the history nebraska blog

Paul Vandervoort

Paul Vandervoort (1846-1902), who once lived and worked in Omaha, is perhaps best remembered for the American colony he helped found in Cuba about 1900. Populated chiefly by Union veterans of the Civil War, the colony, La Gloria, was the largest American settlement on mainland Cuba. It survived for more than fifty years, reaching a peak population of about one thousand.



Vandervoort was himself a Union veteran. He had enlisted in the Union army from Illinois at the age of fifteen, was captured by the Confederates in December 1863, and imprisoned in Andersonville, Belle Isle, and Libby prisons. After the Civil War ended, he entered politics, both in Illinois and later in Omaha, where he worked as chief clerk for the Railway Mail Service. He began his political career as a Republican, but later left the party to become a Populist.



Vandervoort joined the Grand Army of the Republic, the Union veterans’ organization, in 1866 and helped reorganize the GAR’s Department of Nebraska. He eventually became commander-in-chief in 1882, the first enlisted man to do so. His one-year term was among the most successful in the GAR’s history. Membership rose to a record ninety thousand, and the auxiliary Woman’s Relief Corps was organized.



After Vandervoort lost his railway mail position, he became assistant general manager of the Cuban Land and Steamship Company of New York. With the installation of a U.S. military government in Cuba in 1899, ship lines, such as the one that employed Vandervoort, transported prospective emigrants and investors to Cuba for a new life and new opportunities, especially in citrus farming.



Vandervoort planned much of the La Gloria colonization venture in the Cuban Land and Steamship Company’s Omaha office. The settlement was founded in 1900 or 1901 (the exact date is unknown) on the north coast of the Cuban province of Camaguey on unimproved, heavily timbered land that was two days’ travel by boat from the nearest town. It was intended by Vandervoort to be a new home for Union veterans looking for a fresh start.



Land had to be cleared, houses built, and gardens and orange groves planted. Vandervoort did not live to see La Gloria grow. He died in Cuba on July 9, 1902, and is buried in Omaha’s Forest Lawn Cemetery.



By 1920 La Gloria had a community church and town hall, an orange growers’ association, and a population of seven hundred. One former resident in 1944 recalled that as many as one thousand people had once lived there. However, a combination of natural disasters, political upheaval, and a shift in focus for agricultural production (away from citrus crops and towards sugar) marked the decline of American colonies in Cuba, and by the mid-1950s La Gloria had disappeared. 


Become a Member!

Our members make history happen.

Join Now

Other Publications

Nebraska History Moments – For Further Reading

Do you have your copy of Nebraska History Moments, published by History Nebraska? This page is for readers who have the book and want to know more about its stories. ...

Nebraska History Index 1885-present

Searching Nebraska History Two ways to search past issues: Table of Contents (1885 to present) . Articles are listed issue by issue, with links to many that ...

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 ...

Books Published by History Nebraska

In an effort to make quality stories from Nebraska's history more accessible, History Nebraska has partnered with University of Nebraska Press as a distributor of most ...

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 ...

History Nebraska newsletter

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.
Explore Nebraska
Discover the real places and people of our past at these History Nebraska sites.

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.