Real Nebraska Stories: Adventures in Telegraph Line Building

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First Telegraph Line across the Continent


Read an excerpt from the book here!

Recently re-discovered in the Smithsonian Institution collections, this previously unpublished diary is the only known extensive source written about the day-to-day adventures during the construction of the first transcontinental telegraph line. Brown’s lively narrative documents his interactions with outlaws, Native Americans, the elements, mosquitoes so big he calls them “night birds”, and lack of supplies. He also showcases the camaraderie of the men building this monumental communication infrastructure. He complains about sleeping on the ground and celebrates prairie sunrises. Overall, Brown brings a strong dose of humor and humanity to this frontier narrative. Like the transcontinental railroad several years later, the telegraph line was built by two companies, one working west from Omaha, Nebraska, and one working east from California. The Omaha company was headed by Edward Creighton, a prominent businessman best remembered today as the namesake of Creighton University. As Creighton’s assistant, Brown wrote about events along a portion of the route. His diary, which begins in Julesburg, Colorado, and ends in central Wyoming, covers events in places such as Chimney Rock, Scotts Bluff, and Fort Laramie, and points farther east such as Fort Kearny (near present-day Kearney, Neb.). Dennis N. Mihelich is a retired professor of history from Creighton University; James E. Potter was a Senior Research Historian at the Nebraska State Historical Society before his death earlier this year. The 133-page book is available for $14.95 from your local book seller, the NSHS Landmark Stores, or at

What Readers Are Saying

“Brown’s perception, insights and lively style make this a great narrative.” —John D. McDermott, author of Guardians of the Pacific Telegraph and many books on the western experience

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