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Southern Jog



1776 Bicentennial Prairie Marker

While you are stopped, learn about Nebraska Chautauquas.

Roca, Nebraska; Lancaster County

This marker was installed in honor of America’s Bicentennial. The United States Bicentennial was a series of celebrations held in 1976. It paid tribute to the creation of the United States of America and was a central event in the memory of the American Revolution. The Bicentennial concluded on Sunday, July 4, 1976, with the 200th anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence by the Founding Fathers in the Second Continental Congress.







This marker overlooks a natural, unplowed prairie. This prairie resembles Nebraska’s landscape 200 years ago when the country was founded. These grasses provided food for buffalo, elk, deer, and antelope. The pure spring-fed streams were a source of hydration for animals and birds. Wild strawberries, grapes, plum, and chokecherry bushes grew. Walnut, cottonwood, and willow trees provided shade. The area was adorned with colorful flowers such as wild indigo, purple coneflower, goldenrod, and more. 

The trail the Pawnee Nation once used is now part of U.S. Highway 77. The Oto Nation also shared the region. To the east, John Prey, A. J., and Richard Wallingford, among others, were some of Lancaster County’s first immigrants. To the north, the Fort Kearny Cut-off carried wagon trains west. Settlers used the sod to build their homes.

This marker rests on railway land. William Mitchell purchased it in the early 1880s. Charlton Mitchell, his grandson, and other descendants have preserved it.


While you are stopped, learn about Nebraska Chautauquas

Nebraska played an important role in the Chautauqua movement. The movement aimed to bring culture to rural areas across America. The movement began in 1874 at Lake Chautauqua, New York. Religious leaders gathered for summer education sessions. Over time, the idea spread across the country. The focus shifted from religion to politics and entertainment. Chautauquas provided music, debates, lectures, and sermons.

 The Crete Chautauqua was established in 1883. It became the largest assembly in the country. Up to 5,000 people would attend the ten-day summer meetings. William Jennings Bryan and the Slayton Jubilee Singers were popular acts. Large and small assemblies could be found across the state. Lincoln, Beatrice, and twenty other Nebraska towns had assemblies. 

Traveling Chautauqua troupes performed in hundreds of towns across the Midwest. In time Vaudeville, movies, and radio replaced Chautauquas. The Crete Chautauqua closed down in 1898. During their time Chautauquas entertained, educated, and inspired thousands.

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