Nebraska, home of the Cornhuskers!!! In addition to being the Cornhusker State, Nebraska is also referred to as The Beef State (about 2 million head of beef cows call Nebraska home — at least for awhile) The first state nickname was The Tree Planters State. Millions of trees were planted by Nebraska settlers as windbreaks, orchards and fuel woodlots. In 1872 J. Sterling Morton of Nebraska City founded Arbor Day and it was in 1873 that U.S. Senator Phineas W. Hitchcock introduced the Timber Culture Act. It wasn’t until 1945 that Nebraska officially became the Cornhusker State. It had other nicknames as well: The Antelope State, The Bug-eating State and Blackwater State. What is missing from its nicknames is a title referencing the part Nebraska played in the people’s movement west.
So many states in the U.S. are destination states: Florida has Disney World and Epcot and the beaches; California has Disneyland, beaches and Hollywood; Minnesota has the Mall of America and great fishing. Nebraska is not known as a destination state, and it really isn’t. Nebraska is a journey and you can go on that journey. It is a where our immigrants met on the Immigrant Trail at Chimney Rock. It is a place where Sandhill Cranes from different winter grounds meet on the Platte River.
Immigrants followed the Platte River to their new homes in the West. The Platte River stretches across Nebraska and it was a natural path for the immigrants heading west from the east . The route they took became the Lincoln Highway which was the first transcontinental highway in the United States. Today it is Highway 30. Chimney Rock was their landmark. It was noted in the immigrants’ journals that seeing it from afar it seemed like an optical illusion .. no matter how far they traveled it always appeared unapproachable. The California Trail, Oregon Trail and the Mormon Pioneer Trail all converged at Chimney Rock.
For almost 30 years until 1869 between 200,000 men, women and children headed west in wagons that could weigh as much as 12,000 pounds when loaded. Some say you can still see the wagon tracks. Easterners looking for work, gold diggers, missionaries and Mormons escaping persecution. The trip was long and hard. They fought illness and Indians and it is estimated 10% of the immigrants died on the trail.
The number of people and wagons headed west was reduced substantially in 1869 when the transcontinental railroad was completed.
For more information about Chimney Rock visit and the activities they have planned check out their website