These items were already heirlooms when they came to Nebraska in a covered wagon.
This head of a manure fork was forged by Vermont blacksmith in 1820, and the handwoven, double weave coverlet below was made in Pennsylvania between 1810 and 1825. Both items were later carried to Minnesota, and in 1865 were carried on a six-week journey by oxen and wagon to a homestead in Nemaha County, Nebraska.
What would you carry if you had to pack up all your belongings in a covered wagon or a steamer trunk?
These items were already a generation old before they arrived on the Nebraska frontier. Clearly, they have a practical use, but it’s not hard to imagine they meant more than that.
The couple who brought these items, Benton and Martha Jane Aldrich, carried only one piece of furniture with them: their bookcase. Eventually, they hosted a well-stocked lending library in their sod dugout. Look for “A Farmer’s Passion for Knowledge: Benton Aldrich and the Clifton Library Association,” by John Irwin, in the Summer 2018 issue of Nebraska History.
History Nebraska members receive quarterly issues of Nebraska History as part of their membership; single issues are available for $7 from the Nebraska History Museum (402-471-3447).
—David L. Bristow, Editor