Relief in Nebraska, 1895

The early spring weather of 1894 gave Nebraska farmers some reason to hope that after several successive years of drought and poor crops, this might be the long-awaited year of bountiful harvest. However, an early May frost and barely adequate rainfall in June and early July gave their hopes a setback. Then on July 26 a hot, dry wind from the southeast entered the state. Within three days most of the state’s corn crop was destroyed.

Hardest hit were farmers of central and western counties, many of them recently established homesteaders who eked out a marginal existence and who were faced with almost total crop loss. Clearly what was needed was assistance on a large scale. Outgoing Governor Lorenzo Crounse appointed a relief commission to channel aid to those Nebraskans deemed most in need.

W. N. Nason of Omaha was named head of the State Relief Commission in November 1894, but much of the real responsibility fell on commission secretary Luther P. Ludden. Commission members certainly realized the extent of the disaster, but their first fumbling efforts to gather supplies in the quantities needed were only partially successful. And they were soon overwhelmed by the logistical problem of getting these supplies to so many widely separated people, most of whom lived miles from railroads. Not surprisingly, charges of bureaucratic bungling, neglect, and favoritism were soon leveled at the commission.

“Inasmuch as there have been numerous complaints against the commission,” said the Nebraska State Journal on February 7, 1895, “the [state] senate decided to call for a weekly report of receipts and disbursements of supplies in order that a check may be kept on the commission and its work.” The Journal‘s review of commission secretary Ludden’s first such report, submitted February 4, included a list, itemized by county, of relief supplies sent out between January 7 and February 1 of 1895. Cash donations totaling $10,572.20 had also been received. Ludden acknowledged the “largest donation that the commission has received . . . has been that of the free billing of supplies by the several railroad companies.”

Also included in the report was a defense of commission members and their efforts: “Only those intimately associated with the work can form any conception of its vastness or the many annoying features. Much of the delay charged upon the commission has been due directly to causes utterly beyond our control and for which we were not in any way responsible.” Ludden concluded with a description of the commission’s newly reorganized working force, divided into departments, “and it is on this plan and basis that the commission expects to continue its work until it shall be completed.”

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   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.

History Nebraska Education

Learn more about the educational programs provided at our museums, sites, and online.

History Nebraska Programs

Learn more about the programs associated with History Nebraska.

Latest Hall of Fame Inductee

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

Listen to our Podcast

Listen to the articles and authors published in the Nebraska History Magazine with our new Nebraska History Podcast!

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.