Posts Tagged With: Stephanie Grace Whitson

Friday Flashback: Using Quilts to Interpret Nebraska History

When pioneer women sewed quilts, they were not looking to write history.  They were simply piecing together warmth for their family.  While a few perhaps created for the sake of art, survival was more of their focus.

I had hoped to write about this topic last week right after I talked about the International Quilt Museum and Study Center.  As that ended up being multiple entries anyway, this post was put off.  But since quilts are such an important part of pioneer history and thus an integral part in the past of Nebraska, I decided this was an essential topic.  Once I began to research, I was surprised to see the name of one of the authors on the title of a book referencing this title.

This book cover photo is courtesy of Amazon.

Stephanie Grace Whitson has been a favorite author of mine for years.  She is a Nebraskan who has set many of her fictional stories in this state.  Since reading a novel is an enjoyable way to learn parts of history, I know that she has educated me on Nebraska’s past simply through her ability to tell a wonderful tale.  While the majority of books that I read I now check out from the library, I actually own all of her books.  At least I thought I did – evidently I was only managing to keep up with her fictional titles.

So, I checked out the title, Home on the Plains: Quilts and Sod House Experience, that she coauthored with her friend, Kathleen Moore.  And I am positive that the title will eventually find its way to my library.  What a delightful book!  Interspersed with the stories of hardy pioneer women are photographs of their quilts.  Reading diary excerpts of those who endured and helped to transform the barren land into the Nebraska of today reminded me of just what a challenge being a settler was.

The book is divided into three sections …

  1. Arriving
  2. Settling In
  3. Staying On
  4. Quilt Projects

You read correctly – if you are a quilter, patterns of eight pioneer quilt projects are included.    Complete with patterns, instructions and color photograph examples.  The authors actually quilted many of the examples themselves.  The research is meticulous, and the story is captivating.  I will soon be reading the book cover to cover.  If  you are not a quilter, the project section also includes the background story of each quilt, so that was even interesting to me.  Rather than me expounding on pioneer quilts, I am going to simply recommend that you get a copy of the book!

The book might just inspire you to want to learn even more about pioneer quilts in Nebraska,  Although I have not necessarily previewed these, here are some additional books specifically about the history of quilting in Nebraska.

Nebraska Quilts and Quiltmakers by Patricia Cox Crews and Ronald C. Naugle

A Prairie Homecoming by Mary Obrist (Nebraska State Quilt Guild)

Sod House Treasures and Other Nebraska Quilt Patterns by Jan Stehlik

The International Quilt Study Center and Museum also has excellent online resources for exploring more.  One of the quilters featured in the Home on the Plains book mentioned above is Grace Snyder.  A whole online exhibit has been developed telling the story of how she has influenced quilting in Nebraska.  They plan to add stories of more Nebraska quilters in the future.

Quilt Chronicles Collage

P.S. If you enjoy reading fiction like I do, Stephanie Grace Whitson’s current Quilt Chronicles series features quilts as a backdrop.  All three titles are written about  Southeastern Nebraska and explain varying aspects of the pioneer culture.  Based on experiences that were happening during the early settlements of the area, I would highly recommend each of them.  Wonderful books to read!  For a complete list of titles and to learn more about the author, please visit Stephanie Grace Whitson’s blog.


Categories: Flashback Fridays, Lincoln, Metro, Recommended Reading, Region or City | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Flashback Friday: Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show


William F. Cody, circa 1880

Spring 1882 Resume  
Name: William F. Cody
Age 36 years old
Location Scout’s Rest (North Platte, Nebraska ranch)
Experience Pony Express Rider, soldier, stage coach driver, Army Scout, guide to the rich & famous; almost legislator; buffalo hunter, Broadway actor

What do you do when have lived a life full of adventure and excitement?  Why of course, you start your own traveling show to tell the world about your experiences.  Born with a restless spirit, William Cody did not seem to be able to stay put for long.  In1882, he was put in charge of North Platte’s 4th of July show.  Bill’s Old Glory Blow-out included the hold-up of a stage coach, buffalo being hunted and wild bronco horses being ridden.  The audience was thrilled, and their response thrilled Buffalo Bill.  He foresaw that would finally be able to combine his many loves of adventure, action, heroism, history & the outdoors into a money making venture.  Less than a year later, his first Wild West Show began.


Oh how my boys would have enjoyed being in the audience on May 17, 1883, when his show opened up in Omaha, Nebraska.  To see Native Americans racing horses riding bareback.  To watch cowboys roping and riding.  These skills might still be portrayed today, but most modern rodeos probably do not have stagecoach robbery re-enactments.  Or Buffalo Bill himself galloping by shattering glass balls with a rifle that were tossed high in the air by another rider.  (He managed to shatter 87 out of 100 balls his 1st time out!)

Five “scenes” of every show:

  1. Painted Native Americans demonstrating war dances
  2. Settlers defending their “log” cabin
  3. Buffalo Bill rescuing the Deadwood Stage
  4. Pony Express riders carrying the mail
  5. Grand Finale: a large buffalo hunt

Despite the fact that this was before the true age of special effects, they managed to include stampedes, cyclones and prairie fires.

While my daughter may not have appreciated all of those antics, she would have loved watching Annie Oakley in action.  She joined the act in 1885 and stunned crowds with her ability to divide a playing card from a distance away.  Simply galloping across shooting glass balls was far too easy for her.  Instead she shot the balls looking over her shoulder, using a mirror as her guide. Her sharp shooting thrilled audiences.


Sitting Bull, a former enemy of Cody, even joined the entourage for awhile.  His promise of being given a front row seat to watch Annie Oakley’s daily shooting expertise persuaded him.  But he soon tired of the less-than-welcoming crowds who were not too certain of this “retired” Indian chief.


For a combined total of almost 30 years, the Buffalo Bill Wild West Show toured the country and even went to Europe.  They performed for Queen Victoria who had not ventured out to a theater production in 26 years, having been more secluded after the death of her husband.  She asked for a repeat performance, and the next time Bill added the kings of Denmark, Greece, Belgium and Saxony to the stagecoach part.  Along with the Prince of Wales to honor England of course.  His show was enjoyed by audiences everywhere!

While I can no longer take my children to his live show, I do hope to take them someday to Buffalo Bill Ranch State Historical Park.  They will at least be able to see his former house and part of his land, as well as to learn even more about William Cody, the man usually known only as Buffalo Bill.  But, more about him is a column for another day – he definitely lived a fascinating life.

Here are the books I researched for this topic …

Buffalo Bill Cody: Showman of the Wild West by William R. Sanford and Carl R. Green

Buffalo Bill by Nancy Robison

My favorite non-fiction book was published in 1952 and reads like a storybook.  Buffalo Bill by Ingri & Edgar Parin d-Aulaire is beautifully illustrated as well.

Buffalo Bill cover by Ingri & Edgar Parin d-Aulaire

This cover picture was copied directly from Amazon where you can still purchase the book today.

If you enjoyed learning more about Buffalo Bill, you would enjoy reading the historical fiction book entitled Unbridled Dreams by Stephanie Grace Whitson.  This fictional account of a young woman who joined the Buffalo Bill Wild West Show was what initially compelled me to want to learn more about William Cody.  Your best bet to find the book is probably your local library since it was published several years ago, although you can obtain some copies still from various places online.

Categories: Flashback Fridays, Nebraska History, Prairie Lakes | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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