Highlights of Pawnee Indian and Mormon Trail history

Updated: May. 12, 2021 at 10:10 AM CDT
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LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - The Genoa Historical Museum is situated in the heart of where Pawnee Indians once lived. Visiting the museum is a chance to see what life was like then.

We visited with Nancy Carlson about the museum and the Pawnee Indians recently. “The Pawnee were in this area for centuries,” Carlson said. “Then in 1857, a treaty was signed, and what is Nance County was the Pawnee reservation. They wanted 30 miles of the Loup River, and 15 miles north and south. That’s why Nance County has a unique shape.”

The Genoa Historical Museum has a wide variety of artifacts that have been found in the area. “Most of them are Pawnee artifacts,” Carlson said. “The Pawnee still return to this area because they still call it their ‘homeland’. In 1859, all four bands of the Pawnee moved to Genoa and set up their earth lodges just south of the Beaver Creek. There were more than 3,000 of them here at the time. North of Beaver Creek is where the agency headquarters for the Pawnee were located.”

What some people may not realize is Genoa and the area was originally started by the Mormons. “In 1857, they started the hand carts,” Carlson said. “They needed every 100 miles to replenish their supplies for these people pulling these hand carts west. So from Florence, Nebraska out to Genoa was 100 miles. They selected this site as the weigh station for the hand carts. Henry Hudson was the leader of the group that set up the town, and the original diary of his is here in the museum for people to see.”

Carlson says in 1859, when the Pawnee moved their villages to just south of town, the federal government forced the Mormons out of this area, and took over the buildings they had built. The buildings were then used the agency buildings. “Genoa was actually founded in 1857 as a town,” Carlson said. “Then it was part of the Pawnee agency. After that, the Pawnee were removed to Oklahoma in 1874 and 1875.”

There are many other artifacts to see at the Genoa Museum besides those connected to the Pawnee and Mormon history. “Some of the other things include a nice military display,” Carlson said. “There was a P.O.W. from Genoa, and the museum has some of his uniforms. Also, there are quite a few early photographs of the Pawnee.”

If you are interested in diving deep into Pawnee history, Mormon history, and the history of Nebraska, check out the Genoa Historical Museum the next time you find yourself driving through Nance County.

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