was named county seat. Four years later, voters elected to move the county records to Pleasant Hill. Within six years, the issue of the appropriate town for the county seat caused another election. In the first of what would be three elections in 1877, Pleasant Hill, Crete, Wilber, Dorchester, Friend and Center competed. There was no majority vote, and two weeks later, residents voted again among Pleasant Hill, Crete and Wilber. Pleasant Hill was eliminated but there was still no winner. Finally, in a third election, Wilber won by a majority 230 votes, according to the Nebraska Association of County Officials. Pleasant Hill residents would not relinquish the county records until Jan. 28, 1878, when 300 people with 160 wagons descended upon Pleasant Hill and secured the documents. 

B) Standing Bear - Dixon County

2016, Oil, 20 x 16

From his birth around 1834 until his death in 1908, Chief Standing Bear spent his life in constant struggle to gain equality and justice for American Indians. Standing Bear and the Ponca tribe were farmers, raising corn and other vegetables in the fertile valleys between the Niobrara and Ponca Creek. Annually, the tribe would move west in winter to hunt bison.

When Standing Bear was about 30, his tribe was pressured by the U.S. government to sell their lands. In 1875, they signed a treaty, thinking they would move to Omaha lands. Instead, two years later, Chief Standing Bear and the Ponca Tribe were forced to leave their homeland for Indian Territory in what is now Oklahoma. Lacking provisions and resources to sustain themselves, nearly one-third of the tribe died, including Bear Shield, Standing Bear’s eldest son.

Standing Bear and 30 of his tribe returned to Nebraska to bury their dead. They were arrested for leaving the reservation by Gen. George Crook. Though a model soldier, Crook was appalled by the government’s plan to return the Ponca to Indian Territory. He secretly brought the Ponca’s story to journalist Thomas Tibbles, who shared it with the world.

Tibbles attacked the government’s plans in the pages of the Omaha Daily Herald. Soon, the story of the Ponca’s plight had the entire nation’s attention. Tibbles’ stories prompted two prominent Omaha attorneys, Andrew Poppleton and John Webster, to take the case without charge. In April 1879, Chief Standing Bear sued in U.S. District Court. Judge Elmore Dundy arrived at a simple conclusion. The 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution protects all persons born or naturalized in the United States. Standing Bear became the first American Indian to be recognized as a person in a federal court decision. Standing Bear and some of his tribe were allowed to return permanently to their homeland in northeastern Nebraska.

C). Nebraska State Capitol - Lancaster County
2016, Oil, 24 x 20

A round dome glistens in the golden sunlight 15 floors above the ground. Beneath the dome, eight mosaic thunderbirds represent Nebraska’s Native American farmers and the life giving rain upon which all agriculture depends. Standing atop the 400-foot structure clad in Indiana limestone is The Sower, 19-foot-tall and the icon of Nebraska. Designed by Lee Lawrie in concert with the building’s architect, The Sower represents the agricultural backbone of the state and heralds the principles of integrity and hard work, as in, “You reap what you sow.” Construction began in 1922 and was completed 10 years later for just under $10 million in 1932 dollars.

The state Capitol was the result of a nationwide design competition won by New York architect Bertram G. Goodhue in 1920. The building is described as the nation’s first truly vernacular state Capitol. The present building, the third to be erected on this site, was the nation’s first statehouse design to radically depart from the prototypical form of the U.S. Capitol and the first to use an office tower. The building has a low, wide base three floors tall in the shape of a cross within a square, creating four interior courtyards. The building is an architectural masterpiece complete with impressive finishes in an Art Deco style. 

D) End of Day - Pierce County
2015, Oil, 12 x 16

In 1903, the rail line through Pierce County was sold to the Chicago and North Western Railroad and was extended north to Winner, South Dakota. During the ensuing years, the railroad received wide usage, with at least one freight train and two passenger trains running daily. Following World War II, the line began to deteriorate and the service along with it. In 1951, passenger service was discontinued. In August 1968, the two-story depot was moved six blocks to a museum site in Gilman Park. The complex was officially dedicated on July 4, 1976, as part of Pierce's bicentennial observance. The last train came through Pierce in June 1978. Today, the depot still serves as a museum, with a collection of many historic images of Pierce.

E) Mari Sandoz - Sheridan County
2016, Oil, 20 x 16

Mari Sandoz (1896-1966), a nationally acclaimed author, gave voice to the homestead experience that she knew firsthand, having been born at Mirage Flats, south of Hay Springs. Her novels chronicle the people of the Great Plains – American Indians, trappers, hunters, farmers and ranchers. The harshness of the environment and the many conflicts those on the frontier faced dominate Sandoz’s books, essays and short fiction. She became one of the most valued authorities of her time on the history of the Plains and the culture of the Sioux. A passionate partisan for the Plains Indians, she also told the stories of their lives, changed forever by the arrival of European Americans.

“As a resident of western Nebraska, Mari Sandoz participated firsthand in the settlement of one of the last "free" land areas of the continental United States - the Kinkaid period of the twentieth century. Although her scars were no greater, and no less, than those of the thousands who experienced the same thing, she was the one who put them down in writing. Mari Sandoz has left each of us with a richer appreciation of our past and a clearer vision of our future through her 22 published books and numerous short stories and essays.” – Gordon City Library

F) Sandhill Cranes - Buffalo County
2015, Oil, 24 x 30

Each spring, more than 80 percent of the world’s population of Sandhill cranes converge on Nebraska’s Platte River valley—a critical sliver of threatened habitat in North America’s Central Flyway. Along with them come millions of migrating ducks and geese in the neighboring rainwater basins.

The cranes come to rest and refuel for a month as they prepare for the arduous journey north to vast breeding grounds in Canada, Alaska and Siberia. They arrive from far-flung wintering grounds in northern Mexico, Texas and New Mexico on an epic journey of thousands of miles.

For centuries they have come to rest and restore themselves. The shallow braided channels of Nebraska’s Platte River provide safe nighttime roost sites. Waste grain in crop fields provides food to build up depleted fat reserves needed for migration. Adjacent wet meadows provide critical nutrients and secluded loafing areas for rest, bathing and courting. During their stop in Nebraska, cranes gain back nearly 10 percent of their body weight.

Without question, the arrival of the cranes on the Platte River—and the millions of other migratory birds that visit each spring—is one of the greatest wildlife spectacles on the continent.

G) Sioux Encampment Near Chimney Rock - Morrill County
2016, Oil, 24 x 36

German-American painter Albert Bierstadt, known for his romanticized landscapes of the American West, painted “View of Chimney Rock, Ogalillalh Sioux Village in Foreground” in 1860. Bierstadt’s painting is the inspiration for “Sioux Encampment Near Chimney Rock.” Bierstadt made sketches and took photographs on his first trip west. He was traveling with Frederick Lander's expedition, which was tasked with building a new road from South Pass, Wyoming, to Fort Hall, Idaho. The Sioux, who annually hunted buffalo on the massive grazing lands of the Sandhills, knew a much taller Chimney Rock than we do now, more similar in size to the one depicted in Bierstadt’s painting. No measurements were taken in the 1800s, but numerous accounts indicate that the shape and size of Chimney Rock has changed over time. The spire was created by erosion and will continue to be impacted by natural forces. 

H) James Moore-Pony Express Rider-1860 - Cheyenne County
2015, Oil, 12 x 16

James Moore, the first post-trader at Sidney, made a ride which may well lay claim to be one of the most remarkable on record. The blazing sunset appears to mimic the speed of the horse and rider. Moore was at Midway Station in western Nebraska on June 8, 1860, when a very important government dispatch for the Pacific Coast arrived. Mounting his pony, he rode to Julesburg, Colorado, 140 miles away, to deliver the message to the next rider going further west. At Julesburg, he met another important government dispatch with a message that needed to return to Washington. The rider who should have carried the message east had been killed the previous day. After a rest of only seven minutes, Moore started back for Midway Station. He made the round trip, 280 miles, in 14 hours and 46 minutes. The original message traveled via James Moore and other Express Riders from St. Joseph, Missouri, to Sacramento, California, in eight days, nine hours and 40 minutes. 

I) Prairie Settlers-1893 - Fillmore County

2015, Oil, 24 x 30

This two-story frame house would not have likely been the one most homesteaders first built. Most homesteaders began their prairie life in the shelter of a dugout or soddy. Then they would build a more permanent home. This house is unique in that the well house and windmill are attached to the house for convenience. The distinct sectional-wooden-wheel windmill was manufactured from the 1880s to 1940. This style of windmill was designed especially for the needs of the Plains landscape—to stay pointed into light winds to provide water and shutdown in strong winds. 

“I painted this composition to represent some of what life was like for the early farmers in the area,” Williams said of the painting, which is one of his favorites of the entire collection. “This piece has wonderful story telling capacity. I wondered is she going out to do chores or water the livestock? I purposely placed the girl in the golden section to be the centrality of focus. To me, this is one of those rare paintings that just breathes a life of its own.” 

Fillmore County’s early settlers were already survivors, as many were first- and second-generation immigrants who had seen really hard times before coming to America. Any American (including immigrants, blacks and women) could file a claim for 160 acres of land. Claims were first filed at the Nebraska City land office until 1868 when the Beatrice land office was established. The first homestead claim located in Fillmore County was filed in June 1866. Claim holders were required to make improvements on the land and reside there for five years in order to receive title to the land. 

J) Táraha’-American Bison – Sherman County

2016, Oil, 12 x 16

At least 30 million bison once roamed the American West. Táraha’ is the Pawnee word for bison, also sometimes referred to as the American buffalo. Decades of habitat loss, decline in genetic diversity and human conflict stripped nearly all free-ranging bison from their natural grassland habitat. 

American Indians relied heavily on bison for food, shelter and tools. They used every part of the animal and never took advantage of the animals by killing more than they needed. In contrast, with the westward migration of white settlers, bison were exploited for sport and show. The U.S. Army held a campaign in the late 1800s to eliminate bison as a way to control American Indian tribes that depended on bison. By the 1890s, the icon of the West was hunted to near extinction with fewer than 1,000 animals ranging free.  

Today, an estimated 500,000 bison remain in North America. Because most herds are less than 500 on small landscapes, scientists have agreed that bison have become ecologically extinct. This means they no longer play a critical role in shaping prairie biodiversity, as cited by the American Prairie Reserve. Now, multiple organizations work to restore bison herds to the open prairie.

K) Tom Osborne - Adams County
2016, Oil, 12 x 16

“I was fortunate to have been born in Adams County in 1937 and spent all of my youth in Hastings, including high school and college, save for four years during World War II when my mother, brother Jack and I lived with my maternal grandparents in St. Paul while my dad was overseas. Hastings was a good place to grow up, as it had people with good values, a strong work ethic and lots of opportunities to participate in athletics. I grew up very near Hastings College and attended football, basketball and track practices nearly every day at the college from fourth grade on through junior high school. The college became such a big part of my life that I decided to enroll and attended Hastings College until graduation in 1959.

The picture of the scene at the Liberty Bowl brings back memories of my early years as a football coach. Our starting quarterback was hurt early in the game, and Randy Garcia came in and led us on a long drive late in the game to defeat North Carolina in the closing moments of the game. The 1977 regular season had culminated in another of several consecutive losses to Oklahoma, which contributed to many fans thinking that I was not the right person for the job. The win in the Liberty Bowl helped ease the pain, and we beat Oklahoma the next year and then began several years in which we were highly competitive.

Whatever success I might have had in life goes back to the strong roots which were developed while growing up in Adams County.” -Tom Osborne

L) Trinity Cathedral and First National Tower,
Pioneer Omaha to 21st Century City - Douglas County
2015, Oil, 48 x 36

Trinity Cathedral and the First National Bank Tower, though very different in age and architecture, remain linked by history and the commitment to the people whose lives they touch.

Two years after passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854, a group of Omaha pioneer Episcopalians founded Trinity parish. The congregation finally settled at the corner of 18th and Capitol Avenue. In 1865, the Right Rev. Robert Harper Clarkson was sent to Omaha as missionary bishop of Nebraska and the Dakotas. As the first Episcopal bishop of Nebraska, he shepherded construction of Trinity Cathedral, a late Gothic Revival design completed in 1883. (The roots of the Nebraska Medical Center go back to 1869 when Bishop Clarkson opened the state's first hospital in downtown Omaha.) Still a vibrant parish, Trinity Cathedral represents the longest continuous faith congregation in Omaha.

The bank destined to become First National Bank of Nebraska was founded in Omaha by brothers Herman and Augustus Kountze in 1857. Another pioneer, Thomas Davis, was an investor in the bank. His son, Frederick H. Davis, married Nellie Stockton Clarkson, the daughter of Bishop and Mrs. Clarkson. Frederick later became president of the bank. Their descendants, father and son Bruce and Clarkson Lauritzen, now stand at the helm of the largest privately held bank in the country, as Chairman and Executive Vice President, respectively. The First National Bank building (on the left) was built in 1971. Corporate headquarters were moved just across the street after construction of the 45-story First National Bank Tower in 2002. The postmodern skyscraper is the tallest building between Chicago and Denver. First National Bank’s reach is not only high, but wide, with locations in Nebraska, Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, South Dakota and Texas.

M) Mitchell Pass-Oregon Trail - Scotts Bluff County
2014, Oil, 20 x 30

Scotts Bluff, Chimney Rock and other rock formations along the North Platte River were natural landmarks for pioneers heading west, indicating that they had completed the first segment of their journey.  They marked the end of the monotonous, level prairie and the beginning of the terrain leading through the Rocky Mountains. The bluffs, named Scotts Bluff for the most massive and significant of the rock formations, also served as a psychological milestone. Upon reaching Scotts Bluff, the weary travelers were often inspired, refreshed and strengthened to continue. 

Mitchell Pass was a narrow passage through the bluffs that formed a natural bottleneck for immigrants. The wagon trains were forced to travel single-file through the pass between the bluffs, and the trail was eroded several feet deep because of the countless draft animals, wagon wheels and pioneer footsteps that had passed through previously.

Scotts Bluff is second only to Chimney Rock in the number of times it is mentioned in pioneer diaries. It rises 800 feet above the North Platte River, and within its rock layers are 11 million years of geological history and fossils from prehistoric animals. Today, Scotts Bluff National Monument preserves 3,000 acres of bluff and prairie habitats as well as evidence of one of mankind’s most famous and epic migrations. 

N) William Frederick (Buffalo Bill) Cody - Lincoln County
2015, Oil, 20 x 16

William Frederick Cody (1846-1917) was one of the most colorful characters of the American West. He became world famous for his show, “Buffalo Bill’s Wild West,” founded in 1883 in North Platte.

Born in Iowa, Cody started working at the age of 11 and became a rider for the Pony Express at age 14. During the American Civil War, he fought for the Union from 1863 to the war’s end in 1865. He was also a civilian scout during the American Indian Wars. He received his "Buffalo Bill" nickname after the  Civil War when he was working to supply Kansas Pacific Railroad workers with buffalo meat.

For a span of 15 years, Buffalo Bill and his cast traveled the United States and Europe, bringing extravagant showmanship with trick riders, prize marksmen and wild animals. Cowboys demonstrated bronco riding, roping and other skills that would become events of the rodeo. Cody also encouraged and supported American Indians to join his parade to demonstrate their culture with beauty and dignity at a time when much of the country was doing the opposite. Cody knew the real trials of the West, and he capitalized on others’ curiosity to present a display that people flocked to witness. The legend of Buffalo Bill is as large as the American West itself.

O) Reaping the Harvest - Keith County
2015, Oil, 32 x 48

From 1895 to 1916, Nebraska was the fourth-largest wheat-producing state. Wheat is successfully grown in every Nebraska county. In 1916, the state’s average yield per acre was nearly double the national average. During 1915 and 1916, many instances occurred where men purchased a quarter to a full section of land and paid for the entire acreage with one crop of wheat.

Winter wheat suits the eastern and central sections of the state, and spring wheat prefers the climate and soils of the western section. The development of winter wheat had a significant impact on the agricultural economy, especially early in the 20th century. Prior to this, wheat had found little favor among Nebraska farmers. Spring wheat was unsuitable for particular soils and climates, and the Turkey Red winter wheat was considered difficult to process by the milling industry. However, development of new milling processes and the declining livestock and corn prices of the mid-1890s rekindled interest in winter wheat. Additionally, the introduction of the press drill enabled important pre-winter growth by planting the seed deeper. In 1899, spring wheat acreage constituted 96 percent of total wheat acreage in Nebraska. Ten years later, winter wheat accounted for 91 percent of total wheat acreage.

The harvesters are racing against the impending storm to gather what they can for that day before the rain pours down. The storm clouds have separated enough for the wheat to shine as bright as gold against the purple sky. 


Nebraska Trivia Answers:

Name the statue atop the Nebraska (NE) capitol building? 

The Sower, 19-foot-tall icon of Nebraska stands atop the 400-foot structure clad in Indiana limestone.  It represents the agricultural backbone of the state signifying the principles of integrity and hard work.

Did you know that besides Nebraska 13 states have statues of people atop their capitol domes? (Men: KS, OK, OR, RI; Women: AZ, GA, ME, MO, MT, PA, TX, VT, WI)

Saline County hosts a large festival celebrating the heritage of what people?
Czech or Bohemian.  The festival is held in Wilber known as the “Czech Capital of the USA.”

Mari Sandoz wrote a biography about what Lakota leader?
Crazy Horse.  She is a nationally acclaimed author that gave voice to the homestead experience firsthand.  In her biography she used Lakota concepts and metaphors and replicated Lakota patterns of speech.

What are the top 2 most referred to landmarks on the Emigrant Trails in pioneer journals and diaries?
Chimney Rock and Scotts Bluff.  These rock formations along the North Platte River were landmarks for pioneers heading west

What two varieties of wheat are most common in NE?
Hard Red Winter and Hard White Winter.  Wheat is successfully grown in every Nebraska county.

NE topsoil is primarily made of what?
A combination of clay, silt and sand known as Loam.  

What two crops are grown in every NE county according to the NDA?
Alfalfa, (Grass) Hay

When were homesteaders who file claims given the land?  How much land was typically allotted?
After living there for 5 years, homesteaders who file claim were given 160 acres.

What crop grows along the Platte River Valley (varieties include Frontenac)?
Wine grapes

Nearly half a million of what bird converges on NE’s Platte River valley each spring (shares a name with a geological feature of NE)?
More than 80% of
Sandhill cranes converge on Nebraska’s Platte River – along with millions of migrating ducks and geese.

What did homesteaders typically use to build their first house?

What Ponca chief successfully argued in U.S. District Court that Native Americans are “persons within the meaning of the law”?

Chief Standing Bear spent his life in constant struggle to gain justice for the American Indians.  He sued the U.S. District Court arguing that all persons born or naturalized in the United States were protected by the 14th amendment. 

Chief Standing Bear Memorial Bridge, which crosses the Missouri River, was named in his honor.  Other places include Standing Bear Lake, Standing Bear Park in Ponca City, Oklahoma, and an elementary school in Omaha.  He was elected to the Nebraska Hall of Fame.

Táraha’ is the word for what in the Pawnee Native American language?
Bison.  At least 30 million bison once roamed the American West.  Today, an estimated 500,000 remain.

FYI - The Pawnee are a Plains Indian tribe who are headquartered in Pawnee, Oklahoma. Pawnee people are enrolled in the federally recognized Pawnee Nation of Oklahoma. Historically, they lived in Nebraska and Kansas. In the Pawnee language, the Pawnee people refer to themselves as Chatiks si chatiks or "Men of Men".

How many games did Tom Osborne, the Cornhuskers’ head coach win in 25 bowl games?  Which bowl did they compete in 11 times?
Won 12 of the 25 bowl games and competed in the Orange Bowl 11 times.

What is the tallest building in NE. How many feet tall is it?
The First National Bank Tower in Omaha is 634 feet tall (45 stories).

NE owes much of its agricultural success to an underground resource named after a town in Keith County. What is it called?
Ogallala Aquifer, a shallow water table located beneath the Great Plains covering an area in portions of eight states.

Who founded the Wild West shows in North Platte that included Annie Oakley, Frank Butler and Calamity Jane?

William Frederick “Buffalo Bill” Cody founded his famous show in 1883 in North Platte.  He was a rider for the Pony Express at age 14. 

What person from Omaha is the 3rd wealthiest person in the world?  What was their approximate net worth?
Warren Buffett, $82 billion as of 2019

Who wrote these novels: O Pioneers!, The Song of the Lark, and My Ántonia.
Willa Sibert Cather was an American writer who achieved recognition for her novels of frontier life on the Great Plains.  Born in Virginia, Willa moved to Nebraska with her family at the age of 9 in 1883.  Some of the earliest work produced by Cather was first published in the Red Cloud Chief, the local paper for the city of Red Cloud where she lived.  Cather later attended the University of Nebraska and graduated with a B.A. in English in 1894.

NE is the nation’s #1 producer of what low-calorie theater snack?

The Pony Express, which ran through NE launched in April of 1860 and operated for how long?  What was the reason for its collapse?
The Pony Express operated for 19 months.  Though the Pony Express was not making money (charging $5 per letter when it was costing $30 per letter to deliver) the collapse was the result of competition. Western Union completed the transcontinental telegraph line and rendered the Pony Express obsolete on October 24, 1861.  The Pony Express ceased service two days later.  It’s estimated that the Pony Express delivered about 35,000 pieces of mail. 

NE became a state in what year? 1867

Name the NE state flower/bird/tree/fish/fossil/dance/insect/soft drink/song/river/beverage/rock?

Flower = Goldenrod

Bird = Western Meadowlark

Tree = Cottonwood

Fish = Channel Catfish

Fossil = Mammoth

Dance = Square Dance

Insect = Honeybee

Soft Drink = Kool-Aid

Song = Beautiful Nebraska (State Ballad = A Place Like Nebraska)

River = Platte River

Beverage = Milk

Rock = Prairie Agate

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