This past week, Todd and I took a little adventure out to the Sandhills of Nebraska. We had the chance to spend some great quality time with family, and do some family history sleuthing too.
Bright and early, Monday morning we hopped in the car and drove towards Seneca. We took one of Nebraska’s most scenic routes, Highway 2. It was gorgeous. Once we reached the intersection of Hwy 2 and the 86-A spur, we zeroed-out the “trip b” odometer. When we entered Hooker County and the Mountain Time Zone, I knew we were getting close to our destination. With four miles on the odometer, we made it. For the next quarter-mile of Hwy 2, we were crossing a piece of land homesteaded by my great-grandfather. It is also the land where I believe my grandfather was born in a sod house.
Of course, I put my hiking boots on, Todd pulled the car over, and I tromped around a bit. Because I did not contact the current land owners, I never crossed any fence lines. It was beautiful. I could see a windmill just beyond a hill, there were tons of cattle that were really interested in what we were doing, and a lot of plants. I didn’t collect anything other than a clipping of a sunflower. Next time, I may collect yucca seeds, a prickly pear pad, and some wild roses. Next time.
While we were there, I had Todd take a photo of me holding a copy of my grandfather’s “Sons and Daughters of the Soddies” certificate. It was a great moment. It was a moment to honor my grandpa, great-grandpa, homesteaders, and Nebraska history. I am definitely going back.
Along the way, I took note of some of the museums, libraries, and historical markers. I will be checking into and probably contacting some of them! One marker, in particular, added a little more insight to my family history. The time frame of my great-grandfather’s land claim fit for a period when settlers were known as “Kinkaiders.” It’s history I intend to look into more.
All-in-all, I plan to continue my research, contact more local historical societies, look up tax rolls, and get a hold of the current land owners. I also think I need to lock down a better system for making sure we are on the correct stretch of land. I don’t feel my method is extremely reliable.
While I was there, I also thought about not being able to bring back plants, and how I could still incorporate some of the landscape into my garden. I will post about that soon.
After we had spent a bit of time on the land, we decided to start our journey back East. Because we’d already driven six hours, we stopped for a stay at the historic, Arrow Hotel in Broken Bow. We had Runza for dinner then a couple of drinks at the hotel bar. It was a good day. (I didn’t get a photo of our Runza, this is via the internet, while I was searching for a good image it made me hungry for Runza again…)
In the future, I plan on taking an extended trip to spend more time in the area and add on a few other stops at other places where my family lived and died. It is really an experience to stand where ancestors (near and far) stood. I feel going to these places will be a life-long adventure.