Fort Omaha is the main campus of Omaha’s Metropolitan Community College system. It has maintained the look and history of its original function as a fort. General George Crook was the commander of Fort Omaha during the late 1870s. His home has been maintained as a state treasure.
The general was a Civil War veteran. He was one of the best Army leaders during the Indian wars. He was respected and feared by Native Americans. He was a strong fighter, but treated Native Americans with respect.
When he was assigned to Fort Omaha, a home was designated to be built for Crook and his family. The house’s construction costs were estimated at $10,000. He thought that was too much for a house. He finally agreed to a budget of about $7,500.
While the house was built on a moderate budget, it didn’t lack amenities. It had a great hallway and stairway inside the front door.
A reception room was immediately off of the main hall. Crook and his wife were expected to entertain visiting dignitaries. Presidents US Grant and Rutherford B. Hayes visited Fort Omaha.
The room has a Steinway piano that was likely delivered via the Missouri River. A Regina music box as coin-operated.
The Crooks would spend evenings as a family in the parlor, when not entertaining visitors. The parlor was a nice-looking room.
The dining room was used as the Crooks hosted several dinners, including one for President and Mrs. Grant. Another dinner was hosted for the Hayes. Both president’s events were described as “two remarkable events” for the area.
There is a small table setting in a bay window in the dining room. I assume this may have been used by the general and his wife for breakfast. It looks it would have had a nice view of the fort’s grounds.
General Crook had a study on the main floor. The office featured stuffed animals, books and papers.
I thought a couple of the guest chairs were interesting, using animal horns as part of the frame.
As you make your way to the second floor, you may notice some wedding toppers on shelves. There is a small collection on exhibit.
The guest room was used during visits by Grant and Hayes. All five presidents from Grant to Grover Cleveland visited Fort Omaha. Hawaii’s King Kalakalua also visited the fort.
The Crooks slept in separate bedrooms – common for the period. Mary Crook’s room was considered the coolest room to sleep in temperature wise. The bed was made of straw. The accommodations were to her liking, despite Fort Omaha being considered on the frontier.
General Crook’s room allowed him to be accessible to his aides at all times. The general’s bed once belonged to Senator Charles Manderson of Omaha. Mrs. Crook likely picked out the wallpaper and rug in the room.
General Crook advised Manderson that Fort Omaha was too small to train soldiers. The senator later supported a bill to create Fort Crook south of Omaha. It’s now known as Offutt Air Force Base.
The house’s basement is used to host temporary exhibits by the Douglas County Historical Society. During our visit, the exhibit highlighted Omaha’s mob during prohibition.
Outside the house, a statue of General Crook sits among the flowers and plants in the garden.
General Crook played a major role in a trial that resulted in Native Americans being recognized as human beings. In 1878, Chief Standing Bear sued General Crook and the United States. He sought the right to bury his son in his tribal homeland for the Poncas, in northeast Nebraska. The tribe had been forced to relocate to Indian Territory in present-day Oklahoma. The chief and others were arrested after reaching the Omaha Indian reservation. The Omaha had welcomed the Poncas.
Crook testified for the Standing Bear team during the trial. The court ruled that Standing Bear was a person and should not have been arrested. He and his followers were freed.
A monument recognizing Chief Standing Bear is located at the fort’s flag pole.
The Crook house is definitely worth the hour to visit. While at Fort Omaha, you may want to take a walk around the grounds and take in the beauty of the older buildings.
For more information on General Crook house and Fort Omaha, please visit www.douglascohistory.org.