Grand Island, Nebraska

| August/September 1989

  • John Deere D
    John Deere D parked outside the museum.
    C.W. Stach
  • Heider with a Wallis
    Good-looking Heider with a Wallis beside it.
    Carl Vogt

  • John Deere D
  • Heider with a Wallis

E2762 County F, Kewaunee, Wisconsin 54216

Stuhr Museum tells the colorful, inspiring story of the prairie town builders. Here are the buildings which once stood in prairie towns. Here is the railroad which brought the immigrants from the east. Here are the stories and the memories of the residents who shared a vision for the future. My wife and 1 spent a week at the Pioneer Village in Minden, Nebraska with an Elderhostel group. While there we became acquainted with Dale Clark, who was one of our instructors for the Elderhostel course of study. He is also connected with the Stuhr Museum, located about forty miles away from Minden. When Mr. Clark, who is the educational director for the museum, found out about my special interest in old tractors, he very graciously invited us to see the museum, even though it was closed for the season. Consequently, we spent most of a morning there during which time he opened the buildings for us.

The antique farm machinery building was, of course, the one building that interested me most. A two million dollar collection of superbly restored tractors is housed there. I guess that the only thing that I could find wrong with the exhibit was that the tractors were too close together to enable my taking good pictures! This 200-piece exhibit includes an 1880 threshing machine, early steam engines, more than one hundred tractors (no two alike), and numerous examples of horse- and tractor-drawn implements. All of the tractors are in running order and are painted in authentic colors. We saw a Wallis, Heider, Titan, Case, Oil Pull, Avery, and John Deere, to name just a few. There were several steam engines, even about a one-third scale model Case. My time was well spent in just looking!

Southeast of the main building is Railroad Town, Nebraska; a recreated prairie community which tells the story of town building and community development in Nebraska during the last decades of the nineteenth century. Sixty century-old shops, homes and other structures were moved to the site and restored. During the summer, the business district bustles with activities reminiscent of Nebraska's colorful past. Three historic homes grace the town's residential area. Included is the cottage from Grand Island where Henry Fonda was born in 1905.

The Nebraska Midland Railroad, Nebraska's only operating turn-of-the-century steam train, takes a nostalgic ride across the museum's 200 acres of rolling prairie land. Climb aboard at the Railroad Town depot or at the Buffalo Junction whistle stop southwest of the main museum building. The railroad portrays the major 'town builder' across the prairie from the 1860's through the 1890's. This journey back in time aboard the 1897 coach views a Pawnee Indian lodge, a buffalo preserve, and the developing communities of Ovina, Runelsburg, and Prairie City. East of the main building, a complex of eight log structures built between 1857 and 1867 interprets early Hall County settlements which lay along the pioneer trail. At some of these settlements, also known as road ranches, westward-bound immigrants paused to rest, buy provisions, and water and feed their stock.

So you can see that there is plenty to see, even if you are not as interested in old tractors as I am! But the tractors, to me, are the best part of the museum. I can heartily recommend the Stuhr Museum of the Prairie Pioneer to everyone as a very good experience and a great place to stop!


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