Sunday, June 10, 2012

The Nation's Signature Event commemorating the Homestead Act's 150th Anniversary opened with the presentation of the colors by the Commanding General's Mounted Color Guard of Fort Riley, Kansas. Chautauqua vignettes were presented through out the day.

The Chautauqua tent was raised on the grounds of Homestead National Monument Heritage Center.

The Homestead Dulcimers club entertained attendees before
Mark Twain introduced General Grenville Dodge.

Major-General  Grenville Dodge
Mark Twain opening night. He told the crowd he owns 17 white suits.

George Washington Carver took the stage the second night.

Threatening weather moved the tent to the Beatrice High School two nights, Wednesday and Friday.

Standing Bear and Mark Twain on the stage of the stand-in tent at Beatrice High School.


The Red Eagle Dancers from the Lincoln, NE Indian Center, Inc. greeted and danced with the audience before Standing Bear shared his story.

Americorps National Civilian Community Corps volunteers kept the sound system running all five nights.

Laura Ingalls Wilder and Mark Twain just before her evening performance. The Southeast Community College's After the Storm entertained before Mrs. Wilder took the stage.

Willa Cather declined to be photographed but she did enjoy Mrs. Wilder's story as Betty Jean Steinshouer. The Palmer-Epard cabin can be seen in the background.

The Young Chautauquans, led by Ann Birney and Joyce Thierer of Ride into History, took the stage Friday night.

The audience gave Mark Twain a Chautauqua thank you at program end on Friday waving white fans in unison. The fans emulated the the original practice of waving white hankies whenever a Chautauquan pleased (or displeased) the audience. 

A big thank you to the many sponsors that made The Beatrice Chautauqua possible!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

You are Invited to the Nation's Signature Event
Commemorating the Homestead Act's
150th Anniversary
Homestead National Monument of America
Sunday, May 20, 2012 

9 am to 5 pm
Homestead Act of 1862 on Display
See the four pages that changed history
Heritage Center lower level
4 pm
President Lincoln's Legacies: A Panel Presentation on the Homestead Act, the Morrill Act and USDA
Homestead Education Center
6 pm to 8 pm
National Commemorative Event
Heritage Center Stage
8 pm to 9 pm
U.S. Air Force Brass in Blue Concert
Heritage Center Stage
9:15 pm to 9:45 pm
150 Years of Homesteading Illuminated Laser Light Show
Heritage Center Giant Screen

Concessions providing sandwiches, popcorn and snow cones will be located at the Heritage Center. Visitors are welcome to bring coolers but they must be less than 14” wide by 14” long by 14” tall.  No alcohol is permitted on Monument grounds or in the buses.  No animals with the exception of service animals will be permitted on the Monument grounds or in the buses.  Seating will be provided at the event.  You are encouraged to bring blankets to spread out on the ground but please leave your lawn chairs at home. For program details click here.

May 21 to 25 Free Land Chautauqua
Daily Youth and Adult Workshops and 7 pm nightly performances
Heritage Center
Program link

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Standing Bear at Chautauqua

The featured Chautauquan on Wednesday, May 23, 2012 will be Taylor Keen portraying Standing Bear, Chief of the Poncas.  As was the case with many Native American tribes of the 1800s, increased settlement in their lands led to disastrous consequences for the Poncas of Northeast and North Central Nebraska.  Eventually forced to relocate to reservation land in Oklahoma Territory, the Poncas faced a great deal of hardship.  Upon the death of his son, whose last wish was to be returned to the Ponca homelands, Standing Bear honored his wishes and took his son home.  On the course of the journey, Standing Bear was apprehended by the U. S. Army and was forced to stand trial.  In this famous case, Standing Bear v. Crook, it was found that “an Indian is a person within the meaning of the law” and Standing Bear was being held illegally.  This case, while not addressing many of the other policies of the action of the Federal government toward Native Americans, was an important first step in establishing basic civil rights for Native Americans.

Taylor Keen is the Managing Partner, Talon Strategy a professional management consulting services company.  He is also a Professor at Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska where he is a full time lecturer and Director of the Native American Center.   He graduated from Harvard Business School with a MBA in International Trade and Finance and Harvard University Kennedy School of Government with a MPA in International Trade, Finance and Economics.  He completed the Christian Johnson Fellow, Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development.  He graduated from Dartmouth College with a BA in Education. He also attended Creighton University.  He is the past Councilor of the Cherokee Nation at Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma and President, Board of Directors at American Indian Chamber of Commerce of Oklahoma.  He is also the past Councilor of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma

The key themes of the “Free Land” Chautauqua look at the settlement of the American West as impacted by the Homestead Act, Pacific Railway Act, and the Morrill Act.  The Nebraska Humanities Council worked closely with many scholars to identify themes central to this Chautauqua.  They include:

1.       The unfolding of the “free soil, free labor” ideal for America held by Republican policy makers of the time,

2.       The rapid economic development of the West and the nation, especially through the building of railroads;

3.       The accelerated removal of Native Americans,

4.       The opportunities and innovations provided by the population of the West having broader access to a public education, and

5.       The opportunities and potential for social mobility of both emigrants and immigrants that an increasingly landed and educated population had in a developing American West

Come learn and enjoy during this monumental week.  May 20 will kick off the event with an evening of speakers, music, and entertainment.  May 21-25 will have evening Chautauqua performances beginning the night with local entertainment.  During the day there will be workshops for both adults and youth.  May 26, will conclude the week with the Monumental Fiddling Championship with a special free concert by John McCutcheon ending the night.  For more detailed information visit

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Single Greatest Stimulus to the American Economy Ever Enacted

The Homestead Act of 1862 had an immediate and enduring effect upon the United States.  Under this law, more than 270 million acres, approximately 10 percent of the land in the United States, was transferred from the public domain to private individuals.  This great transformation led to profound and lasting changes to the land, American Indians, immigration, industry, and agriculture. 

A homesteader had only to be the head of a household or at least 21 years of age to claim a 160 acre parcel of land. Settlers from all walks of life including newly arrived immigrants, farmers without land of their own from the East, women and African Americans came to meet the challenge of "proving up" and owning their own land. Each homesteader had to live on the land, build a home, and make agriculture improvements for 5 years, in some cases 3, before they were eligible to "prove up".  The cost of filing the paperwork was the only money required, but sacrifice and hard work exacted a different price from the hopeful settlers.

The Homestead Act of 1862 was one of the most revolutionary concepts for distributing public land in American history. The effects of this monumental piece of legislation can be observed throughout America today.  The agricultural and industrial revolutions that shaped our nations identity were the result of millions of acres of land coming under cultivation. The Homestead Act of 1862 contributed to the expansion of the economy of the United States, spurred immigration, advanced transportation and communication networks, and facilitated unprecedented social opportunity and mobility. In 1962, President John F. Kennedy called the Homestead Act the “single greatest stimulus to the American economy ever enacted”.  At the start of the Homesteading Era, the United States was a small agrarian nation, by the end of the Homesteading Era; the United States had emerged as the largest super power in the history of the world. 

Come experience this exceptional history as you journey the Homestead Express!  Partners from Lincoln and Beatrice have teamed up to create a unique experience and commemorate the 150th Anniversary of the signing of the Homestead Act.  Partners include The Sheldon Museum of Art, Pioneers Park Nature Center, The Children’s Museum, The Children’s Zoo, The Nebraska Museum of History, Lincoln City Libraries, the Michael Forsberg Gallery, Main Street Beatrice-Lang Building and Homestead National Monument of America. 

These venues will be issuing game boards that will guide visitors to each site where they will be issued a special stamp.  In addition to the stamps, each partner will have special activities planned, including a train ride, doll making, home building, and much, much more!  When all the stamps have been acquired, bring the completed game board out to Homestead National Monument of America where visitors will receive a commemorative prize.  The Homestead Express is a perfect way for individuals and families to get involved in the commemoration of the 150th Anniversary of the signing of the Homestead Act. Don’t miss your chance to be a part of history.    

Sunday, April 22, 2012

George Washington Carver Visits Beatrice

George Washington Carver is coming to Beatrice!  How, you ask, is that possible since the man died in 1943? Carver is one of six prominent historical figures who will be portrayed by scholars as part of the “Free Land” Chautauqua coming to Beatrice May 20-25.  He is best known as an agricultural chemist whose development of products derived from peanuts revolutionized the South’s agricultural economy. Paxton Williams, former executive director of the George Washington Carver Birthplace Association in Diamond, Missouri, will portray the noted inventor and botanist.

The community of Beatrice and Homestead National Monument of America will host the 2012 Chautauqua in conjunction with the kick-off of a year of events commemorating the 150th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s signing of the Homestead Act.  Other notable American historical figures who will be portrayed during the week-long celebration include Mark Twain, Willa Cather, Standing Bear, Gen. Grenville Dodge, and Laura Ingalls Wilder. 

George Washington Carver was born into slavery in 1861 near Diamond Grove, Missouri.  He was the son of a slave woman owned by Moses Carver.  Since slave owners found it difficult to hold slaves in the border state of Missouri, his owner sent the young boy and his mother to Arkansas.

After the war, Moses Carver learned that all his former slaves had disappeared except for the frail, sick child known as George.  He was returned to his former master’s home and nursed back to health.  Although the Carvers told him he was no longer a slave, he stayed on the plantation until he was ten or twelve years old.

At that time, he left the plantation to acquire an education.  He supported himself by doing various jobs such as household worker, hotel cook, and farm laborer.  By his late twenties he had managed to obtain a high school education in Minneapolis, Kansas, while working as a farm hand.  He filed a homestead claim in West Central Kansas, but like many Americans who homesteaded, he was not able to “prove up” and had to relinquish the land.

After a Kansas university refused to admit him because he was black, he enrolled at Simpson College in Indianola, Iowa, where he studied piano and art.  He then transferred to Iowa State Agricultural College in Ames where he received a bachelor’s degree in agricultural science in 1894 and a master of science in 1896.  Today the school is known as Iowa State University, the first land grant college under the Morrill Act.

Carver left Iowa for Alabama in 1896 to direct the newly organized Department of Agriculture at the Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute, a school headed by the noted black American educator, Booker T. Washington.  Despite many offers elsewhere, Carver remained at Tuskegee for the rest of his life.

When agriculture in the South was in serious trouble because of the single crop cultivation of cotton, Carver urged Southern farmers to plant peanuts and soybeans and sweet potatoes to restore nitrogen to the soil and badly needed protein to the diets of many Southerners.        There was little demand for these new crops, so Carver set about promoting the commercial possibilities of the peanut and sweet potato.  He ultimately developed 300 derivative products from peanuts including cheese, milk, coffee, flour, ink, soap, cosmetics, and plastics; and 118 products from sweet potatoes including vinegar, molasses, rubber, and postage stamp glue.

Late in his career, Carver declined an invitation to work for Thomas A. Edison at a salary of more than $100,000 a year.  Presidents Calvin Coolidge and Franklin D. Roosevelt visited him, and his friends included Henry Ford and Mohandas Gandhi.

In 1940 Carver donated his life savings to the establishment of the Carver Research Foundation of Tuskegee for continuing research in agriculture.  During World War II he worked to replace the textile dyes formerly imported from Europe, and in all he produced dyes of 500 different shades.

His great desire in later life was simply to serve humanity.  His work, which began for the sake of the poorest of the black sharecroppers, paved the way for a better life for the South.  His efforts brought about a significant advance in agricultural training in an era when agriculture was the largest single occupation of Americans.

Attendees at the May Chautauqua will have an opportunity to listen to Paxton Williams’ interpretation of George Washington Carver - the man who is best known for his work at Tuskegee Institute and the agricultural innovations that he formulated there. Following the 40-minute, first person presentation, audience members can ask questions of Carver, the historical figure, and then ask questions of Mr. Williams, the scholar who portrays him.

Chautauqua is made possible through funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Nebraska Cultural Endowment, Friends of Homestead National Monument of American, and the State of Nebraska.

The article was compiled and submitted by
Bette Anne Thaut, member of the
2012 Beatrice Chautauqua Committee.


Sunday, April 15, 2012

Willa Cather Is Coming to Beatrice!

"There was nothing but land: not a country at all, but the material out of which countries are made.”  Willa Cather left her mark on the United States as a Pulitzer Prize winning writer chronicling frontier life on the Great Plains.  Living among the first generation of settlers in 1880’s Nebraska her novels such as O Pioneers!, My Antonia and The Song of the Lark captured stories of ordinary people, images and the monumental rigors of homesteading life. 

Willa Cather (1873-1947) was born in Virginia and raised on the Nebraska prairie.  As the oldest of seven children, Cather was nine when her family settled on a farm near Red Cloud, Nebraska in 1883.  At the time the population of Red Cloud was about 1,000 and Cather was one of sixteen students in the townships’ one-room schoolhouse. 
The daily arrival of eight passenger trains led hundreds of travels to stop for meals.  The town opera house was completed in 1885 and by 1889 there was a grand bank on Main Street.  There she grew up among the foreign language and customs of immigrants from Europe – Bohemian and Scandinavian - who were breaking the land on the Great Plains. 
Like many families, the Cathers found homesteading to be a difficult and unrewarding life.  They eventually gave up the endeavor before obtaining their 160 acre farm and moved into the town of Red Cloud.  There Cather worked delivering mail on horseback to many of the remote farms located outside the town.  This experience coupled with her immediate, fierce love for the prairie provided the material and a simple manner of expression for her novels.

At the age of Sixteen Cather left home to attend the land-grant college of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.  Initially she intended to study science but after a professor submitted one of her papers to the school newspaper, Cather began to rethink her career plans.  She began to write a column for the school newspaper and acted in a number of plays.

After graduating in 1895, Cather worked in Pittsburgh and then New York as an editor, dramatic critic and high school teacher.  By 1903 Cather began publishing verses, short stories, and eventually novels.  In 1913, Cather published O Pioneers! a novel depicting one Swedish family’s experiences Homesteading on the plains of Nebraska.  She followed with The Song of the Lark (1915) and My Antonia (1918), but depicting heroic immigrant women growing up on the vast plains of Nebraska. 

By the mid-1920s, Cather was one of America's best-loved writers. She won the Pulitzer Prize for One of Ours in 1923, made the cover of Time in 1931, and received the Gold Medal of the National Institute of Arts and Letters in 1944.

On Friday, May 25 join us under the big white tent at 7:30 for an evening with Willa Cather!  Learn firsthand how she was transformed by three pieces of legislations passed in 1862: The Pacific Railway Act, the Homestead Act, and the Morrill Act and how these experiences transformed and inspired her writing.  Betty Jean Steinshouer will provide a first person interpretation of Willa Cather.  After the performance, members of the audience can ask questions directed to Cather, who will respond in first person.  Later, Steinshouer will also take questions as a Cather scholar.

Willa Cather is known today as one of the most significant American novelists.  She is celebrated for her portrayal of the poignant beauty and pioneer spirit of the American frontier.  During her lifetime Cather wrote a total of twelve published novels and various other works.  Don’t miss out on this incredible opportunity to meet Willa Cather and experience an evening of Chautauqua under the big white tent!   
Written by Alexis Winder, committee member of the Beatrice Chautauqua:
“Free Land?  1862 and the Shaping of Modern America”

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Laura Ingalls Wilder Is Coming to Beatrice!

Laura Ingalls Wilder is one of the most recognized names among American authors and especially for those who are familiar with the Little House series of books based on her childhood in a pioneer family.  What has enhanced her popularity in one’s recent memory was the highly successful television series, Little House On The Prairie, which was an adaptation of her best-selling series of Little House books. 

The Homestead Act of 1862 supported the “free soil, free labor” concept by offering opportunity to anyone willing to work the land.  Just as the Homestead Act influenced the Ingalls family, we find many in Gage County have roots connected to land that was homesteaded by their ancestors.  Much of the homesteaded land remains the property of the descendants of those original homesteaders.

The first of many moves that the Ingalls family would make was to land not yet open for homesteading in what was then Indian Territory near Independence, MO.  Within a few years, the family moved to a preemption claim in Walnut Grove, MN.  Over the winter of 1879-1880, Charles Ingalls landed a homestead near De Smet, SD, where he would spend the remainder of his life.

Laura Ingalls married Almanzo Wilder, a homesteader from South Dakota, on August 25, 1885.  In 1894, the young couple moved to Mansfield, MO, using their savings to make a down payment on a piece of undeveloped property just outside of town.  When Laura Ingalls Wilder was making her move from South Dakota to Missouri, the Gage County Courthouse was mentioned in her diary on Sunday, August 5, 1894.  The Wilder’s used their savings to purchase a piece of undeveloped property just outside of town and named their farm, Rocky Ridge Farm.  By 1910, Rocky Ridge Farm was established to the point where the Wilders focused their efforts on increasing the farm’s productivity and output.  They were advocates of farm diversification and became a diversified poultry and dairy farm, with an abundant apple orchard.  In addition, Laura Ingalls Wilder was a strong advocate for farmers as both a columnist and editor of the Missouri Ruralist and had a paid position with the Farm Loan Association, giving loans to local farmers.  Laura Ingalls Wilder’s first book Little House In The Big Woods was published in 1932.  Almanzo Wilder died in 1949, aged 92 and Laura Ingalls Wilder died on February 10, 1957, just three days after her 90th birthday.  Both died at Rocky Ridge Farm at Mansfield, MO.

A unique and spirited individual, Laura Ingalls Wilder is a wonderful example of the heart and soul of the American experience in the early 20th century.

The settling of the American West has been a source of interest for decades and Laura Ingalls Wilder’s writings have played a significant role in explaining the hardships and trials that were encountered by the early pioneers in America. 

The Beatrice Chautauqua Free Land?  1862 and the Shaping of Modern America will be hosting Laura Ingalls Wilder, portrayed by Karen Vuranch, on Thursday, May 24, 2012 at 7:15 p.m. at the Homestead National Monument. Vuranch is an instructor at Concord University in West Virginia and has participated in living-history presentations portraying 10 different characters. 

The stories of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s experience homesteading in the American West have continued from generation to generation and hold a place in the hearts of all those who have encountered her unique perspective and writings.  Mark your calendars today to attend the heart-warming encounter with the author of the beloved “Little House” series of books.       

Written by Janet Byars, Co-Chair of the Beatrice Chautauqua
“Free Land?  1862 and the Shaping of Modern America”

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

General Grenville Dodge

Grenville Dodge is coming to Beatrice!  The U.S. Army general who led the troops during the Civil War and the Plains Indian campaigns and later became the chief engineer for the Union Pacific railroad during the construction of the transcontinental railroad, will be in Beatrice in May.

Actually Patrick McGinnis will be in Beatrice portraying the notable General Dodge as a part of the Free Land Chautauqua May 20-25.  He will be one of six famous Americans featured in the week-long event presented by the Nebraska Humanities Council in partnership with Homestead National Monument of America.

The Chautauqua coincides with the start of a year of events that Homestead Monument has planned to observe the 150th anniversary of the Homestead Act which was signed into legislation by President Abraham Lincoln in 1862.

General Dodge settled in Iowa in 1854 and, with the possibility of an eventual transcontinental railroad route, began to scout areas in the Platte River Valley and Rocky Mountains.

Following his military service in the Civil War and in the Great Plains, Dodge led the efforts of the Union Pacific Railroad crews building from Omaha westward to the eventual meeting point with the Central Pacific Railroad at Promontory Point, Utah.

Repeatedly he proved his engineering abilities by overcoming obstacles and deciding on the ultimate location of bridges, cuts, and fills.

Dodge resigned from Union Pacific in 1869 and settled in Council Bluffs and served as a consultant for other railroad projects.  His portrayal at Chautauqua will help to interpret the rapid economic development of the West and the nation through the building of railroads.

This article was compiled and submitted by Bette Anne Thaut,
member of the 2012 Beatrice Chautauqua Committee.

Friday, March 23, 2012

The Beatrice Adventure of Mark Twain

What would you say if someone came up to you today and said “Guess what? Samuel Clemens is coming to Beatrice, Nebraska!”? Well 150 years ago people might say, “Who is that?” He was and is more commonly known as Mark Twain! An American humorist who commented on American culture and politics. Born Samuel Clemens in Florida, Missouri on Nov. 30th of 1835, Mark Twain grew up in Hannibal, Missouri which would eventually become the setting for two of his most famous novels, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Ernest Hemingway once said of Huckleberry Finn, “If you read it you must stop where Jim is stolen from the boys, that is the real end. The rest is just cheating.” He also said in the same essay, “All modern American literature comes from one book by Mark Twain called Huckleberry Finn.”

Twain began the travels that were the catalyst for much of his writing as a steamboat pilot’s apprentice on the Mississippi River. In 1861 Twain traveled with his brother to the Nevada Territory and later served as a correspondent from the Sandwich Islands and Europe, which gave him his reputation to launch his lecture and literary career. He became a national voice of his time and fully embraced the “Free Soil, Free Labor” ideology at the heart of the 1862 legislation and was fascinated by the development of railroads through the latter half of the 1800s.
You’re probably sitting there, reading to yourself thinking, “Yeah, I already learned this stuff in history!” However, here are some things you may not know about the historic Mark Twain. 

·         He used different pen names before deciding on “Mark Twain.” He signed humorous and imaginative sketches as “Josh” until 1863. Additionally he used the pen name “Thomas Jefferson Snodgrass” for a series of humorous letters. How he came up with Mark Twain was by working on the Mississippi riverboats where ‘two fathoms’ was a depth indication of safe water for passage of a boat . The river boatmen’s cry “by the Mark Twain,” meant, according to the mark on the line, the depth is two fathoms, or 12’, and it is safe to pass! He claimed it was not entirely his invention.

·         In significance of the great invention of his pen name, his is grave is marked by a 12’ high monument.

·         Twain was born during a visit by Halley’s Comet and he predicted that he would go out with it as well. Twain said, “I came in with Halley’s Comet in 1835. It is coming again next year, and I expect to go out with it as well. It will be the greatest disappointment of my life if I don’t go out with the comet. The Almighty has said, no doubt, ‘Now here are these two unaccountable freaks; they came in together, they must go out together.’” He died the day following the comet’s subsequent return.

·         He has also had an asteroid named after him because of the strong connection between him and the comet.

·         Twain patented three inventions including an, “Improvement in Adjustable and Detachable Straps for Garments” (to replace suspenders), and a history trivia game. Most commercially successful was a self-pasting scrapbook, a dried adhesive on the pages only needed to be moistened before use!

Please be sure to join Homestead National Monument of America, The Nebraska Humanities Council, and the City of Beatrice is commemorating the 150th Anniversary of the Homestead Act in the FREE LAND? 1862 and the Shaping of Modern America Homesteading Chautauqua event out at Homestead National Monument! Be sure to visit Mark Twain not only as he leads you through the tales of his life, but introduces other historic Chautauquan figures every night of the week of May 21-25!

By Colleen Capri Cutchin
Student Conservation Association Intern
Homestead National Monument of America

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Shifting Boundries ... in the West

Exploration Mural to be Displayed for the 150th

As part of the Homestead Act 150th Anniversary commemoration, Homestead National Monument of America will display the beautiful full color mural From Longships to Spaceships: A Thousand Years of Exploration at the Education Center beginning on March 22, 2012. This 16 panel mural, commissioned by The Planetary Society, describes a portion of humanities quest over the last one thousand years to know the planet we stand on and the universe that surrounds it. Painted by renowned artist Michael Carroll, the mural is a celebration of humanity’s pioneering spirit a thousand years ago, of this moment in history, and of our future in the cosmos. 
Michael Carroll has been an astronomical, science fiction and paleo artist for nearly three decades. He has done work for NASA and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. His art has appeared in several hundred magazines throughout the world, including TIME and National Geographic. His paintings have aired on NOVA, National Geographic's Explorer and other TV specials, and have covered numerous books, including works by Carl Sagan and Arthur C. Clarke. 
Panel 15 
He has exhibited paintings at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum, at Moscow's Institute for Space Research (IKI), the Fleet Science Center, the Wyoming Geologic Museum, and has had traveling exhibits throughout the world.

The mural panels will be on exhibit at the Education Center daily through September 23, 2012. Michael Carroll will be giving a public program in the Education Center on May 6 at 2 p.m. and will be conducting educational programs May 7 – 11.

Artist Biography
 Michael Carroll has been an astronomical, science fiction and paleo artist for nearly three decades. He has done work for NASA and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. His art has appeared in several hundred magazines throughout the world, including TIME, National Geographic, Asimov’s, Smithsonian, Astronomy, Harpers, Sky & Telescope, Ciel et Espace, and Astronomy Now (UK). His paintings have aired on NOVA, National Geographic’s Explorer and other television specials, and have covered numerous books, including works by Carl Sagan and Arthur C. Clarke. He has exhibited paintings at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum, at Moscow’s Institute for Space Research (IKI), the Fleet Science Center, the Wyoming Geologic Museum, and has had traveling exhibits throughout the world. Michael Carroll is a Fellow and founding member of the International Association for the Astronomical Arts.  

He was one of 7 North American space artists invited by the Space Research Institute of the former USSR to attend the Space Future Forum in Moscow (l987). While there, he helped to establish the “Dialogues” project, a series of workshops and exhibitions involving Soviet, American and European artists. He is a member of the NASA Arts Program, and documented research during a U.S. Geological Survey expedition to the Bering Glacier in Alaska. One of his original paintings flew aboard MIR, and another is resting at the bottom of the Atlantic aboard Russia’s ill-fated Mars 96 spacecraft. Murals include two 70-foot works for the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, murals in Michigan, California, Nebraska, and for Lockheed/Martin and the Planetary Society. He is also a member of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology and the Guild of Natural Science Illustrators. Michael Carroll has painted in numerous historic fossil quarry sites, and enjoys reconstructing ancient life for museums and publications.

Michael Carroll is also science journalist, writing for such magazines as Astronomy Now (UK), Popular Science, Astronomy, Sky & Telescope, Odyssey, Sea Frontiers, and Artists magazines. He co-authored and illustrated the book Visions of the Revelation (Donning, l991). Michael Carroll and his wife, Caroline, have coauthored nearly twenty children's books. The Exploring God’s World series includes the Gold Medallion finalist Dinosaurs and Exploring Ancient Cities (Cook, 2000 and2001). They also wrote the highly popular science-themed Absolutely Awesome devotionals (Tyndale). A book series themed in parallel with the creation days of Genesis debuted in 2005(Zondervan), and covers topics ranging from space to geology and biology. Michael Carroll organized and coauthored the science fiction anthology Eat My Martian Dust (Dyson, et al., 2005) and Alien Volcanoes (Lopes and Carroll, 2008)) and several other titles for both adults and children.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012


"Free Land!"  The cry resounded throughout the nation and helped to  shape modern America.  The community of Beatrice, the Nebraska Humanities Council, and the Homestead National Monument of America will host the “Free Land?  1862 and the Shaping of Modern America” Chautauqua May 20-25.  This will be in conjunction with the kick-off of a year of events commemorating the 150th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s signing of the Homestead Act.

Participants will have the opportunity to engage in the consequences of the Homestead Act, the Pacific Railway Act, and the Morrill Act on Nebraska, the Great Plains, and the United States as a nation.  All three pieces of legislation were passed within six weeks of each other in 1862.

            To help interpret the story, six well-known historical figures will come to life through scholarly portrayals of Union general and railroad builder Grenville Dodge, author Willa Cather, Ponca Chief Standing Bear, author and homesteader Laura Ingalls Wilder, homesteader and inventor George Washington Carver, and humorist Mark Twain who will serve as moderator.

            According to Kristi Hayek, Nebraska Humanities Council Chautauqua coordinator, the characters will help to tell the stories surrounding the 1862 legislation, how it benefited those who took advantage of the potential, and how it affected those who suffered from it as a result.

            Patrick E. McGinnis will portray Grenville Dodge, U.S. Army general and chief engineer for the Union Pacific Railroad.  McGinnis holds a Ph.D. from Tulane University and is emeritus professor of history at the University of Central Oklahoma.

            Paxton Williams will portray George Washington Carver, noted inventor and botanist.  Williams is the former executive director of the George Washington Carver Birthplace Association in Diamond, Missouri.

            Taylor Keen will portray Standing Bear, Ponca chief who was involved in a court case in 1879 that was the first step in establishing basic civil rights for Native Americans.  Keen serves as director of the Native American Center and lecturer at Creighton University.

            Karen Vuranch will portray Laura Ingalls Wilder, homesteader and author of the beloved “Little House” books.  Vuranch is an instructor at Concord University in West Virginia and has participated in living-history presentations portraying 10 different characters.

            Betty Jean Steinshouer will portray Willa Cather, Pulitzer Prize-winning author from Nebraska.  Steinshouer has portrayed Cather in 44 states and in Canada and portrays a number of other female authors in the Chautauqua-style for the Florida Humanities Council.

            Warren Brown will portray Mark Twain, humorist and author who wrote on American culture and politics.  As moderator, he will provide context and offer a national perspective to the observations and experiences of the other characters.  Brown has portrayed Mark Twain in more than 1,000 performances nationwide.

            The scholars will be in character costume to attend a May 20th event featuring entertainment and speeches commemorating the signing of the Homestead Act.  The actual document will be on loan from the National Archives April 25th through May 28th at Homestead National Monument of America.

            Each evening of the Chautauqua week, a different scholar will portray his or her character.  After the presentation, the scholar will answer questions as the character and then step out of character to answer questions about the historical figure.

            Chautauqua is made possible through funding from the National Endowment for Humanities, the Nebraska Cultural Endowment, Friends of Homestead National Monument of America, and the state of Nebraska.

Article submitted and compiled by Bette Anne Thaut, member of the Beatrice Chautauqua Committee.


Thursday, March 1, 2012

The Beatrice Interstate Chautauqua: 1889 to 2012

The first Chautauqua Assembly in Beatrice was held for two weeks in the summer of 1889.  It was the second Chautauqua campground established in Nebraska.  (The first was at Crete.)  Officially incorporated as the Beatrice Interstate Chautauqua, it was planned to attract visitors from Kansas, Missouri, Iowa and even Colorado!  Special railroad excursion rates encouraged out-of-state travelers to come to Beatrice.  The local streetcar line was extended south to take passengers directly from the railroad depots to the Chautauqua grounds. 

The Beatrice Interstate Chautauqua was founded by five investors who owned 90 acres south of the Big Blue River: J. S. Grable, J. L. Tait, S. S. Green, W. D. Nicholls, and A. J. Millikin.  In 1888 they approached the Beatrice Board of Trade (a forerunner of the Chamber of Commerce) with a proposal that if they invested $1500 to advertise the Chautauqua as a Beatrice enterprise, the investors would incorporate with capital stock of $50,000.  This proposal was accepted; the first Chautauqua in Beatrice was held a year later.                                                                                                                                     
The elaborate four-gated main entrance was located about 2 blocks east of 6th Street.  The Tabernacle, the only remaining building, was one of the first to be constructed.  It is 100 x 140 feet and was planned to seat 2,000.   The very first summer 2500 filled the Tabernacle to hear the President of Nebraska Wesleyan University speak.  The structure was open on all sides to allow maximum ventilation, with a complex system of support posts, beams and braces to provide virtually unobstructed viewing for the audience. The Tabernacle was designed with no permanent seating, allowing the most flexible use of the building.  The Chautauqua Tabernacle was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1979 and was recognized as “an engineering and architectural achievement of merit.”

 Other buildings constructed on the Chautauqua grounds were the Gatekeeper’s Lodge, the Stewart Boarding and Dining Hall (which could seat 300), a grocery and meat market, refreshment pavilion, photographer’s studio, post office, Tennyson Hall, Whittier Hall, Emma Willard Hall, a bandstand and the Presbyterian Church’s building.  In addition Cottage Row was constructed with several small, privately-owned Victorian houses. 

Tents were available for rent or purchase north of the Tabernacle in the area still used as a campground today.  Each of the tents was numbered for ease of mail delivery during the weeks of Chautauqua events. Large tree houses were built along the creek, but were removed because they were damaging the trees.  

By 1905 the attendance at the Beatrice Interstate Chautauqua had reached 8,000, with one session reaching 10,000.  Speakers that year included former President Hayes, William Jennings Bryan, Frances Willard, the temperance advocate, and Bishop John Heyl Vincent, founder of the original Chautauqua in New York. 

In 1906 7000 attended the Chautauqua in Beatrice due to the railroad’s special excursion rates from Missouri and Kansas.  The grounds now had electric lights, and iron gates to prevent reckless driving.  By that time, nineteen private cottages had been built. 

Boating and canoeing was always an important part of the Chautauqua experience.  In 1890 the Queen of the Blue was launched.  It was a 70 x 15 foot two-deck steamboat that could carry 150 passengers comfortably.  It traveled from the Chautauqua grounds downstream to the paper mill dam at Glen Falls and back for $1.00 fare. 

By 1910, automobiles and the movies made rail travel to Chautauquas seem old-fashioned.  Attempts were made to revive the Beatrice Chautauqua through traveling tent shows in 1912 and 1914, but the era of the great Chautauqua assemblies had passed.  Fortunately, the City of Beatrice was able to acquire the Interstate Chautauqua grounds and recreate it as a beautiful park for the community.  In 1919 Dr. Harry Hepperlin and Don McColery purchased the grounds west of the park to enable its expansion to Highway 77. 

The Beatrice Interstate Chautauqua lasted over twenty years.  It offered information and entertainment to people of all ages.  The most distinctive contribution of the Beatrice Interstate Chautauqua, as well as other Chautauquas, was the idea of using summer vacations as entertaining educational opportunities. 

Chautauqua Calendar

  • May 20: Meet the Chautauquans 11:00 am Chautauqua Park Beatrice
  • May 20: 150th Anniversary Begins 6:00 pm Homestead