Updated: Apr 29, 2022
September 27 2020
Gering is a quaint town that was founded in 1887 and adjacent to Scottsbluff in Nebraska’s panhandle. It’s home to the original Oregon Trail and Chimney Rock that many pioneers passed by on their way west. It’s also home to 2011 Miss America, Teresa Scanlan, and one of the top museums in the mid-west, Legacy of the Plains, that displays her crown.
There are several buildings on this working ranch and farm (yes, there are cattle and fresh vegetables.) At the entrance, there is a gift shop and a space for community events, including an annual fundraising steak dinner (that is, unfortunately, going to be delayed for another year.)
The focus is namely agriculture and it makes sense as the museum is surrounded by fields and is only five miles away from the Great Western Sugar Factory, sugar beets being a prevalent crop.
Scottsbluff is a true mix of the melting pot of America and the displays feature all those who were and are still currently here. It’s an area that was originally home to mainly the Cheyenne and Arapahoe tribes. As immigration continued, the population of the Scottsbluff area changed and other displays showcase those who came to work the crops among other professions. These included the Germans from Russia, Greeks as well as people from Mexico and Japan.
With a guide, you can tour some of the exterior buildings. Sherry was gracious enough to take me through one house from the mid-20th century. The upstairs is decorated in a 1950’s style and the downstairs with 1930’s furnishings. Many working pieces of farm equipment are strewn between the house, the veggie and flower garden as well as the massive building featuring classic cars and farm equipment. The equipment is used for the Legacy of the Plains Museum Harvest Festival, which is usually the third weekend in September. A cabin from Minatare, which was once the residence of Ben and Cora Gentry, is next door. The homestead was added onto as the Gentry’s added children to their family but prior to it coming to the museum, it was stripped and only the 2-room cabin, which was originally a schoolhouse, was moved over.
The children Cora and Ben had were attended to by Dr. Georgia Arbuckle Fix, the first female graduate of the Nebraska School of Medicine in Omaha. This eccentric doctor, with a love of canaries, was inventive in solving major medical issues within the 75-mile radius in which she worked. A display honoring Nebraska’s own “Dr. Quinn” is another fascinating story you’ll find meandering around the complex.
Art is also on display in the museum from traditional pieces to unique horse saddles. One room, in particular, showcases many hand-sewn quilts. One made by Mary Ann Jane (Plumbly) Simmons in the 1880s was on display in the Smithsonian in 2007. One must see it in person to understand why. Its complex and colorful design is unique and each quilt featured has its own story and sometimes even hardship attached, such as the Rebecca Winters Quilt.
As you walk the edge of the museum you see a timeline of the area. The most poignant at this time is the display of the iron lungs and crutches from the polio epidemic in the 1950s. Standing there, in my mask, viewing the last time a horrible disease wreaked havoc on society was an emotional experience, to say the least.
However, the most interesting aspect of my trip was not planned at all… There’s a narrow room in the complex and, in it, a few displays. As David Wolf, the Executive Director of the museum, was showing me around, we walked past a gentleman visiting with another museum employee. They sat in front of the newest addition to their complex, which was not only this exhibit but another exterior building that just got moved to the property in 2019. It is still in the process of being opened up to the public. The Japanese Hall was a community space for those that not only worked in the fields but Father Flannagan, the founder of Boys Town, even recruited professionals to the state as many residents were lost to the war.
As I was left to meander the exhibits the gentleman named Shin Mune came up to me and asked what I was doing. I let him know about the article I was writing and he let me know why he was there. Shin called himself, Nisei (Nee-say), or second-generation that was born to immigrant parents.
He is 84 now and touring the towns where people farmed and where the former internment camps were located. He’s fluent in Spanish and feels “at home” in the fields with the hard-working Latino community. His native language is English and he refused to learn Japanese after being moved from Santa Barbara, California as a child to an internment camp during WWII. His family was relocated to Topaz in Delta, Utah for a few months starting in October of 1942.
He started his recent journey in San Jose where his family founded Mune Farms and came from Wyoming this morning visiting the Heart Mountain Relocation Center. This, after passing through Idaho and was headed to Limon, Colorado in the afternoon. We talked for a while. It was only within the last few years that I had learned about the Japanese internment camps and was intrigued to listen to his stories. To also find such a vibrant community that came to the Scottsbluff area after leaving the camps was also moving. The community center will be something to see once it opens in the years to come.
This is just a few highlights of the many displays of art, history, fashion and farming that I’ve touched on. There’s so much more, which is why the Legacy of the Plains Museum is considered one of the best and I’m not just saying that. It’s been featured in several magazines as the place to see. To get the full experience yourself, visit during the times listed below and enjoy the midwest hospitality.
Legacy of the Plains Museum
Monday – Saturday – 9:00am – 5:00pm
Sunday – 1:00pm – 5:00pm
Tuesday – Saturday – 9:00am – 5:00pm
Tuesday – Saturday – 10:00am – 4:00 pm
Adults – (19 +) $10.00
Veterans – $9.00
College Students – $5.00
Youth (6 – 18) – $5.00
Under 5 – Free
Please visit their website for further information: