June 2nd, 2015
Must say that we were busy on June 2. You know that we saw a couple of things earlier in the day, then just kept on going. Remember we are in Omaha, NE.
We went by several “must see” exhibits. One included the Florence Bank and Depot Museum. We did not stop as it did not appear to be open. The exterior picture is shown. Town originally named Florence was later annexed by Omaha.
Our next stop was the Mormon Trail Center. This museum had history of the Mormon Trek from the East through the Omaha area and on into Utah. It was obviously a very hard journey and many died in the process.
There were exhibits and reproductions of the tools and equipment that the Mormons had with them on the trail. It took extra faith in God for them to keep going despite all of their hardships, trials and tribulations. Their efforts were no different than the other pioneers who wanted freedom and room to grow, however their journey was based on religious beliefs and the goal to reach them. They felt persecuted in their home towns and wanted the freedom to worship as they choose. Not any different that the pioneers and others who followed. They stopped and settled in the area of Salt Lake City. Few others in the group went further. We were taken on our tour of the museum after seeing a 15 minute film about the history of the trek by a young lady who was on her mission for her church. The museum included dioramas, artifacts, reproductions and many exhibits.
Part of the film and her reciting the history, tells us that the members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints had felt persecuted for their beliefs ever since Joseph Smith founded the church in New York in 1830. In 1839, Smith hoped by moving to Nauvoo, Missouri, a provision for a permanent safe haven for the Saints would be made. However anti-Mormon prejudice there proved virulent. Angry mobs murdered Smith and his brother in June 1844 and began burning homes and threatening the citizens of Nauvoo. Convinced that the Mormons would never find peace in the United States, Smith’s successor, Brigham Young, made a bold decision: the Mormons would move to the still wild territories of the Mexican-controlled Southwest. Young had little knowledge of the geography and environment of the West and no particular destination in mind, but trusting in God, he began to prepare the people of Nauvoo for a mass exodus. On February 10, 1846, Young abandoned Nauvoo and began leading 1,600 Mormons west across the frozen Mississippi in subzero temperatures to a temporary refuge at Sugar Grove, Iowa. Young planned to make the westward trek in stages, and he determined the first major stopping point would be along the Missouri River opposite Council Bluffs. He sent out a reconnaissance team to plan the route across Iowa, dig wells at camping spots, and in some cases, plant corn to provide food for the hungry emigrants. The mass of Mormons made the journey to the Missouri River, and by the fall of 1846, the Winter Quarters were home to 12,000 Mormons. After a hard journey across the western landscape, Young and his followers emerged out onto a broad valley where a giant lake shimmered in the distance. With his first glimpse of this Valley of the Great Salt Lake, Young reportedly said, “This is the place.” That year, some 1,600 Mormons arrived to begin building a new civilization in the valley. The next year, 2,500 more made the passage. By the time Young died in 1877, more than 100,000 people were living in the surrounding Great Basin, the majority of them Mormons. (The information in the paragraph above was obtained from: Mormons begin exodus to Utah, History.com Staff, 2009, http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/mormons-begin-exodus-to-utah, A+E Networks)
After the tour was completed, we went on to see the exterior of the Mormon Temple that was next to the museum. It was a small Temple, compared to the one in Salt Lake City. There was also a cemetery adjacent to the Temple with several of the early settlers buried in it. (The cemetery is behind the large tree on the right.)
Next stop for the day was Fort Omaha, NE which is now the home of the Metropolitan Community College. Deeded to the College for a permanent 70 acre campus in 1974. They have worked at maintaining the look of this Post will using most of the buildings for a progressive 2-year college.
This Fort was established in 1868, considered a cheap barracks near Omaha so troops could quell Indian uprisings in the area. The Fort was deactivated in 1896 and reactivated in 1905 with Signal Corps on site. With the reactivation a structure to house the Army’s only dirigible (balloon airship) was built. Four years later all personnel and property were transferred to Ft Leavenworth.
During WWI the Red Cross was a resident and during WWII it was a support installation for the US Army 7th Service Command. An interesting note is the Italian prisoners of war worked here during WWII. I remember the stories of the Japanese prisoners of war housed in the Puyallup Fair Grounds, but have never thought about there being other Axis ally POW’s.
General Crook House Museum
Is on the grounds of Ft Omaha with the view similar to many Army Posts. That is that the commanding general sits atop a rise or hill above the parade ground. This two story brick building (“Italianate in style”), built in 1879 at a cost of $7,716. Although the cost was reduced by the use of the troops, can you imagine trying something like that today or the related cost. The grounds have more than 110 varieties of heirloom flowers, trees and shrubs. Many of the Victorian plants were carried via wagon train or received by mail order in the 1880s. This home has been a part of the National Register of Historic Places since 1969.