Just when you think you know all there is to know about our fair state, along comes a few more tidbits of knowledge to remind you that Nebraska still holds some surprises. These factoids are generally not taught in school, but that doesn’t make them any less real – or any less fascinating.
1. This triply-landlocked state was once under an ocean.
In the Late Cretaceous Period - around 75 million years ago - Nebraska was at the bottom of the Western Interior Seaway. You can still find marine animal fossils in the limestone quarries here.
2. Nebraska may (or may not) have been home to very early humans.
An archaeological dig near Omaha in 1894 uncovered a skull that was far different from the Native American skulls the diggers expected to find. It had a far more prominent brow and thick skull walls. In 1906, another Nebraska dig uncovered a similar unidentifiable skull. A few scientists claimed that the skulls proved the existence of Neanderthals in North America - if true, this would completely shatter all theories of how humans came to live in this area of the world. Later scientists discredited the theory of the "Nebraska loess man" (named for the loose soil in which the skulls were found) and decided that the skulls were those of modern humans. No one has ever been able to explain their resemblance to Neanderthal skulls, however.
3. Part of Nebraska once tried to secede.
After Omaha was named the territory's capital in 1854, settlers in southern Nebraska were outraged and demanded the capital be moved further south. Spirited debates on the issue took place and often ended in fighting. Southern Nebraskans considered breaking off from the rest of the territory and joining Kansas, but when the Civil War began the entire debate was put on hold. When Nebraska attained statehood the capital was moved to Lincoln and all talks of breaking up the northern and southern parts of the state were put to rest.
4. Nebraska was home to a large colony of African American homesteaders.
DeWitty, later known as Audacious, was a village in Cherry County. A number of African American settlers came here in the early 20th century to avail themselves of the land provided to settlers under the Kinkaid Act. In 1910, 24 families lived in DeWitty. In 1920, the village's population had grown to 185. These early settlers farmed some 40,000 acres around DeWitty. Unfortunately, farmers in the DeWitty area met with a similar fate to farmers all across the Great Plains. Droughts, crop failure, and a weak economy caused most residents to lose their properties to the banks. The last DeWitty resident left in 1936, and the village was disincorporated the same year.
Recently, DeWitty finally got the recognition it deserves as an area of historical significance. A Nebraska State Historical Marker was installed at the site of the former village on April 11, 2016.
5. Nebraska was bombed by the Japanese in WWII.
A balloon bomb made its way all the way from Japan to Omaha where it exploded in the air in 1945. The bomb caused no damage, but the site has gone down in history as the only place in Nebraska to be bombed by enemies in the war. Read more of the story - and how Nebraska was "bombed" by friendly fire -
Did you know all of these bits of Nebraska history? What are some other interesting things about our state that aren’t taught in schools? Leave your stories in the comments!