Our Town McCook: High Plains Museum

Pure Nebraska
Published: Jun. 17, 2022 at 10:26 AM CDT|Updated: Jun. 17, 2022 at 10:34 AM CDT
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LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - If you are looking for a place where you can learn about everything from pioneer days to politicians who are native to McCook, then consider a visit to the local museum.

During our visit, we talked with Carol Schlegel who is the president of the High Plains Historical Society. “We’ve had a museum in McCook since the early ‘60s,” Schlegel said. “There was a group that was very forward-thinking and wanted to preserve the history of the area. They started out in a place downtown. The first permanent space that was more visible was the Carnegie Library. In 1985, the community built the building we are in now. Two families in particular were very involved, and that was the Harris family and the Harsh family.”

There are many highlights in the museum to be experienced. “Part of our display focuses on World War II,” Schlegel said. “There was an army air base located northwest of McCook. There was a German POW Camp located in Indianola. We have some artwork on display done by the prisoners at the POW camp. The museum also features a section that is a tribute to Harry Strunk. He was the editor of the McCook Gazette. He was instrumental in flood control and getting local reservoirs established in southwest Nebraska.”

“It’s an old saying, but if we forget where we came from, we don’t know where we are going,” Schlegel said. “It’s important for us to understand that it wasn’t an easy thing to settle this area. We take a look at that here.”

The museum also tells the story of many politicians who were from McCook. “We have had two U.S. Senators from McCook, which was George Norris and Ben Nelson,” Schlegel said. “Ben Nelson was also a two term governor. There’s also Frank Morrison and Ralph G. Brooks who were governors. Former Governor Dave Heineman has ties to McCook, and the current democratic nominee for governor Carol Blood has ties here. People will ask what it is about McCook. A lot of this is my own personal opinion, but George Norris was accessible to people. It created a feeling, that anyone could go to Washington, and that’s some of what we try to explain here at the museum.”

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