Opening the Past Is My Livelihood

Jeff’s Story
I’ve loved history and traveling the Great Plains for as long as I can remember. My mom and dad loaded my brothers and me into the camper every summer to take off for points in Nebraska, Minnesota, Wyoming, Montana, and the Dakotas, so I grew up knowing what a broad, diverse, and beautiful land it was.

Curiosity about a Civil War ancestor brought an interest in and travel to sites in that conflict, and since many of the Civil War commanders like Custer, Sheridan, and Sherman came here for the Indian wars, I began visiting those forts and battlefields as well. But it was when I found the Fort Sidney museum closed during what would be normal business hours that my life changed.

I started on a list for sites like that to visit for myself and my friends, but after finding out more and more information on the sites, I thought it might work as a book. I traveled more than 13,000 miles to write Forts of the Northern Plains and sold it to Stackpole Books, which published it in 2008.

I knew that any success as an author would include getting out and talking about my book. I had no experience and no real inclination for public speaking, but it was something I knew I would at least have to try. I did so before a friendly group of mostly family and friends at the General Crook House at Fort Omaha, and actually found I enjoyed it. When someone came up and asked how much it would cost for me to come to speak to her group, it occurred to me for the first time people might actually pay me to talk about what I loved.

Since then, I’ve made more than 350 appearances across the Great Plains, not just to promote my books but also to tell the stories of the people who lived, worked, and traveled through here. I enjoy telling people of what used to be here, what happened here, why things are the way they are, and why it’s relevant today.

Opening the Past

About JeffDSC_0013 (1)
After a career in journalism, advertising, and marketing, Jeff Barnes now makes his living as an independent historian and freelance writer in Omaha with his wife Susan. He has a BA degree from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and is the author of the books Forts of the Northern Plains, The Great Plains Guide to Custer, and the forthcoming The Great Plains Guide to Buffalo Bill.

Barnes is a trustee of the Nebraska State Historical Society, past chairman of the Nebraska Hall of Fame Commission, and presenter with Humanities Nebraska.

Chautauqua Contest!

Organized by Humanities Nebraska, the Chautauqua Series brings workshops, presentations, and other activities for children and adults across the state in celebration of heritage and political and cultural happenings. This year’s theme is Free Land? 1862 and the Shaping of Modern America.
Book Cover

In the spirit of the upcoming Chautauqua series happening across Nebraska this month, we’re GIVING AWAY two signed copies of I Am a Man: Chief Standing Bear’s Journey for Justice by Joe Starita. To enter, leave a comment on this blog post telling us who you are looking forward to presenting underneath the Chautauqua tent and why!

We will randomly select the two winners on Monday, June 24. The winner will be notified via email, so it is important you leave a valid, active email address when leaving your comment. Good luck, and don’t forget to like our Facebook page or follow us on Twitter to stay in-the-know on future events and giveaways!

Learn more about the Chautauqua Series

Papillion Schedule
Wednesday, June 19
7PM: Warren Brown as Mark Twain
7:30PM: Betty Jean Steinshouer as author Willa Cather

Thursday, June 20
7PM Warren Brown as Mark Twain
7:30PM Patrick E. McGinnis as Union General and railroad builder Grenville Dodge

Friday, June 21
7PM: Warren Brown as Mark Twain
7:30PM: Karen Vuranch as author and homesteader Laura Ingalls Wilder

Saturday, June 22
7PM: Warren Brown as Mark Twain
7:30PM: Paxton Williams as homesteader and inventor Washington Carver

Sunday, June 23
7PM: Warren Brown as Mark Twain
7:30PM: Taylor Keen as Ponca Chief Standing Bear

Join the Papillion event on Facebook.

Grand Island Schedule
Wednesday, June 26
7PM: Warren Brown as Mark Twain
7:30PM: Betty Jean Steinshouer as author Willa Cather

Thursday, June 27
7PM Warren Brown as Mark Twain
7:30PM Patrick E. McGinnis as Union General and railroad builder Grenville Dodge

Friday, June 28
7PM: Warren Brown as Mark Twain
7:30PM: Karen Vuranch as author and homesteader Laura Ingalls Wilder

Saturday, June 29
7PM: Warren Brown as Mark Twain
7:30PM: Paxton Williams as homesteader and inventor Washington Carver

Sunday, June 30
7PM: Warren Brown as Mark Twain
7:30PM: Taylor Keen as Ponca Chief Standing Bear

Join the Grand Island event on Facebook. 

Official Contest Rules:

  • Contest starts at 9:00am Central Time on Wednesday, June 19 and ends at 9:00am Central Time on Monday, June 24.
  • Eligible entrants must be residents of Nebraska.
  • There can be only one entry per person.
  • Winner will be selected at random from a pool of eligible entries.
  • Winner will be announced on Tuesday, June 25 and notified via the email address submitted with the comment, so entrants must leave a valid, active email address when leaving a comment.
  • If the winner does not respond to communication from Nebraska Cultural Endowment within one week of being notified as the winner, a new winner may be selected.
  • Prize will be distributed by snail mail within 30 days of announcing the winner.
  • The Nebraska Cultural Endowment reserves the right to adjust the contest rules at any time.
  • All federal, state, and local taxes associated with the receipt or use of any prize is solely the responsibility of the winner.