Six generations of the Haumann family attended the marker dedicaiton in Thedford on Sunday, May 1, 2016. From left to right: Alan & wife Ronda Haumann, Shari and husband, Warren Haumann, their daughter Hannah in front of Shari, Michelle (Hodges) McIntosh, holding her daughter, Hope, Janice (Haumann) Hodges, Chad McIntosh with son Luke, Vada behind Dave Haumann.
Over 60 people celebrated the dedication of a new historical marker in Thedford on Sunday, May 1. Organizers were pleased with the amount of people who attended, especially considering the blizzard in the area the day before. The marker, titled “The Haumann Sisters: Lost in the Sandhills,” tells the story of two young girls who got lost on their way home from a neighbor’s house. Folklorist and Nebraska State Historical Society trustee Cherrie Beam-Callaway gave a presentation, and attendees enjoyed cake as part of the event. Six generations of the Haumann family were also present. The marker is located on southwest corner of the Thomas County Courthouse. A life-size bronze statue of the sisters has been commissioned to stand beside the marker. The statue will be finished this fall. An article in the Thomas County Veteran in Thedford that ran on Thursday, May 21, 1891 shares details of the community’s response to the missing girls: “We cannot close this article without passing a few brief comments upon the untiring energy and perseverance of the people of this community in searching for the lost ones. Everyone turned out regardless of business and did everything in their power to find the lost ones alive and return them in safety to their parents, and the memory of this occasion which ended so sadly will be forever indelibly impressed on their minds. From the beginning of the search until the end a good many were not home at all, being on the hunt for a week. One only has to be in trouble to draw forth all the generosity and kind-heartedness of our western people.”
On May 10, 1891, eight-year-old Matilda (Tillie) Haumann and her four-year-old sister, Anna Henrietta (Retta), became lost in the Sandhills while returning home from visiting their sister who was helping a neighbor. Their parents, Carl and Henrietta Haumann, were German immigrants who moved from Illinois to Thomas County, Nebraska, in March 1891 and homesteaded approximately five miles north of Thedford. The parents reported the girls missing on May 11 and search parties were organized. Three days later, searchers found Retta alive some twenty-five miles east of her parents’ house. Although suffering from dehydration and exposure, she recovered. Joined by scores of area residents, the search for Tillie continued until her lifeless body was discovered some seven miles from Dunning on Sunday, May 17. The child walked an estimated seventy-five miles before her death. She is buried in the Thedford Cemetery. This tragedy reveals how neighbors and strangers can join together in times of need and validates the challenges new settlers faced in adapting to life in the treeless, roadless, and sparsely-settled Nebraska Sandhills. Thomas County Historical Society; Nebraska State Historical Society, 2015; Contributions by Thomas County Citizens and Businesses
The cake served at the Haumann Sisters marker dedication on Sunday, May 1, 2016.