Questions of the Week – Readers ask about Fourth of July, Chimney Rock, sweet corn, special session

The following questions were asked recently by inquiring readers:


Q: Seward is known as the Fourth of July City in Nebraska. How long has Seward had its Fourth of July celebration?

A: The historical marker in Seward, at 143 South Sixth Street, describes its title as Fourth of July City.

“Since 1868, Seward has, with but few interruptions, sponsored a yearly 4th of July celebration which has gained national attention. This square, the original site of the festival, is today its focal point. Special trains once brought revelers here on the Fourth; today, tens of thousands arrive by auto. With community young people having provided impetus for the celebration, Governor Exon in 1973 designated Seward Nebraska’s Official 4th of July City. In 1976, American Revolution Bicentennial officials cited Seward for its patriotic observances.

“Named Greene in 1958, this county was re-christened in 1862 for Civil War Secretary of State William H. Seward. Platted in 1868, the city of Seward became the county seat in 1871. It is located at the confluence of the Big Blue River, Plum Creek and Lincoln Creek. The Neo-classical Revival Courthouse was built in 1905 under supervision of architect George Berlinghof. Eastern farmers first settled the area, but beginning in the 1870s, the population became infused with German and Czech elements. The fertile countryside is a diversified farming and livestock feeding area. Concordia Teachers College was established in Seward in 1894.”


Q: I recently was at Chimney Rock and while there someone was talking about how it is shrinking. I didn’t hear the answer and was curious as to whether that is true.

A: Chimney Rock has been slightly shrinking over the years due to erosion. Experts also say pieces have broken off by lightning strikes.

Tourism information says the spire has lost about 30 feet in the last 150 years. Today, its summit rises 470 feet above the North Platte River and measures 325 feet tip to base with the spire measuring 120 feet.

While researching this, we also found this information: “Chimney Rock is a 25-million-year-old sandstone and the older layers underneath area clays and volcanic ash particles which were piled on top of each other over millions of years of volcanic eruptions nearby.”

Nearly half a million immigrants and other travelers in the mid-1800s saw Chimney Rock as the first sign their weeks-long journey through the plains was ending.


Q: Why is York’s Fourth of July fireworks show held on July 3?

A: The fireworks show was moved to July 3 years ago so it can be held on a date without competing with other nearby Fourth of July celebrations, including those in Seward and other nearby communities.


Q: My ancestors came here in a covered wagon from the East Coast. My question is how long of a trip would that have been, in a covered wagon?

A: According to the Federal Highway Administration and other sources, the covered wagon could travel 8-20 miles per day, depending upon weather, roadway/terrain conditions and the health of the travelers. It was also noted how some wagon trains did not travel on Sundays, because of the pioneers’ religious beliefs. So a typical trip, if all went well, would take several months.


Q: When will we the Nebraska Legislature convene for special session?

A: Governor Pillen says the start date will be Thursday, July 25, with bill introductions to take place on Friday and Saturday, July 26 and 27. Public hearings will start on Monday, July 29. He earlier told state senators to keep their calendars clear through August 15.


Q: I was picking peas from my garden and the plants looked great. Then I left town for a few days, only to return to see the plants completely dead and dried up, including the pods that had already formed. What happened?

A: If this was recently, it probably was due to the arrival of a few very, very hot days. Peas thrive in cool weather and when it gets really hot, peas are not fans and will quickly die.


Q: I read your feature The Deliciously Dirty pages and really appreciated all the cool old recipes for using sweet corn. My grandma used to make something she called Skillet Corn and I was wondering if you could find a recipe that is something like that.

A: We found a recipe in an old cookbook from the Gresham area which might be similar.

Creamy Skillet Corn

12 ears fresh corn, shucked and cleaned

¼ cup butter

2 tablespoons cornstarch (or flour)

3 teaspoons sugar

3/4-1 cup water (or milk)

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon pepper

In a deep bowl, using a sharp knife, cut the kernels off the cob; go back with a spoon and scrape all the wonderful corn milk off the cob.

In a large iron skillet or heavy bottom skillet, melt butter and then add the corn.

Cook corn on low, simmering for 15-20 minutes or until corn becomes soft and tender.

In a small bowl, while corn is cooking, whisk together cornstarch, sugar, water, salt and pepper to form a slurry; pour over the corn and stir until mixed well.

Simmer for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

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