Phelps County Celebrates Nebraska Centennial with Old Settlers’ Picnic—1967

Stereoscope – Jan 2017

by Patti Simpson

Many of our readers will remember little or nothing about this part of our county’s history. The first “Old Settlers Picnic” was held in 1919 at the Peterson’s Summer Resort. The Resort was owned by two brothers, Oscar Peterson and Arthur Peterson on the land that, Dr. Theo. A. Peterson was born in a sod house. The resort was located about 12 miles north of Loomis, then 2 1/2 miles east of the south end of the Overton river bridge on the Platte River. At the suggestion of a farmer, John C. Bohmker, who lived two miles southwest of the resort, an Old Settler’s Picnic was planned to celebrate and honor the first settlers, and what better place to have the event then at the Peterson Resort! The resort had been a favorite picnic spot for many Phelps County residents since 1909. It was the only place in Phelps County where a small place had been dammed up to make a lake. Oscar Peterson even had a boat and charged a nickel a ride. The Old Settlers Picnic gave the young a chance to get together with the pioneers of the community and reminisce about the history of our county. Prominent individuals such as the governor of Nebraska, political candidates and other worldly individuals were the speakers of the event and local groups provided music. The Settlers Picnic was an annual event until 1939 when the event stopped because of the severe drought and depressed conditions. Each year the picnic was promoted with advertising. Prominent people came to speak to the group. A platform was there for use by the ministers, song leaders and speakers. The spectators sat on plank benches. A parade was a usual event, horse shoe pitching contests and exhibitions filled an afternoon, and the picnic closed with a campfire and flares. The event was revived one last time at the Old Peterson Summer Resort on August 13, 1967 under the sponsorship of the Phelps County Historical Society and Dr. Theodore Peterson in celebration of Nebraska’s 100th birthday. A parade of the old settlers began the festivities and included a speech by then Governor Val Peterson and Ted Stutheit, Superintendent of Fort Kearny State Park. Arthur W. Swanson led the singing and Dr. Theo. Peterson slaughtered one of his buffalos to provide buffalo burgers for the picnickers. Fifty of the oldest citizens were honored for their contributions to the growth of Nebraska. Religious services were held in the evening by Carl Dahlstedt, Rev. Hoseth of Westmark, Rev. Gabrielson of Moses Hill, Rev. Hall of Bethel Lutheran of Holdrege and the Salvation Army from North Platte and Kearney, whom Dr. Peterson had long supported. Hard to believe it’s now time to celebrate another milestone. Happy 150th Birthday Nebraska!

—end

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