History Talks

Need a talk for your group? Contact Jeff at jeffbarnesauthor@gmail.com!

The Queen’s Road

The sequel to “The (Mad) Queen of the Prairies,” this covers the fascinating second half of the territorial years, examining how and why Nebraska arrived at its present boundaries, how federal policies promoting white settlement and Native removal forced the territory to become a battleground, our role with the Pony Express, transcontinental telegraph and the amazing “Steam Wagon,” the birth of the legend of Wild Bill Hickok, the impact of the gold rush, and how Nebraska survived a veto to become a state.

The (Mad) Queen of the Prairies

How do you establish a territory? Probably not the Nebraska way, where the seat of government shifted from town to town, where governors were changing every year – sometimes every few months – and where the banks printed their own money. Yet Nebraska was where an Indian chief was once governor and where women very nearly won the vote for the first time. These are the unconventional first years of the Nebraska Territory, a place newspapers called the “Queen of the Prairies.”

The Forts of Nebraska

Nebraska’s forts were among the first, last and most important on the Great Plains, built to promote trade, to protect travelers and settlers, to fight the Indian tribes and then to keep the peace. During that time, they hosted some great names of American history, including Buffalo Bill Cody, Crazy Horse, George Custer, Robert E. Lee, Red Cloud, and Mark Twain. Barnes tells the story of Nebraska’s 12 military forts and what today’s visitors will find at the sites.

Jesse James in Nebraska

The notorious Jesse James typically isn’t thought of in connection with Nebraska… but he was here. Nebraska was where the outlaw could find family and friends. It was where he could plan robberies, make a recovery or an escape, and even sit for his most famous photograph. He wanted to buy a farm here and some even say he started a family here! Author Jeff Barnes shares what’s known of the truth, the fiction, and the legend of Jesse James in Nebraska.

Marking Nebraska

Author/photographer Jeff Barnes shares the images and stories of Nebraska’s lesser known historical monuments, placed far off the beaten path. This is our state’s “hidden history,” with long-forgotten stories and rarely seen landscapes, such as the impact of glaciers on our community monuments, or how Nebraska’s first marker nearly went to the bottom of the Missouri and – once placed at its permanent site – still disappeared for fifty years. Wherever possible, markers of the host’s community are also featured.

Buffalo Bill’s Nebraska

William F. Cody was born, raised, and died elsewhere but it was in Nebraska where he made his home and where the celebrity and legend of Buffalo Bill was born. What happened in the Cornhusker State to create a man who was arguably the world’s first “superstar”? Author Jeff Barnes tells the story of Cody in Nebraska, from his days as an Indian scout, as a hunting guide to the rich and famous, as the creator of “Buffalo Bill’s Wild West,” and his enduring legacy in the state, nation, and world today. PowerPoint presentation with historic and contemporary photos and images.

To Live & Die on the Plains

It wasn’t all sunsets and songbirds in crossing the Great Plains. Death was a frequent and indiscriminate fellow traveler on the wagon trails and he took many forms – disease, gunshot, stampedes, nature, accidents, Indian attack and many more. Author Jeff Barnes presents an interesting look at how you could have “bought the farm” on the Platte River Road, or at least have made a down payment. Rarely seen historic maps, paintings, photographs and other images are used to tell these tales of tragedy from the pioneers.

Sand Hills and Sandlots

The panhandle town of Rushville loved and played baseball like most Nebraska communities. Unlike all others, it was the recipient of a beautiful ball field from the state’s biggest rancher and the host of a Major League baseball school and try-out camp, whose students included a Nebraska boy who struck out Mickey Mantle. Barnes tells the fascinating story of Rushville’s 130 years with baseball and how residents past and present came together in 2014 to rebuild Nebraska’s own “field of dreams.”

Nebraska’s Royal Buffalo Hunt of 1872

When the world’s attention turned to a winter vacation in Nebraska! Historian Jeff Barnes shares the fascinating tale and photographs of Nebraska’s “Buffalo Bill” Cody and Gen. George Armstrong Custer entertaining the Grand Duke Alexis of Russia for the last of the great buffalo hunts on the Great Plains.

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© 2023 Jeff Barnes - Author/Speaker