Remembering the Bertrand

DESOTO WILDLIFE REFUGE, Neb.- You can learn about the wreck of the steamboat Bertrand at DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge.

We recently went to the visitors center there, and discovered more about the exhibit. It has an amazing amount of artifacts from the boat on display. "The steamboat Bertrand was making her way up the Missouri River in April of 1865, and she was bound for Montana. There had been a big gold strike up there," Bertrand Museum Curator Dean Knudsen said. "The cargo was intended for sale to the gold miners. But she didn't get very far." 

On the boat's very first voyage, it got to DeSoto and hit a log. "It ripped a hole in the bottom of the ship, and she went down in 10 minutes. The captain had enough time to steer the boat over toward the Nebraska side of the river, and that's where she went down in very shallow water," Knudsen said. No one was killed, but because of the current, and because there was not much in the way of diving equipment back then, the ship was left to be buried by the mud of the Missouri for about 100 years. 

In the 1960's, it was rediscovered by Jesse Pursell and Sam Corbino of Omaha. They were treasure hunters. But, it turned out that the boat was discovered on federal land, so all of the artifacts found on the boat, are now in a museum. The civil-war era artifacts are in very good condition, and help to give us a look at a slice of life during that time period. During a visit to the museum at DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge you can see the artifacts recovered from the ship. "You will be surprised by how good of condition they are in," Knudsen said. "We have fabrics that look like they are brand new, we still have bottles containing food, along with tools and weapons." 

DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge is located about an hour and a half drive from Lincoln, just north of Omaha.