publications

Cherry Day at the Watson Ranch

In 1888, H. D. Watson established the historic Watson Ranch, at one time containing 8,000 acres, reaching from the fertile Platte Valley on the south to the rolling hills on the north and from downtown Kearney to a point five miles west. During its existence, the ranching operations were devoted to grains, poultry, vegetables, and a 250-acre fruit orchard, primarily of cherry, peach, plum, and apple trees.

An annual cherry-picking day at the ranch attracted hundreds of harvesters, many in a gala mood, from Kearney and the surrounding area. Ranch foreman N. C. Dunlap reported in the Kearney Daily Hub, on June 20, 1908, that the “Watson’s Ranch Cherry Day,” held on June 18, had been an unqualified success.

Dunlap had carefully organized the event “so that it could be done with little inconvenience to our guests and without great cost to us. By six o’clock in the morning the people were pulling in, and by 6:15 they were pulling the cherries. . . . Registering clerks were kept busy the greater part of the forenoon, until 189 families, averaging four pickers in each family, and no one less than fifteen years of age, were all as busy as so many bees, filling baskets with vegetable rubies. By five o’clock in the afternoon the work was completed, and 623 bushels of cherries were in the baskets, the property of 189 different families. I drew a long breath and counted the cash: $517.00 in currency, $278.55 in silver; $138.86 in checks, some of which were written on shipping tags; one penny and a bad quarter.”

In addition to those registered, the State Industrial School at Kearney sent a group of thirty-five boys, “none of whom covered themselves with glory as cherry picking champions, but they all covered their faces with cherry juice and broke all previous cherry eating records for boys between the ages of twelve and fourteen.” A group of schoolteachers “came in wagons, on foot, in buggies and automobiles, then like the warriors of old who came, who saw, who conquered, they came, they saw, they ate cherries and then they ate some more. When I suggested they pick enough to make a pie, one damsel replied that she had already eaten the good ones and was ashamed to look a cherry in the face.” Also present at the Watson Ranch that day was photographer Solomon D. Butcher “not picking cherries, but picturing pickers.”

Dunlap concluded: “It was an orderly crowd of intelligent, honest people, consisting of farmers, bankers, butchers, doctors, druggists and undertakers. All were represented; all were happy and all were satisfied. They were careful with our trees, paid their bills promptly and all are cordially invited to come again when next we have a crop of cherries.”

 

Solomon D. Butcher depicted a crowd picking cherries on the Watson Ranch in 1908. NSHS RG2608-2289

Foreman N. C. Dunlap picking peaches on the Watson Ranch. His friends nearby are sampling the fruit. NSHS RG2608-3079

 

Become a Member!

Our members make history happen.

Join Now

Other Publications

The Bachelors’ Protective Union of Kearney

When the Bachelors' Protective Union gave a gala reception for two of its newly married, former members and their brides in March of 1890, the social club for young, ...

U.S. Weather Bureau in 1890s Nebraska

The U.S. Weather Bureau was established by an act of Congress on October 1, 1890. It took over the weather service that had been established in the office of the Chief ...

Canning the Way to Victory

During American participation in World War I the U.S. Food Administration, under the direction of Herbert Hoover, launched a massive campaign to persuade Americans to ...

The Shoemaker’s Ashes

"Edward Kuehl, one of the most peculiar characters that ever lived in Omaha, or anywhere else, was found dead in his bed last night in the back room of his place of ...

Crazy Horse Surrender Ledger Foreward

Red Dog, an Oglala Lakota who lived at the Red Cloud Agency, Nebraska, 1876-77 (Nebraska State Historical Society RG2955.ph).   In the summer of 1876, following the ...

Darryl F. Zanuck

Darryl F. Zanuck Darryl F. Zanuck (1902-1979), a native Nebraskan, produced some of Hollywood's most important and controversial films. He helped found 20th Century Fox ...

The Burlington’s Profitable Pork Special

Nebraska railroads were much concerned with developing an adequate economy in the areas they served. The Burlington, for example, had a long history of caring for the ...

Bungalow Filling Stations

After the giant Standard Oil Company was broken into thirty-four separate companies in 1911, the newly independent Standard Oil of Nebraska dominated the state's market ...

The Bull Fight

This is the perfect time of year for a visit to the old fishin' hole. But a group of fisherfolk from Plainview discovered that this bucolic pastime sometimes has ...

Buffalo Soldiers West

African-American soldiers on the western frontier are the focus of an exhibit at the Nebraska History Museum in Lincoln. Buffalo Soldiers West, on loan from the Colorado ...

Protection for Buffalo

The extermination of the buffalo on the Plains occurred largely between 1870 and 1885. The Nebraska State Journal of Lincoln on February 1, 1874, editorialized in vain ...

Buffalo Hunting

In late October 1877 young Rolf Johnson and three friends left their homes in Phelps County, Nebraska, for a buffalo hunt in northeastern Colorado. The hunt was not very ...
About History Nebraska
History Nebraska was founded in 1878 as the Nebraska State Historical Society by citizens who recognized Nebraska was going through great changes and they sought to record the stories of both indigenous and immigrant peoples. It was designated a state institution and began receiving funds from the legislature in 1883. Legislation in 1994 changed History Nebraska from a state institution to a state agency. The division is headed by Interim Director and CEO Jill Dolberg. They are assisted by an administrative staff responsible for financial and personnel functions, museum store services, security, and facilities maintenance for History Nebraska.
Explore Nebraska
Discover the real places and people of our past at these History Nebraska sites.

Upcoming Events

View our new and upcoming events to see how you can get involved.

Become a Member

The work we do to discover, preserve, and share Nebraska's history wouldn't be possible without the support of History Nebraska members.

Latest Hall of Fame Inductee

The Nebraska Hall of Fame was established in 1961 to officially recognize prominent Nebraskans.

Become a Member

The work we do to discover, preserve, and share Nebraska's history wouldn't be possible without the support of History Nebraska members.
Nebraska Collections

History Nebraska's mission is to collect, preserve, and open our shared history to all Nebraskans.

Our YouTube Video Collection

Get a closer look at Nebraska's history through your own eyes, with our extensive video collections.

Additional Research Resources

History Nebraska Research and Reference Services help connect you to the material we collect and preserve.

Support History Nebraska
Make a cash donation to help us acquire, preserve, and interpret Nebraska’s history. Gifts to History Nebraska help leave a legacy and may help your taxes, too! Support the work of History Nebraska by donating to the History Nebraska Foundation today.

Volunteers are the heroes of History Nebraska. So much history, so little time! Your work helps us share access to Nebraska’s stories at our museums and sites, the reference room, and online.