Authors present Nebraska ag history book on National Ag Day
Nebraska’s first Territorial Board of Agriculture president, who later became the state’s second governor, Robert Wilkinson Furnas said, “Nebraska, agriculturally, is a heaven-favored country, and must look principally to her agricultural developments for her future wealth, position, and importance.” In that spirit, authors Jody L. Lamp and Melody Dobson, co-founders of the American Doorstop Project, highlighted nearly 150 years of Nebraska’s agricultural history. As the keepers of those stories age and pass, the stories and information that make up history and heritage become more important. Out of that, Lamp and Dobson gathered stories and worked together to pen A History of Nebraska: A Life Worth Living. On National Ag Day, the two authors presented to the Nebraska Women in Agriculture’s Winter Book Club members.
Lamp, who was raised in Scotts Bluff County in western Nebraska, operates a public relations and marketing firm. When she opened her firm, she was living in Montana and knew she wanted to be enveloped by agriculture. When she hung her shingle, her office was located in the Billings Livestock Commission building.
Lamp said she was interested in the history of Billings Livestock Commission and searched for a book about its history, but one didn’t exist. She began diving into microfiche and archives gathering information and connecting the dots. She finally met with the grandson of the original owner, Art Langman, and learned his family’s story began in Grand Island, Neb. The story stuck with her.
Dobson’s roots are in Montana. She has served as a national signature event coordinator and a member of the Pompeys Pillar Historical Association Board of Directors.
She met Dobson a few years later and told her she had a horse story to tell. In researching for that project, she dove into information and history about the Grand Island Horse and Mule Market. The duo began collaborating in 2015. When they began their research in earnest, Lamp and Dobson couldn’t put their hands on the books they wanted to read about the history of agriculture in Nebraska, so they began collecting the stories about agriculture from across the state.
“We are so thankful for the good people of Grand Island and everything they did for us,” she said. “They opened doors for us, helped us find that information. There is nothing today that exists of those livestock markets. They were the world’s largest in the 1920s and you can’t find a 2 by 4. The only thing you can find today is the black stallion horse that sat on top of the livestock markets on Fourth Street at the Store Museum.”
The two met with museum directors and historians and city councils during the research for the book, stumbling into rich stories and connections borne of introductions. The two quickly realized that they could demonstrate that even people who grew up removed from production agriculture can trace their heritage and find someone who did live and work in agriculture.
The authors said they’re often asked how to best document family stories and histories. Dobson teaches journaling classes and encourages family historians to journal stories and to collect information — names, dates, and places — to add to the back of photos.
“We stand in the threshold right now to capture that information because once this generation, the World War II generation, passes, we will lose a national treasure,” she said.
In addition to A History of Nebraska Agriculture, the duo released a Montana agriculture history book last May titled A History of Montana Agriculture: A Life of Discovery. They’re currently working on a history of agriculture about North Dakota.
Dobson concluded her introduction with an excerpt from the book. “What makes this narrative unique, distinct, and compelling? It’s the subject. Our story is Nebraska. It’s the story of a state that affects the nation. Nebraska has an anthology that is America’s history. The frontier wagon trains left deep ruts and trails that pulsed like veins as the nation moved west and pioneers found reassurance and solace in the state’s famous landmarks and resources. As one begins to move through the pages, an understanding begins to emerge of what it means when someone says, ‘I’m a Nebraskan’ rather than saying, ‘I’m from Nebraska.’ The two are totally different. You’ll smile when you recognize it.”
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