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NEBRASKAland July 2014

Read the full issue of NEBRASKAland Magazine from the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission. See stunning photographs of Nebraska outdoors.

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10 NEBRASKAland • JULY 2014 JULY 2014 • NEBRASKAland 11 A Brief History Sailing Through Fort Kearny in a Wind Wagon By Patricia C. Gaster, Nebraska State Historical Society Samuel Peppard's wind ship was one of the most unusual vehicles in the history of Great Plains transportation. Designed by its inventor to carry freight, the craft in its trial run followed the Oregon Trail to Fort Kearny and then turned westward up the Platte River, reaching an ignominious end near what is today Fort Morgan, Colorado. Peppard, a 27-year-old millwright, and his crew had learned in trial runs that the vehicle would be hard to control. At one time it even became airborne for a short distance. Yet, about May 10, 1860, Peppard and his crew sailed out of Oskaloosa, Kansas, with 500 pounds of cargo, headed for the goldfields of present-day Colorado. A few days later they entered Nebraska via the Independence-St. Joe Road southeast of Rock Creek. Files of Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper tell of the strange ship. "The Wind Ship of the Prairies: Fort Kearney, May 27, 1860," sent by a Leslie's correspondent to his paper from Fort Kearny, said: "The ship hove in sight about eight o'clock in the morning, with a fresh breeze from N.E. by E.; it was running down in a westerly direction for the fort, under full sail across the green prairie. The guard, astonished at such a novel sight, reported the matter to the officer on duty, and we all turned out to view the phenomenon." The vehicle was described as "a very light built wagon, the body rounded in front, something in shape like a boat, to overcome the resistance of the air. The wheels are remarkably light, large and slender, and the whole vehicle strongly built. Two masts somewhat raked carry large square sails, rigged like ship's sails with halyards, braces, &c., &c. In front is a large coach lamp, to travel by night when the wind is favorable; and it is steered by a helm attached to the fore wheels. A crank and band wheels allow it to be propelled by hand when wind and tide are against them." About a week later the ship was sighted 100 miles west of Fort Kearny by A. L. Frizzell of Iowa, who on May 31 noted the appearance of the "sail wagon" in his diary. Attaining speeds of 15 miles an hour, Peppard cruised to within 100 miles of Denver before his invention was demolished by a small tornado. The voyage had taken three weeks, but only nine days were spent in actual travel. He and his crew rode on into Denver by more conventional transportation powered by four-footed draft animals. ■ PHOTO BY AMY KUCERA This artist's conception of Samuel Peppard's wind wagon as it was departing Fort Kearny in May 1860 appeared in Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper on July 7 of that year. NSHS RG1576-2. 1-800-833-6747 www.nebraskahistory.org/sites and enjoy new transportation exhibits! 10-5 Tuesday - Saturday, 1-5 Sunday 8:30-5 Daily THROUGH LABOR DAY Tree School By Amy Kucera "We need to find a tree that's serious about this," Jack Phillips said jokingly while collecting acorns last fall along a wooded trail outlining Pioneers Park in Lincoln. The bur oaks he walked beneath are tall and magnificent – and becoming increasingly rare. "The old bur oak is on the edge all the time," Phillips said. "We should treat the species as if it were endangered, looking at the age of populations now." The collected acorns, minus the ones nibbled on while in search, will be used for future planting and educational purposes at the New Tree School, an exploration in trees with emphasis on the natural systems approaches to sustainable tree care, which he founded in 2003. Phillips began his career in ecology "slumming around western Syria and the West Bank" in the 1980s, noting once richly forested areas of the Mediterranean region had been nearly all together destroyed, replaced by the hand-planted monoculture of almond trees along the landscape. "It forced the question, 'When is a forest not a forest?'" Phillips said. As a graduate student in Cairo, he decided to skip an afternoon class to take a nap on a carpet within a Medieval mosque. When he awoke, he was surrounded by a teacher and his students, as if no one noticed him, they continued on their lesson, speaking a language he did not know. In this moment, a revelation occurred, in which he discovered the power of immersion as education and paired it with his palpable passion for nature and desire to teach, a path he continues on today. "It is about learning through intimacy, by becoming what you are studying," he explained. "Through this immersion, the experience is the root of knowing." After studying with renowned plant pathologist Alex Shigo, he developed the New Tree School in order to encourage the planting and preservation of native trees effectively and economically, as well as to share his discovery of deep ecology through immersion. This would include the development of community and volunteer tree planting projects, tree health and safety evaluations, tree inventories and biological surveys, native landscape and urban nature center design, as well as through creative arts such as literature. In an ode to the oak nation, his recent book published by Praire Fire Press, Bur Oak Manifesto: Seeking Nature and Planting Trees in the Great Plains, is a collection of essays weaving his ecological experience with language and culture to reveal a mystic glimpse of an ancient ecosystem, and the power of human connections to protect the vital and vanishing wild. A lively storyteller and educator, often quoting naturalist Henry David Thoreau, Phillips has a remarkable sense of the significance of native trees on the landscape. "Trees contribute to our sense of place," Phillips said. "Find a big wild tree, and spend time there. Meet there with your friends." ■ Bring your family, bring your friends and make plans to visit the Nebraska Prairie Museum in Holdrege. See the 16' wide buffalo mural, a life-size buffalo, a two-bearded wild turkey and a sandhill crane. For more information about visiting the museum and the interactive museum map of our exhibits, check out our website. Hours: Mon - Fri: 9 am-5 pm | Sat - Sun: 1-5 pm nebraskaprairie.org 308-995-5015 N. Hwy 183 Holdrege Fort Kearny as it appeared in 1864. NSHS RG2012-4-9. g Jack Phillips, founder of the New Tree School, collects acorns in Lincoln last fall.

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