publications

The Fremont Maps

Most of us take road maps for granted. It’s easy for today’s travelers to get a clear map to guide

them on their way. Not so with early voyagers across Nebraska’s “sea of grass;” they had to

make their own maps. Among the most important of these chart-making explorers was Captain

John C. Fremont.



Fremont led five expeditions to explore the West between 1842-1853. The 1842 trip was in

some ways most significant, because it outlined the Platte Valley-South Pass route that would

be used by most California- and Oregon-bound emigrants. A rare set of seven maps that trace

this journey has been acquired by the Nebraska State Historical Society. Printed in 1846, the

maps are based on Fremont’s field journal, as well as sketches and notes by topographer Charles

Preuss.



Section II of the seven-map set depicts “the Great Platte River Road” from present-day Grand

Island to beyond what’s now North Platte. Even more fascinating than the thin line of river and

surrounding topography are the comments printed on the map. “Remarks” include “Timber is

extremely scarce, except on the islands. Some driftwood and buffalo excrement makes the fuel,

as that of camels does in the deserts of Arabia.”



Something of the excitement of encountering a new environment for the first time is conveyed

in this note from Fremont’s journal, printed on the map near Brady’s Island:



“First view of buffalo. The air was keen the next morning at sunrise, the thermometer standing

at 44 degrees and it was sufficiently cold to make overcoats very comfortable. A few miles

brought us into the midst of the buffalo swarming in immense numbers over the plains, where

they had left scarcely a blade of grass standing. Mr. Preuss, who was sketching at a little

distance in the rear, had at first noted them as large groves of timber. In the sight of such a

mass of life, the traveller feels a strange emotion of grandeur. We had heard from a distance a

dull and confused murmuring, and when we came in view of their dark masses, there was not

one among us who did not feel his heart beat quicker. It was the early part of the day when the

herds are feeding, and every where they were in motion. Here and there a huge old bull was

rolling in the grass and clouds of dust rose in the air from various parts of the bands, each the

scene of some obstinate fight. Indians and buffalo make the poetry and life of the prairie and

our camp was full of their exhilaration.”



Californians For Nebraska provided funds to purchase the maps. They will eventually be

exhibited at the new Historical Society museum at Chimney Rock.

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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 ...
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