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  • Fontenelle Forest Nature CenterFontenelle Forest Nature Center Bellevue, Nebraska
    Bellevue, Nebraska is just south of Omaha, and the first city in the state, being incorporated in 1855. Fontenelle Forest has a great history of human settlements and usage, beginning with the early Native Americans that lived here, evidenced by the archeological explorations that have discovered over 70 known sites of lodges and mounds that have become known as the Nebraska phase which existed in the 1100 to 1400 AD. period. When Lewis and Clark journeyed across the northern expanses of this great nation, they had to have went through this area. Joshua Pilcher constructed a trading post in 1822 for the Missouri Fur Company in the forest region, by the great marsh and thus started the early settlement of Bellevue. Soon it became a big stopover of the Rocky Mountain fur trading routes and was bought by Lucien Fontenelle, in 1828, who was a French-American fur trader. Years later, it would become an Indian Agency headquarters run by the US government. One interpreter of the agency was named Logan Fontenelle, the son of Lucien and his Omaha Indian wife, Me-Um-Bane. Logan would learn both heritages, and was a very respected spokesperson for the Omaha tribe before he was killed by a raiding Sioux war party at the age of 30. Both he and his father were buried on the forest grounds, although no one is sure of where those burial sites are located; although the forest was named after Logan. A group of area businessmen and scholars met in 1910 to decide if they could save some of the lands along the Missouri River that were located just south of Omaha for future generations. In that time, the land had most of its forests cut down, except for the areas in the ravines, and when the state declined to allow them to purchase the area for preservation purposes, the group bought the land themselves. The Fontenelle Forest Association was formed in 1913 to do that, and the state parks system was still 8 years in the future. The first World War caused the group to delay buying any lands, but in 1920, they were able to get $60,000 to acquire their first tract which was 300 acres. Today that small plot has grown into 1400 acres with gifts, trades and purchases. Before the mid 1960s, the area was used primarily for hiking and picnicking, with only a caretaker to manage the land. During that period, Omaha city forester, Jim Malkowski started taking folks for an educational hike in the woods, which became quite popular and this was the prelude to the Fontenelle Forest Nature Center, and Jim became the first director. In 1995, the group was able to acquire another 262 acres to Neale Woods when they bought the Krimlofski lot with the wonderful help of the Lozier Foundation. Now the tract would run all the way to the Missouri River and include a small pond, a mile of river frontage and an area of bluffs. In these bluffs, is the former site of Manuel Lisa's Fort Lisa, that was built in 1813, as a trading post.

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  • Boys TownBoys Town Bellevue, Nebraska
    Boys Town is a village in Douglas County, Nebraska and suburb of Omaha that was started by Father Edward J. Flanagan for the care, treatment and education of at-risk children, in 1921. It was originally begun to be an orphanage for boys, and was part of the pioneering efforts of the City of Little Men that had been started to create new juvenile care methods for the 20th century. Starting in 2004, a major renovation began to improve the numerous systems that had been used for decades. The Hall of History is the museum about the history of Father Flanagan's Boys Home and the Boys Town programs, that is housed in the former dining hall of the village that was constructed in 1939. One of the most prominent exhibits in the museum is the Academy Award Oscar that Spencer Tracy won for his portrayal of Father Flanagan in the movie, "Boys Town". Father Flanagan's house that was constructed in 1927, is where the priest lived until 1941, then moved to the Boys Town Dowd Memorial Chapel. This historic house museum is furnished as it was in 1929, and contains many of the father's personal effects. One of the most notorious boys to attend the town was Charles Manson, who escaped from the village with another boy, only 4 days after he had arrived. The Down Memorial Chapel of the Immaculate Conception is modeled after a 15th century Gothic church, with the shrine to the father and his vault where he was interred. Another building on the property is the Leon Myers Stamp Center, which is an office and museum in the visitor center that promotes stamp collecting. The displays include many stamps with children or children's fairy tales, stamps that were designed by children, philatelic and many other educational exhibits. This center helps support the village's programs by sales of donated stamps. Another well known, or not so known today, boy that grew up here is Navy Commander Lloyd Bucher, the commander of the USS Pueblo, that was captured by North Korea as a spy ship in 1968.

January 11, 2011