Thedford- May of this year marked the 125th anniversary of a tragedy that rocked not only the Haumann family that lost a daughter and a sister, but the whole country as well. The story was published in many a national newspaper as well several of the state’s papers. It also was included in Nebraska history books at the turn of the century.
One only has to walk in these Sandhills a little way out of view of a fenceline, trail or powerline to set themselves to the scene the sisters saw back in 1891 – an ocean of grass, with green and brown waves on the horizon for miles and miles.
It is also very fitting that for this milestone anniversary of the ‘Little Girls Lost in the Hills’, two tributes were dedicated for passer byes, be they local or visitors, to learn of this piece of Thomas county’s early history.
May of this year saw the dedication of the Nebraska state historical marker with the narrative of the sisters’ plight. Saturday, Oct. 1., the second tribute was dedicated beside the marker, that of a life size bronze statue, titled ‘Journey of Angels’ by its creator, Linda Egle. Egle is a rancher with her husband Norm, west of Thedford. She is a world renown artist in many mediums. Some of her life size bronzes grace the communities of Cody, WYO, Valentine and Elkhorn, NE to name a few.
“This story has intrigued me for over 35 years, with a dream of doing a life size bronze of the sisters,” explained Egle. Many organizations and individuals rallied around her vision. “The marker cost $5600, and was paid half by our Thomas Co. Visitor’s Committee (TCVC) and the rest by the Thomas Co. Historical Society (TCHS), Thedford Area Community Foundation Fund (TACFF), some of the Haumann family members and other individuals. The bronze funding came from the above donors, as well as from Linda who had made and sold 2’ replicas with some of the proceeds going towards that. Consolidated Communications and the Thedford UCC Women’s Fellowship donated as well. A $5,000 grant from the Ethel Abbot Foundation, written by Helen White, curator and treasurer of the TCHS also contributed to the completion,” explained Jay Jones, president of the TCHS and emcee for the day.
Humanities Nebraska speaker, Cherrie Beam-Callaway came to Thedford last September to help raise funds for the marker. This story gripped her as a fourth grader, and when she began narrating in first person the journey of the early residents to Nebraska, she received permission from the family to tell the story. She returned at the marker dedication in May with the 2nd of her 3 presentations, and her final presentation was heard by the 60 plus in the audience at the American Legion post after a lunch provided by Town and Country FCE. All then walked up the street to the courthouse square where the draping over the bronze was removed. Adding much to the ascetics of the new tourism destination in Thedford, was the seasonal landscaping completed by volunteers, Shannon Ahlstrom, Michelle (Nutter) McIntosh and Deb Call.
Special guests on hand for the dedication was the sisters’ nephew, Dave Haumann who will be 95 in November, his wife Vada of 67 years, their three children and spouses, son Alan and Ronda, Janice and Mike Hodges and Warren and Shari all of Thedford. Some of Dave’s grandchildren and great grandchildren were also on hand. Coming all the way from Texas were Dave’s nieces, Debbie Cavallin and Deena Geistman.