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Why They Came: Homesteader myth, reality shapes modern Nebraska

Forgive George Barnes if he looks a little grim.

That day in 1887, ol’ George had ample reason to mean-mug photographer Solomon Butcher, and homesteader life in general.

The night before the family photo, it had rained. Hard.

The rain had soaked the roof of their soddie. The decaying pole holding the roof had snapped. The whole thing had come down on itself, like a bad metaphor, ruining everything the family owned.

The year before, George Barnes’ wife had died of an unknown illness. Barnes was raising three children by himself while he tried to make crops grow without water. Then his house cav...


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