Nebraska October 31, 2015
8 Shocking Things You Had No Idea Happened In Nebraska
A lot of things have happened in Nebraska, but here are some surprising ones you probably never heard about.
1. The capitol city's name was chosen out of spite.
Omaha had been capital of Nebraska Territory since 1854, but a little over a decade later there was a call to move the capitol south of the Platte River where most of the population resided. Omaha senator J. N. H. Patrick objected, so he gave the village of Lancaster, the most likely candidate, a name he thought would
halt the move.
President Lincoln had recently been assassinated, and his policies had not been popular in the area that is now Lincoln. Senator Patrick believed that if the potential capitol site bore the president's name, the senators in that area would never agree to the change. The name change stuck, but it did nothing to stop the capitol's move.
2. There was a nuclear reactor in the middle of Omaha for 52 years.
(The reactor pictured is not the one that was in Omaha, but it is the same type.)
From 1949 to 2001, the
Alan J. Blotcky Reactor Facility operated on the site of the Omaha Veterans Affairs Medical Center. The reactor was a very safe type that was used for various types of research over the years. After the September 11th attacks in 2001, the site was quickly and quietly shut down and all fuel was removed.
3. It was once illegal to teach any foreign languages in the state.
The Nebraska legislature enacted the Siman Act in 1919, just as anti-German sentiment was swelling. The act was meant to prevent the teaching or studying of any foreign language. A teacher named Robert Meyer was convicted of violating the Siman act in 1920 and took his appeals all the way to the Supreme Court of the United States. The Siman Act was eventually
determined to be unconstitutional.
4. Landlocked Nebraska has a navy with more than 100,000 admirals.
Theodore W. Metcalf, Nebraska's Lieutenant Governor in 1931, found himself in the position of acting governor for a short time. During his tenure, he invented The Great Navy of the State of Nebraska and appointed 20-some "prominent Nebraskans" to the rank of admiral.
Over the years, people such as Johnny Carson, Sir Edmund Hillary, David Letterman, and Queen Elizabeth have been named admirals by sitting Nebraska governors. The rank comes with no pay and doesn't actually mean that the "admiral" is in the military. Rather, it's an honorary title bestowed on people who
contribute significantly to the "good life" in Nebraska.
You don't have to be a celebrity to be honored, but unless the governor appoints you (as he/she does for celebrities), you do have to be a state resident and nominated by someone else.
5. Al Capone's older brother quietly lived out his life here as a Prohibition agent.
(This photo is of Al Capone, not his brother.)
James Vincenzo Capone distanced himself from his family at the age of 16, moving to Nebraska to join the circus. He joined the military and served in WWI, then returned to Nebraska. He changed his name to
Richard James Hart in order to sever ties with his notorious brother, settled in Homer, and became a respected Federal Prohibition agent.
When reporters uncovered his unsavory family ties in the mid-1920s, Hart and his family moved out of Nebraska to escape the publicity. They returned to Homer in 1931 and Hart continued to work as a Prohibition agent until Prohibition was repealed. He then worked as a justice of the peace until his death in Homer in 1952.
6. A Nebraska rancher raised cows to bring on the Second Coming of Christ.
According to some Fundamentalist Christians, Jesus will return after the Third Temple is built in Jerusalem, an event that won't take place until a
very specific type of red heifer is born in Israel.
To hurry the process along, a Mississippi man named Clyde Lott partnered with a Nebraska rancher to breed red heifers and fly them to Israel in the late 1990s. Their hope was that the bloodline would produce the prophesied cow. Luckily for us, none of their cows ever met the stringent requirements that would eventually bring on the Apocalypse.
7. Tyrannosaurus Rex went to court.
In 2012, a man named Tyler Gold went to court to legally change his name to Tyrannosaurus Rex Joseph Gold. His reasons for the change included the new one being "cooler" and the desire for name recognition as an entrepreneur.
8. 344 people picked up a barn and walked it to its new location.
This is such a great story. In 1988, Herman Ostry and his family, of Bruno, needed to move their barn out of the way of dangerous flood waters. The quotes Ostry got from moving companies were too much for the family, so they came up with a better plan: get people from the town to pick it up and move it. Ostry’s son welded a steel grid support structure for the building that allowed each of the 344 volunteers to carry just 55 pounds of the building’s weight. They all worked together to move the barn to its new location as news crews and 4000 spectators watched.
Did you know about all of these very weird things that happened in Nebraska? What other unusual, remarkable, or bizarre events do you know about? Share your stories in the comments.