Sometimes visiting a place leaves you angry, upset, but ultimately glad it exits as a record of horrible things from the past. That’s pretty much how I felt after visiting Homestead National Monument today on a dreary and gray-skied morning in Beatrice, Nebraska. [Update: It appears the name has changed now to Homestead National Historic Park as of January 2021.]
No surprise that even the CDC and NPS don’t require masks yet for visitors (thought I can’t fault them, they are handcuffed by idiotic legislators). Thanks to the incompetence of the Trump administration, we now know there are several hundred thousand excess deaths due to COVID-19 that could have been prevented.
Anyhoo, let’s get started with the really depressing historical stuff! As you enter the “Heritage Center” there are many interesting displays, artifacts, and interactive media that encapsulate the history of “homesteading” and the settlement of the western US states.
Now of course a large portion of the history presented is about what life was like as a homesteader. This covers a wide range of topics like how difficult daily life was, farming challenges, and how schooling was implemented. To be perfectly honest I care very little about those aspects but they are interesting when inspected under a certain lens.
Thankfully the NPS has not white-washed irrefutable history and there is coverage about how native lands were stolen (American Indian Removal Act, Homestead Act, Dawes Act, etc), genocide was committed against Native Americans (Trail of Tears), and religious nuttery like “Manifest Destiny” and “providence“. Never forget that the US Government has always been about progressing it’s agenda at all costs. To this day there is still mistreatment of native peoples and minority groups – it’s how it always has been but hopefully we can break that cycle. One of the only bittersweet positives to me was that former slaves were able to stake their own claims after being freed during the Civil War.
Outside the cultural center there is a rebuilt original 14×16 homestead cabin that George Palmer and his family lived in about 14 miles away from the monument.
There are also gravestones and a marker indicating these were Daniel and Agnes Freeman, the first people to file on a homestead claim back in 1863 (also detailed on displays inside the heritage center).
If you have the time, there are also several miles worth of trails through the adjacent prairie lands. Once again I’m on a bit of a time crunch driving cross country so I passed on this today. Our prairies in Wisconsin are largely the same, and while beautiful it’s nothing new to me.
Back on the road again. Kansas and Nebraska are not the most exciting driving experience so I will be moving on quite rapidly.
Lat = 40.2871284 , Long = -96.8329773 -- Show at Google Maps
Author’s Note: Due to my lazy nature and/or busy schedule, I’m posting this from the future in July 2021. Original visit date September 1, 2020 which is during the time that the COVID-19 pandemic was in full swing. I was travelling solo and always masked up when not outdoors and socially distanced. Sadly my trip got derailed due to close contact with infected parties and I had to bail out early (luckily I tested negative upon return). Needless to say this wasn’t my favorite trip and I’ve been putting off posting it. Anyways, enjoy it now, travel safely, and get vaccinated.