Nebraska February 09, 2017
The Day Trip Of A Lifetime You Can Only Take In Nebraska
When we think of Nebraska’s early days, we don’t always consider just how diverse the population was. In 1874, a group of 35 Mennonite families from the Molotshna Colony in Russia settled in the Henderson area in York County. Their early life in Nebraska is now commemorated at the Henderson Mennonite Heritage Park.
When in Russia, the Mennonites were promised free land, religious freedom, and exemption from serving in the military.
However, in the 19th century things began to change. Fearing a loss of religious freedom and protection, thousands of Mennonites fled Russia between 1874 and 1880. One of the first groups to settle in America was the group of 35 families that settled in the Henderson area.
Agents of the Burlington River Railroad played a vital role in getting the settlers to their new home and setting them up in their new lives.
The railroad built the Mennonites' first house in their new home. The settlers stayed in Lincoln for a month while construction took place.
After a month in Lincoln, the immigrant house was complete and ready for its new occupants.
The home was two rooms, 80 feet long and 20 feet wide - a tight fit for 35 families. It was never meant to be a long-term residence, and the settlers got to work immediately building their own individual homes. They not only survived their first days in their new home; they began to thrive.
The community faced plenty of hardships in their new home, but they ultimately overcame the obstacles and made a comfortable life for themselves in Nebraska.
Today, you can visit the site of the Mennonite settlement and learn about their unique history at the Henderson Mennonite Heritage Park just outside of Henderson.
A replica of the immigrant house is an interesting part of the visit. Also on the grounds are a barn built in 1911 (pictured above), a country schoolhouse, a church, machine shed, farmhouse, and visitors center.
Henderson Mennonite Heritage Park isn't one of the most well-known attractions in Nebraska; it's something of a hidden gem.
It's a unique educational opportunity for kids and adults alike, teaching a part of Nebraska history that is often forgotten.
The park is a sort of living history museum. Kids of all ages can come to dress up, explore the buildings, and learn from the park's exhibits.
Activities and demonstrations teach visitors about what life was like back in the settlers' days.
Lots of fun activities take place throughout the year, from a great Christmas celebration to the annual Heritage Day celebration.
Visitors can even pose for old-timey photographs and to go back in time for a day.
Farmers' Valley Cemetery is nearby and holds some of the area's first European settlers. Nine Civil War veterans and a Nebraska state senator were also laid to rest here.
The cemetery is a peaceful, lovely place to tour.
Admission to the park is $5 per person, and their normal season is Memorial Day to Labor Day. Find the park at 720 Rd B, 1 1/2 mi. south of I-80 Exit 342. Learn more on the Park’s
website or Facebook page.
For another side of Nebraska history, check out
these 9 railroad museums.