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Home » Exhibits » People on the Plains

People on the Plains

Location: Upper Level

Cook up dinner next to our 9 x 14 foot log cabin!

People on the Plains is a vast exhibit – giving an up close look at the lives of everyone from paleo-Indians to euro-Americans.

Pawnee Earth Lodge

Pawnee earth lodges measured up to 45 feet in diameter.Come see our detailed scale model of an earthlodge!

Select transportation methods are sprinkled throughout the exhibit.

The exhibit covers communication methods, from the Pony Express through TV. Shown here is Thomas Edison's Ediphone.

The Great Plains has been home to many people for thousands of years. At Hastings Museum, we take a close look at all the people and their cultures – from prehistoric times to pioneer town builders.

The large exhibit uses dioramas and a vast number of artifacts to depict the manner in which people survived on the Great Plains. No matter who it was, all used the resources and know-how available to them to provide shelter, water and food for their families.

The exhibit includes a hands-on activities in our Native American tipi, furnished with hides and Indian artifacts, and our 9 x 14 foot log cabin furnished with pioneer accessories like a cook stove, wash tubs, clothing and other gear. They are hands-on learning and fun!

The cabin, built in 1857 by John Adams, founder of the village of Adams in Gage County, was moved in the 1950s to Kenesaw by Edward Ziebarth. Ziebarth rebuilt the cabin on his property where it remained until after his death.  In the 1980s the cabin was moved to Kenesaw, before it was donated it to the Museum in 2001.

The exhibit begins with paleo-Indians and how they might have arrived in the region.

From there it expands into more modern tribes such as the Pawnee and how they hunted for basic food needs, how they provided shelter and their eventual adoption of agriculture and more permanent settlements, which led to the development of pottery. Our pottery Dioramas show how the Pawnee of this region lived, including the tools they used, with a scale model of an 1830s Pawnee earth lodge being a focal point of the exhibit.

Information on other tribes, including the Omaha, Ponca, Dakota, Oto and Missouria, Winnebago, Lakota, Cheyenne and Arapaho is also available.

Grasshopper plow in Hastings Museum People on the Plains exhibit.

A grasshopper plow.

Then came the euro-Americans and pioneers who traveled west in search of a new life. Like those before them, they had to meet their basic needs of food, water and shelter. Living near a river or a water source was similar to that of the Indians, yet their methods to provide housing and grow food were new and different.

These settlers lived in dugouts and built houses made from the prairie itself by cutting sod from the earth.

One implement the settlers used was a grasshopper plow. While it may be a plow, it wasn’t used to plant crops! Instead, it cut sod for sod houses.

The average sod house measured 16 feet wide and 20 feet long and used nearly 1 acre of sod!

Not only does Hastings Museum have a grasshopper plow,  but we’re fortunate enough to have a replica sod house in our exhibit, so be sure to get up close and peer through the window to see how people decorated a “soddy.”

Hastings Nebraska cigar center pioneer settlement wagon train

At one time Hastings was home to a number of cigar companies. We have a display that explores this interesting industry.

As more settlers arrived, trade and commerce began to influence their lives and help shape the present day towns of this area. New farm implements and technology became available.

Wood houses sprouted up from the prairie – and Hastings Museum gives you an up close look at one: We have a portion of the first wood-framed house in Hastings on display.

From there you’ll discover a general store and learn about harvesting ice before transitioning into transportation, including stage coaches and railroads.

Early medical practices are explored, and a series of exhibits explore communication methods, from the Pony Express to typewriters to telegraphs.

Then, of course, came the telephone, switchboard and eventually radio and television!

You can see it all at Hastings Museum!