Thursday, December 5, 2019

24th Annual Christmas Dinner at Fort Robinson

Editor's Note: Fort Robinson State Park truly is a gem. All Nebraskans – especially those in Dawes County and northwest Nebraska – should be proud. This afternoon, we received an e-mail from the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission about holiday events in western Nebraska. At this late date, we suspect tickets for the Christmas Dinner are probably gone, but local folks might still give it a try. Merry Christmas! ~~~~~~~

Join us (December 7th) for the 24th Annual Christmas Dinner at Fort Robinson's Buffalo Soldiers Barracks! The theme will be 1878, which was an important year in the fort's history.

The 24th annual Christmas Dinner will take people back to 1878, an important year in the fort’s history. Guests will be treated to the same menu as the one of that year, when it was a military post for the U.S. Cavalry. The dinner will include turkey, stuffing, potatoes and gravy, pork loin, asparagus, sweet potatoes, rolls and “all the fixings.”

The year chosen for the dinner is the one that the post’s name changed from Camp Robinson to Fort Robinson. More significant though, it was the period of one of the fort’s most unfortunate events.

That October was when the Cavalry intercepted 149 Cheyenne Indians led by Chief Dull Knife, who were attempting to return to their northern homelands from Indian Territory in present-day Oklahoma, and took them into custody at the post. The following January would mark the escape of the group, an event known as the Cheyenne Breakout, and ensuing “Fort Robinson massacre.” All of the escapees were either killed or recaptured when attempting to flee the harsh conditions of their confinement. Some made it as far as 35 miles away before soldiers caught up with them.

The barracks where the Cheyennes were held captive have been recreated at Fort Robinson, and a monument commemorating the incident was installed below the Cheyenne Buttes on land owned by Chief Dull Knife College just west of the park in 2016.

The Christmas dinner’s program, annually enhanced by many attendees who dress in period attire, includes live music and historical commentary. The doors will open at 6 p.m.

Tickets for the event usually sell out quickly and are available at select locations. They may be purchased for $30 each at Fort Robinson’s headquarters, D&S Market in Harrison and the Visitors Center-Chamber of Commerce in Chadron. Because of high demand, there is a limit of four tickets per household.

Again complementing the event’s festive atmosphere will be the Christmas lights installed on park buildings with help from community members. The lights will turn on at 6 p.m. the night of the dinner and will remain lit each evening through December. Groups interested in decorating a building at the park may contact the office at 308-665-2900 or

Sunday, November 24, 2019

Maiden family was among Dawes County pioneers

(Editor's Note:  The following story is among the many chronicled in "A Compendium of History, Reminiscence & Biography of Western Nebraska," an illustrated book published in 1909 by the Alden Publishing Company of Chicago.

William H. Maiden holds a prominent place among the foremost agriculturists of Dawes county, Nebraska. His home is on section 5, township 34, range 47, where he has been located for many years past, and his well appointed home and well cultivated fields bespeak the man of taste and progress, and no one stands higher in the estimation of his fellowmen and associates than he. He is among the leading old settlers in this region who has take an active part in the development of the section from its very beginning, and richly deserves the success which has come to him.

William H. Maiden family - ca. 1900
Mr. Maiden was born in Whiteside county, Illinois, in 1848. His father, George Maiden. was a farmer and old settler in Illinois, and was one of those who lived in that section of the country at the time of the Black Hawk massacre. He married Sarah Templeton, American born, of Scotch blood.

In 1856 the family moved to Tama county, Iowa, and there our subject grew to manhood, remaining at home with his parents up to the time of his twenty-first birthday, assisting in the farm work, and attending the country schools, where he received a fair education, for those early days. He left home in 1877 and came into the Black Hills, working for different freighting outfits in that vicinity, and part of the time being manager of the mail route from Fort Pierre to Deadwood, remaining here up to 1880. He then returned to Iowa, where he was married to Miss Dora E. Derrick, whose father, John C. Derrick, was a farmer of German descent, and her mother was Adelia Kellogg, raised in New York state. One son was born to Mr. and Mrs. Maiden, William J., now twenty-one years of age and living on a farm adjoining that of his father.

Mr. Maiden and his family lived in Iowa up to the spring of 1886, farming there in Carroll county, then came to Dawes county, Nebraska, and settled on his present homestead, landing here on March 8th. This farm was located in section 5, township 34, range 47, and he at once began to build up a home, putting up a dugout, in which they lived for two years, then built a better house of the same kind and lived in that for nine years. 

During the first years they went through many hard times, witnessing the drouths, and was obliged to work in the roundhouse at Chadron and any odd work he could get to do in order to support his family. He kept on improving his place, however, and has now a ranch of eight hundred acres, about seventy acres of which is in alfalfa and plow land, with the balance in hay and pasture, as he engages extensively in the stock business, raising a large number of cattle and horses for market each season. The ranch is located on White river, and is well supplied with natural timber of all kinds, and he has it well improved, all fenced, and everything in first-class order.

Mr. Maiden is a strong Democrat and an ardent admirer of William Jennings Bryan,and takes a keen interest in local and national politics. He has served as school director for four years, also as school treasurer for five years.


Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Chadron Assumption Kindergarten ∆ 1957-58

Another great school photo arrived on our doorstep recently. Thanks to Dave Schlickbernd!  This one is the Assumption Academy Kindergarten of 1957-58.  Several of the students are identified as follows: 
(Standing-L-R): Teacher Van Loan, Unknown, John Ryan, John Melton, Roger Lauder, and Dave Schlickbernd.
(8 Seated L-R but only 7 notations):  Diane Trabert, Unknown, Kathy Engel, Julie Grantham, Mary Phillips, Norita Faulk, Unknown
If you can offer additions/corrections, please drop us an e-Mail You can check out more photos in our Schools Gallery.

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

From Guadalcanal to China – Warren Umshler, USMC

by Larry Miller

We’re approaching 75 years since the end of­­­ the Second World War, the six-year war that – in terms of lives lost and destruction of land a property – was the worst in history.  Most of those who fought in that war, or even remember it, are gone.  Their stories are not.

Nazi Germany surrendered unconditionally on May 8, 1945, which is recognized throughout much of the world as Victory in Europe Day (V-E Day).   Three months later, the war in the Pacific came to an end, and Victory over Japan Day (V-J Day) was proclaimed on August 15.

Private First Class Warren Umshler, USMC
First word of “V-J Day” reached the United States on August 14, 1945, although in the Solomon Islands of the South Pacific, it was already August 15, and Marine Technical Sergeant Warren Umshler of Osceola, Nebraska was surely among those celebrating the moment!  He had been in the Marine Corps more than three years, and those years had marked some of the most significant – and horrific – moments of his young life.   Little could he have known that life would beset him with even more challenges in the months to come, despite the formal surrender of Japan on September 2, 1945, which later would become the official “V-J Day” and marked the end of World War 2.

But to understand and appreciate Umshler’s story, it’s necessary to start at the beginning, in the small east Nebraska town of Shelby, about a one-hour drive west of Omaha.  That’s where Warren Hardy Umshler was born on January 3, 1923, the first of seven children born to Walter and Vera Hardy Umshler.  Warren’s father worked as a railroad depot agent, and his mother was a talented musician.

Umshler, a Junior in 1940, played for the Osceola "Bulldogs" (#4 front row at left)

They moved to Columbus, Nebraska for a couple of years before settling in the Polk County community of Osceola, where Warren attended high school and played basketball.  He was also a swimmer – but perhaps his most memorable experience was meeting and dating Genevieve “Jen” Hartson.  They soon became high school sweethearts.

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Marshall releases new book: "Say That Again"

By Larry Miller

Few people know as much about Chadron and Dawes County Nebraska as Conrad Marshall.  And fewer still – nay, I believe no one – knows as much about Chadron State College as this self-described longtime “CSC news reporter,” who served as Director of Information, Sports Information Director, among other titles, which only begin to describe his role at the institution over the years.  His love for and attachment to CSC are readily apparent in just about everything he does. Too, those passions reach well beyond the college and Chadron.
Con Marshall with his new book "Say That Again"
(Picture courtesy of CSC)
In July, Con put together a booklet of stories he’d written about a few of the many exceptional speeches delivered at CSC by a wide variety of folks over the past 35 years or so.  It’s dubbed “Say That Again,” a collection short stories about 32 of those speeches – including a bit about the selected speakers themselves.  Many of those folks are now deceased – but their messages live on in these synopses, and hopefully in the memories of folks who were there to hear them speak.
From Nobel Prize winner Val Fitch and Olympic Champion Billy Mills to Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Clarence Page and former U.S. Secretary of Education Terrell Bell, the topics range from poignant stories about the horrors of the Holocaust and World War II to topics related to the U.S. Constitution and the importance of knowing our history.
Not all of the speakers were nationally known – Con has tapped speeches delivered by highly-respected local and regional folks, like Chadron State’s James Sheaffer, George Watson, Sam Rankin and Rolland Dewing, newspapermen Don Huls and Tom Allan, and several military veterans, like Ed Bieganski, to name just a few.
Of the 32 selected speeches, several focused on regional and Nebraska history – including early Chadron, the Great Plains, and Nebraska’s legendary U.S. Senator, George Norris.
This is an interesting and fun book to read, but it left me thinking Con should do another one, harvesting even more from other and earlier speeches.  He's been around CSC for more than half a century – reaching back to his years as a student beginning in 1959.  There are likely a lot of other speeches he's encapsulated over the years , if only they can be found!  But, as he explains in his brief Forward to the book, the task is not as easy as one might think.  
Nonetheless, I suspect down the road we’ll be enjoying more Con Marshall stories. 
Say That Again” is priced at $10 and can be ordered from Con at (308) 432-6478.   We think you’ll enjoy it.

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Ed Bieganski (1920-2019)

Ed Bieganski received the Distinguished
Alumni Award at Chadron State College
- 2015 -
Edmund “Ed” Bieganski came into this world at Cover, Pennsylvania, on February 4, 1920. He was the third of the six sons born to Josef and Katherine Wroblewski Bieganski. These boys, referred to by the locals as the “brothers six” grew up on a dairy farm near Cambridge Springs, Pennsylvania.

These were the depression years and young Ed began watching for ways to make a little money. He started with pounding nails for a new barn being built on the way to school (sometimes instead of school) and earning $1.00 a day. 
At the age of seventeen, Ed’s second brother left home and headed west. Ed listened closely to the tales of those adventures, shared with the family on a return trip, and decided that was what he wanted to do. Upon turning eighteen and graduating high school Ed tasted the life of a hobo, riding trains, picking up odd jobs, carnival work, truck driving, and hitchhiking. He followed in his older brother’s footsteps that led to the George Weise farm west of Chadron, Nebraska, and the Bass Truck Garden east of Chadron.
In August of 1939, Ed learned of the Fort Robinson Army Post and due to his working with horses in his growing-up years, was enlisted immediately into the Army. Thus began his twenty-year military career. He was issued his uniform (from what is now the Post Playhouse) and began his job in the Quartermaster Remount Station, classifying/documenting each horse with pedigree, height, weight, origin, and branded with its file number. That included breaking, and riding the horses to be issued to other forts for cavalry or horse-drawn artillery. This assignment continued for three years, during these years, he met a sweet school teacher from Valentine, Nebraska, on a blind date and he and Fern Linabery were married August 4, 1941. Fort Robinson has always been a special place for Ed all of his life.
Ed Bieganski - A remarkable life!
When cavalry units were deactivated, Ed reenlisted and was assigned to a trucking company, where he was involved with the rebuilding of Iwo Jima. With his third reenlistment, he performed administrative duties in Okinawa, Japan; Fort Lee, Virginia; Frankfort, Germany; and Tooele, Utah.

During these military years, Ed and Fern had two children, Gary and Maria. The family lived in numerous locations of interest, including the Quonset huts in Okinawa, and was able to travel to all European countries.
In 1959, Ed retired from the army and moved the family back to Dawes County, Nebraska. “Retirement” brought on many other opportunities starting with building a home south of Chadron. Ed worked for Olson Moving and Storage, driving Allied Van Lines across the country, being a part of the Chadron Police Force, the US Forest service, and Pine Ridge Job Corp.
It was at Chadron State College that Ed earned both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees and taught speech and communications, as well as adult and continuing education classes for a couple years. He enjoyed maintaining his military connections with the Honor Guard, American Legion, VFW and while traveling across the country in the Allied Van Lines. Ed loved his ninety-nine-plus years full of life, adventure, experience and friends.
Edmund Bieganski passed away Wednesday, September 25, 2019, in Hay Springs, Nebraska. He was preceded in death by his wife, Fern of 69 years, parents, son-in-law Gene Daniels, and four brothers. Immediate survivors include daughter Maria Daniels, son Gary and wife Donna, brother Arthur and wife Joan, 4 grandchildren, and 9 great grandchildren.
A memorial has been established for the Chadron State College Foundation for the Ed Bieganski " Develop Your Potential " Endowment. Earnings from the Endowment provide scholarships to CSC Students who demonstrate a strong work ethic and the willingness to give back to society. Donations may be sent to Chamberlain Chapel, PO Box 970, Chadron, NE 69337.