Pioneer spirit lives on at Grand Island’s Stuhr Museum

Stuhr Museum of the Prairie Pioneer

Nebraskans are proud of our pioneer heritage and spirit. That heritage is on display at Grand Island’s Stuhr Museum of the Prairie Pioneer. The museum offers a look at Nebraska’s history through artifacts and a living history exhibit.

Visitors are greeted by an old train engine and a couple of cars near the museum’s entrance.

Steam Engine at Stuhr museum in Grand Island

A statue commemorating the Martin brothers is located near the Fonner Rotunda. The brothers had been attacked by Native Americans. One arrow went through the body one brother and lodged in the back of the other, pinning them together. They fell from the horse. The Native Americans apparently thought the boys were dead and left them. The boys survived, though the one never fully recovered from the back wound.

Statue commemorating the Martin Brothers

The visitors center at the Fonner Rotunda is home to exhibits covering Native American artifacts, the history of the horse in America and a look at the life of Gus Fonner, one of the city’s early leaders.

Statue representing Native American family in the Fonner Rotunda

The Native American section features a sculpture featuring a family. It sits in the middle of the building, beneath the sunlit dome.

Gloves, moccasins and vests are among the other items on display.

Glove, moccassins, and vests are some items on display

The history of the horse was interesting. It broke down the four types of horses throughout history, beginning with the forerunner – the Equus. This creature was small – about two hands tall. The earliest horse would have been found walking the earth about 20 million years ago.

History of the horse is described in displays

As the equine evolved into today’s horse, it was mainly looked at as a food source. But, people learned they could be tamed and used as transportation. The Spanish were the best among developing the horse as a means of transportation.

As the use for horses as transportation evolved, the type of saddle to use also evolved. From cattle herding to military to the Pony Express, the type of size of saddle varied

Different styles of saddles are on display

Animals on the prairie were often branded with a special design or logo, so others would know who owned them. The styles varied.

Branding the animals goes back a long ways

The rotunda also offered a look at a sitting room that may have appeared in the home of Gus Fonner. Some of the furniture and artifacts belonged to the Fonner estate, while others were donated.

Furniture and artifacts that belonged to the Fonner estate

I thought the saloon/gambling parlor was nice.

Saloon/Gambling Saloon

The main building on the museum grounds is closed for renovation. It’s expected to reopen in July with more items on display.

Garden is in front area before the 1890's town

The museum’s grounds are perfect for a nice walk anytime of the year. We caught some ducks and geese hanging out near a small lake.

Geese and ducks can be found near a small lake on property

The Stuhr Museum is home to my favorite style of museum – the living history museum. It allows people to check out authentic buildings (some may have been built to reflect the era) of a bygone era. Usually, there are re-enactors portraying characters from the time period.

1890's town is a living history museum

Stuhr’s Railroad Town represents a town in the 1890s. The buildings are available for external viewing right now. They open for complete viewing in April. That was OK, though, for our trip. I love looking at the old buildings inside or outside.

The museum grounds is the site of the childhood home of Nebraskan and Academy Award-winning actor Henry Fonda. Fonda grew up in Grand Island. He actually paid to have the house relocated to the museum grounds.

Henry Fonda's home

His house sits next to an old farmstead. The farm has several buildings on it.

Old Farmstead

We stopped to play some old-fashioned horseshoes. I remember my dad set up a horseshoe pit in our backyard, and the fun we had playing. He was very good at the game. Lisa, on the other hand, had never thrown a horseshoe, so it was fun watching her try to toss the shoes toward the pit.

Game of Horseshoes

Walking along the main street of Railroad Town could allow someone to “quantum leap” to the 1890s. Wooden sidewalks and nicely decorated buildings welcomes visitors.

Railroad Town represents an 1890's town

Railroad Town’s main street is home to a barber shop, where you can a shave for a dime or a hot bath for 25 cents.

Barber Shop in Railroad Town

The hotel is a short walk from the local saloon.

Local Saloon in Railroad Town

Railroad Town wouldn’t be complete with a railroad, right? No disappointment here. A nearby train depot is home to a caboose and passenger cars.

Train Depot in Railroad Town

A short jaunt from Railroad Town sit a series of log cabins. It helps give visitors a look at life on the prairie during the homesteading days.

Series of log cabins near Railroad Town

The museum has other buildings a short jaunt from the town.

An old church is on the grounds.

An old church at Stuhr museum of the Prairie Pioneer

A schoolhouse features a look at life back in the day. It has a wooden swing set and an old-fashioned teeter-totter.

An old schoolhouse with swing set and Teeter Totter at Stuhr Museum

Another farm stands on the southwestern edge of the grounds.

Farm on the museum grounds

As we drove out of the museum grounds, we stopped at the machinery building. I had to get a picture of an old John Deere tractor. My dad loved that tractor brand.

Machinery building at Stuhr Museum

While buildings are not currently available for access, visiting the Stuhr is worth a trip any time of the year. Its grounds allow for a nice walk, as well as a chance to check out the buildings’ exteriors.

We enjoyed our visit to Stuhr Museum and plan to return later this year when we can take in checking out all the buildings and see the re-enactors.

For more information on the Stuhr Museum, please visit

Disclaimer: Thank you to the Grand Island Visitors Bureau for the complimentary tickets to Stuhr Museum. However, all opinions and views are ours.