Blue Springs City Park
100 N A Street
Blue Springs, Nebraska
Managed by the City of Blue Springs

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National Registry Placement Ceremony

Featured Speaker - Ruben A. Acosta
Registry Coordinator for the Nebraska State Historical Society

Click to see video of Ruben's speech

Saturday, August 15, 2015
Blue Springs City Park
Blue Springs, Nebraska  

160th Anniverary as a Pioneer Cabin - 1855-2015
65th Anniversary as a Museum - 1950-2015

National Register of Historical Places - Listed 28 July 2015
Criteria A: Education as an example of mid century interpretations of history
via local history museums and relocated buildings. (The Cabin represents one approach
communities implemented across Nebraska to recognize and promote local history)


When Reverend James H. Johnson (page 695) crossed the Missouri River in the spring of 1855, he knew little about the vast, treeless prairie that lay in front of him. A Methodist minister from Iowa, his calling was to minister to the Otoe-Missouria Indians, a tribe whose vast hunting lands had been reduced to 250 square miles of Federal Reservation land the year before. When wagon trains were making their way through the Kansas-Nebraska territory through the 1840s, millions of acres of grassland just west of the Missouri river were passed by unsettled and maps labeled his destination as part of "The Great American Desert" (a desert in those days was simply land that was treeless and remote).

Johnson had no thought of filing for "Homestead" land, the "Homestead Act of 1862" was seven years into his future, so he staked out (squatted on) a plot of ground near a creek in the Blue River Valley a few miles from the northern border of the Indian Reservation. There were mature oaks and cottonwoods in the valley and he felled several oaks to chop into logs for his cabin, logs that have now stood the test of time over 160 years. The log cabin, rising from the meadow, was a sturdy 14' x 16' one story with a loft. When it was finished, he dug a well near the entrance and hollowed out two oak branches for buckets. As the leaves began to turn and winter was destined to set in, James hitched his wagon and traveled 350 miles east to his family in Mount Pleasant, Iowa. There was little chance of survival alone through the harsh winters of the prairies of the Great Plains.


It is not known whether the Reverend returned to the cabin and his calling in 1856. In the Spring of 1857, he set out in a covered wagon drawn by a pair of oxen named Buck & Jerry. At his side was his family; wife Martha (33), daughters Mary (12) and Martha (5), and sons Thomas (10), Allen (8) , James (7) and Richard (4). They crossed the Missouri River at Nebraska City by ferry and started their new life surrounded by the beautiful Blue River Valley. Tragedy came quickly on the plains that fall, while gathering drift wood near the Blue River, eight year old Allen waded out on a sandbar, stepped into a hole and drowned. He was buried on the banks of the river and later reinterred as the first recorded burial in the Methodist Cemetery (the Blue Springs Cemetery) just north of Blue Springs.

The Cabin (photo undated) in its original surroundings 1/4 mile north
of Riverside Farm in a clearing just SE of the Mud Creek bridge.

Reverend Johnson fulfilled his calling to preach to the Indians and went on to organize the first Sunday School and Methodist Class. They met in area log cabins in the winters and in the shade of nearby Oak Groves in the summer. In 1862, a typhoid epidemic broke out. Johnson road horseback from place to place offering to care for the sick until he was stricken and died at the age of 45, leaving Martha with 6 children to raise. She went on to live the life of a true pioneer, facing prairie fires (1871 the worst) and grasshopper invasions which in 1876 darkened the sun and stopped trains. Martha passed on in 1899 and rests beside James in the Blue Springs Cemetery.

Martha M. Johnson

In the summer of 1861, James & Catherine Hollingworth (son Joseph page 156) arrived in the area with their large family of 25 children and grandchildren. The Johnson's had built a new stick frame house on their land and James rented the cabin from Martha for 2 seasons and helped with the farming. The Hollingworth family went on to own large limestone quarries a few miles to the north and were instrumental in founding Holmesville.

Johnson Cabin moved to Blue Springs City Park
February 1949



"In order to bring back some of the memories of old time Blue Springs, the project is being opened to bring the cabin into the park." Maude Boston.

The little cabin project launched in November of 1948 and opened as a museum in May of 1950 went on to exhibit the history of the Blue Springs area to thousands of visitors over the span of 65 years.

Maude Boston was a pioneer in the use of the 1855 log cabin as a museum. Following her lead, the Homestead National Monument moved the 1867 Palmer-Epard cabin to their park in June of 1950. In Bellevue, the 1830s cabin, now a museum, was lived in as a private residence until 1954 when the Sarpy County Historical Society purchased the property. It should be noted, with due respect, the 1855 Mayhew cabin in Nebraska City was opened to the public in 1938 to help to tell the story of the Underground Railroad.

Boston's "Pioneer Club" was organized for the purpose of raising funds, gathering volunteers to move the cabin to the Blue Springs City Park, for its restoration, collection and preparation of local historical memorabilia for display and for acting as museum custodians and docents.

After three days of preparation, the Pioneer Club and its volunteers successfully loaded and moved the 14 x 16 foot cabin 1 ½ miles to the city park on February 22, 1949. Through the summer months that followed, materials and money came in to prepare for the restoration of the building. Salvaged brick from the burned Blue Springs Methodist church was donated for the fireplace, native wood from the original land was chopped and sawed to replace logs in the walls where necessary, windows were donated, and native walnut slabs were used to build the front door.

In May of 1949 a concrete foundation and floor was poured, left over concrete was used for a sidewalk. A limestone block from the foundation of the Methodist Church was used for the stoop at the cabin door and suitable local clay was found for chinking the log walls. By November 9, 1949, the new shingled roof and gabled ends had been completed (materials from the Wymore Lumber Company cost $98.63). Two upstairs windows were oiled, broken panes replaced and installed. Brick was fashioned into a fireplace around an old window opening once used at the cabins original site to vent a stove pipe (the original window frame can still be seen framing the interior fireplace). Only the bottom log at the rear of the building was left to reveal the original site of a long abandoned fireplace. The search went on some time for a downstairs window needed to fit the original opening. Mr. Peckham donated the steps from the old Blue Springs Opera House for the stairway and a platform was built for its landing.

By May of 1950, the last window had been installed and volunteers were working to have the exterior finished by Decoration Day. Visitors were already stopping by to see the little museum which opened that May. In May of 1951, Maude's husband, Jess, fixed a little fire in the fireplace and the Pioneer Club held its first meeting of that year in the cabin.

From the first news of plans for a museum, the people of Southern Gage County began donating treasured local memorabilia to exhibit. Ninety years young, Caroline Yother was among the first to donate an old iron tea kettle. A photograph of the original lady of the house, Martha Johnson, was donated by the Johnson family along with their story and hearty well wishes for the success of the little museum. No photo of the gentleman of the house who passed on in 1862 was ever found. There was a chair from one of the first settler's in the area, most certainly brought with the family from Richmond, VA. Buffalo horns, carriage lamps, a cutting board, a newspaper from the Civil War era printed on wallpaper, a family bible donated by the Gambee's, a side saddle over 70 years old in 1949 whose 84 year old owner could still read, write and crochet without glasses added to the collection. A tin of buttons, a soap stone once used as a foot warmer on long wagon rides, dishes, rocking chairs, pioneer farm tools, kitchen utensils, traveling trunks, turn of the century band uniforms, and antique dressers from landmark living rooms ... the collection was indeed large by the time the museum doors opened. Among crowd favorites is the buffalo robe donated by the Coleman family with the fur trader's trademark hidden on the back for decades (now on display). There are old town records: 1870s voter lists, town council minutes, photo albums sadly without names of faces. There are photos of several later residents of the cabin and posted stories of their life there. Where evidence no longer remained, the elders of the town were there to tell its stories.

Memorial Day 1957
Photo by Elwin Trump
Left to Right - Juanita Trump, Mabel Harris, Grace Rice, Mrs. Schwab (Rev), Hattie Tays,
Maude Boston, Kate Wilterdink, Mrs. Foreman, Vera Reedy, Myrle Davis, Dan Hevelone,
Jess Boston. seated near table - Laura Balgue, Elizabeth Evans.

For over 65 years, the Johnson Cabin Museum's care has been lovingly handed down through the generations. We've attempted to list some of the organizations and people who played a substantial part in its restoration, preservation and opening of its door to the public through the years.

To the people of Blue Springs - this is YOUR heritage!

The Pioneer’s Club

“Anyone interested in paying tribute to our early pioneers and who wishes to have a part in helping preserve some of the relics of that early day so that coming generations may know, first hand, something of the way of life of those souls who braved the wilds and passed this way so that we, today, might have a rich and abundant life - is welcome to join this club.”

Maude (Reedy) Boston (1897-1990)
Jesse Boston (1888-1979)
Laura Rice (1883-1970)
Myrle Davis (1895-1979)
Estel Smith (1884-1962)
Mabel Harris (1880-1968)
Caroline Richardson
Ida (Ellis) Zeman (1909-1998)
Ada Knight (1878-1961)
Kate Wilterdink
Nettie Davis (1892-1965)
Gertrude Thoman (1884-1974)
Helen (Knight) Crane (1895-1977)
Juanita “Nita” Trump (1896-1982)
Move to Blue Springs Park – February 22, 1949
Homer Knight (1873-1963)
Mike Martin
Claude Miller(1893-1959)
William Linscott (1876-1962)
Lewis Reedy (1909-1978)
Jesse Boston (1888-1979)
Denny Rice
Dorrance Costello (1906-1970)
Gus Haubel
Louis Crafford (1885-1954)
Coy Richardson
Jasper Martin (1882-1967)
Harley Trump (1895-1961)
Earl Wickersham
Ray Baker (1900-1982)
Elmer Boughen (1916-1970)
Burlington Railroad
The Friendship Circle
Helena Casebeer (1914-2000)
Louise (Rathe) Hobbs (1914-2008)
Chris (1903-1967) & Eva (1909-1977) Petersen (Petersen Grocery)
Mary Creek (1915-1979)
Wilma (Wignall) Maine (1910-1996)
Gretta Coleman (1903-1978)
Guy Leta Hagood (1914-1998)
Marie Cole (1910-1980)
Blue Springs United Methodist Church
Willing Workers
Gage County Heritage Preservation
City of Blue Springs
Mayor Joe Schiermeyer (1896-1981)
Councilman Tom Wolf (1953-2015)
Councilman Gary Neumann (1944-2015)
Mayor Lonnie Meyer
Councilman Radar Reedy
Councilwoman Verona Neumann
Councilman Glenn Mewes
Councilman Hugh Carmichael
Gene & Rosalee Reedy
Jan Eloise Morris
Dedicated to the Family and Descendants of
Reverend James H. and Martha Johnson
True Pioneers of Gage County

In 2016, funds were raised to plant a river birch on the John Cabin Museum grounds.

Left to Right - Mike Trump (standing where his grandmother Juanita Trump stood in 1957), Sam, Radar, Rosalee & Gene Reedy are standing where Gene's aunt, Maude Boston, stood. Vera (Reedy) Crumb is standing where she stood at the age of 13 in 1957, Janet & Randy Roberts (donors for tree), Joyce & Frank Swanson (donors for tree), Deb & Bill Swanson (donors for tree), Maurice Cullison now owns the Mabel Harris house (donor for tree), Neil VanBoening, Jan Eloise Morris.

Tree Donor's not pictured. Dean Cole, Mae Marie Schultze, Paul & Loretta Shoup, Robert & Arnola Zabokrtsky, Dean Scheideler, Kim Ruhge.

May 8, 2016 - Photo Courtesy Wymore Arbor State


Summer 1855 - Rev James H. Johnson arrives in Gage County from Mount Pleasant, Iowa with the intention of ministering to the Otoe-Missouri Reservation. He builds the cabin (see notarized letter submitted by Edward Clawson - Exhibit) near the Big Blue River on land as a squatter and returns to Iowa for the winter.

Summer 1857 - James returns to Gage County with his family (wife Martha, daughters Mary and Martha and sons, Allen, James and Richard). That fall Allen drowned in the river and would later be reinterred to become the first recorded burial in the Methodist Cemetery (now the Blue Springs Cemetery).

Oct 1859 - James enters into a Bond agreement with Charles T. Hillyer of Hartford CT to purchase the 160 acres (Twp 002N Rng 007E SE1/4 Sec 9) where the cabin stood for $286.

Sept 1860 - Patent is issued to Charles T Hillyer for same property. Johnson Family is living in the Cabin

1862 - Rev. James dies in a typhoid epidemic leaving Martha to raise her children on the Frontier. James Hollingworth and his family arrive from Wisconsin and rent the cabin from Martha for 2 seasons. Her family lives in a frame house recently built nearby on the farmstead.

April 1863 - Hillyer Quit Claims Deed to the property to Johnson Heirs in receipt of $300

1877 - Martha Johnson Quit Claims the property to her daughter Mattie Johnson (later Clawson) and the property is owned by Johnson descendants until Mrs. C. B Cross (granddaughter of James) sells it in 1946.

1880 criteria - Map of original cabin and surroundings drawn in 1953 by Edward Clawson, grandson, who was born in the cabin in 1884. His notes indicate the cabin was moved in its early years, probably before 1890 where it remained until it was moved to the City Park in 1949.

1921 - photo of cabin rented by the Tays Family. Mr & Mrs. Tays (pictured) lived in the cabin that summer and their daughter's family rented the larger house in the background. (Exhibit)

1946 - Ray Martin purchases the property

1948 - Ray Martin donates the cabin. "Blue Springs Park Home for Old Cabin" Beatrice Daily Sun Dec 1948

February 22, 1949 - Cabin is moved to Blue Springs City Park and funded by donations to the Pioneer Club

Decoration Day 1950 - Johnson Cabin was opened to the public housing a collection of historic relics & articles donated by local citizens.

1963 - The City of Blue Springs becomes owner and caretaker of the Cabin.

Present - The Johnson Cabin Museum is opened on summer holidays, town picnics & by appointment.