Sunday, June 9, 2013

Kearney, Nebraska

As you may notice, we have moved on from Council Bluffs.  Our goal is to be in Denver by the 20th of June.  As I am writing this our home is being buffeted by strong winds.  In a cornfield near our home I can see the plants almost bent over by the force of the gusts.  Yesterday, Saturday, we visited the Great Platte River Road Archway museum.  I was a bit reluctant to tour another museum, since on Friday we had toured the Union Pacific Railroad Museum in Council Bluffs.  To my pleasant surprise, however this museum in Kearney is quite different, and just as good.  The archway of the museum spans over Interstate 80,  it is the only historic attraction over a U.S. highway.  I took the picture below from the second story of the museum.
The monument is located near the point where the great trails of the west once converged; the Oregon, Mormon and California routes.  Later the Pony Express, Overland Stage, and transcontinental railroad followed the same pathway through the Platte river valley and across the continental divide.  The pioneer's westward journey is recreated in the museum with many interactive and audiovisual exhibits.  Visitors to the museum can join a wagon train, experience a prairie crossing in stage coach, or be present at the pounding of the Golden Spike for the railroad- to name a few of the historical events on display in the museum.  Most importantly, it is the story of a diverse group of people living on the plains or making their way across the country in covered wagons.  Pawnee tribal members have been said to be pleased that the stories of their ancestor's contributions to the westward expansion 150 years ago have been added to the Nebraska monument.  It was noted also that deaths of the 350,000 men, women, and children crossing the plains were more likely due to accidents with guns or drownings crossing rivers than at the hand of Native Americans.   One of the displays also features Biddy Mason, a slave who went by covered wagon with her master in 1851.  Upon reaching California she approached the courts, asked for and obtained freedom for herself and her three daughters.  She lived on to become a nurse and advocate for other African Americans.
Kearney has been called the "Midway City".  As the sign above indicates, it is midway between Boston and San Francisco.  There is an exhibit in the museum of the old Lincoln highway (Interstate 30), America's first transcontinental highway which traces its way along the Great Platte River road as it travels 3,400 miles westward from coast to coast.  Created in 1913,  it will enjoy a centennial celebration later this month in Kearney.  Its sign (the letter "L" surrounded by bands of red, white, and blue) can still be found on some telephone poles and old posts today around the town.

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