Henry M. Stanley, best remembered for his search for Scottish missionary David Livingstone in Africa in 1871, spent some time in Nebraska during his early newspaper career. He was in Omaha as a traveling reporter in August 1867 when the survivors of the Cheyenne attack on a Union Pacific freight train at Plum Creek west of Lexington were brought in.
However, Stanley’s brief life in Omaha must have included pleasanter moments. The Omaha Daily News on April 23, 1900, published a front-page reminiscence by actor Milton Noble, then appearing at the Orpheum Theater. Noble recalled his acquaintance with Stanley more than thirty years earlier when Noble was a member of an Omaha theater company:
“At that time Henry M. Stanley, who had not [yet] won fame as an explorer, was writing frontier correspondence for the New York Herald. Well, he was a clever fellow, as we all have since learned. Instead of roaming out on the frontier he gathered material from the officers and scouts who drifted into Omaha and spent the rest of his time dancing attendance upon Miss [Anna] Ward [an actress in Noble’s company]. We all boarded at the old Hamilton house on Thirteenth street. When Henry M. Stanley came back [to Omaha] famous, I understand that Edward Rosewater deliberately drove him by the theater, and asked him if he remembered those days.”
Alfred Sorenson, in his 1923 history of Omaha, gives a more elaborate description of Stanley’s infatuation with Miss Ward, including a confrontation between Stanley and another local editor who was also enamored of the actress.
Stanley, one of the most widely traveled explorers and newspaper correspondents of the nineteenth century, died in 1904.