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Barnes tracks down history in the strangest places

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HARTINGTON — Nebraska history can sometimes be found in the strangest places.

Nebraska author and historian Jeff Barnes told about 35 people gathered at the Cedar County Historical Society Museum Thursday that he had to search high and low to find some of the stories in his latest book, "Cut in Stone, Cast in Bronze: Nebraska's Historical Markers and Monuments, 1854-1967."

"A lot of these aren't just sitting by the roadside," he said. "You've got to go down a gravel road, take a sharp left at the hill, then go down a dirt road, through a cattle fence and down to the river. Then, after getting out of your car, you have to hike up a hill," he said of one marker in extreme western Nebraska that separates Nebraska from Colorado and Wyoming.

The historical markers featured in his book are not the typical markers like the ones sitting in front of the Cedar County Historical Museum and in front of the Cedar County Courthouse, he said.

"These are the state's first markers — a story told through often secluded historical monuments and markers.

The book touches on the rich and diverse history and heritage of the state and how it is captured through various historical markers.

Barnes lays out and describes the markers that were originally used to mark the borders of the state, he also tracks down markers to designate the Oregon Trail and early Indian attacks, including the Wiseman Memorial in northern Cedar County.

Drawing from his site visits and photographs collected from across the state, Barnes shares some of the more interesting, colorful, and even controversial ways Nebraskans told their stories through boulders, tablets, plaques and statues.

“Many of these sites are in remote locations, far from towns and cities,” said Barnes. “I think with the ‘social distancing’ that we’re encouraged to adopt, seeing these monuments in natural settings that haven’t changed greatly is a great Nebraska weekend adventure.”

In addition to the photographs of the markers and the history behind them, Barnes has included the locations and GPS coordinates to allow for site visits.

Barnes is also the author of Forts of the "Northern Plains," "The Great Plains Guide to Custer," "The Great Plains Guide to Buffalo Bill," "Extra Innings: The Story of Modisett Ball Park" and "150 @ 150: Nebraska’s Landmark Buildings at the State’s Sesquicentennial."

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