The Search for toots . . .
This was a busy weekend. On Saturday, I drove down to Beatrice, Nebraska to the Homestead National Historical Park... in the pouring rain, which fortunately stopped shortly after I arrived at the welcome station, where the ranger was great about answering my many questions! To the right on the outside wall, one can see the iron outlines of those 30 states that had participated in homesteading, with a cut-out reflecting that proportion of land that had been designated for homesteading. My tour began with a short film on the origin of the Homestead Act of 1862 and then there were 2 floors of exhibits on life at the time, including computers where you could research where your relatives may have homesteaded; I had already done this.
The first homesteader is reputed to be Daniel Freeman in 1863, a Union officer who woke the land management office after midnight on January 1, to be that first as he had to get back to his troops. While the majority of homesteading ended by 1930, Kent Deardorff is considered the last and he homesteaded in Alaska in 1976.
From the main building, I walked over to the Education Building where there were exhibits on the progression of farm implements over the years, showing the incredible difficulty those early settlers had in making their new homes. Along the way, there were multiple markers along lovely trails, including an early cabin where a family of 10 lived in one room.
On Sunday, I made my way to University of Nebraska State Museum of Natural History, which included 4 floors of archeological discoveries over the years. It was fascinating look at the size and variety of both land and water animals that had been unearthed and to see that some animals once considered only to be in Africa, were also common here.
Today I'm heading up to St. Edwards and Albion, two small towns with connections to Toots' life in Nebraska and where her homestead was located. This may be what I'm most interested in seeing...in gaining some idea of what her life must have been like here. Stay tuned!
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