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7 Pieces Of History Near Grand Island, NE

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Grand Island, Nebraska, is a small city of around 50,000 residents located in the heart of the Great Plains. Although it may not be the first place that comes to mind when one thinks of historical events, the area around Grand Island has witnessed its fair share of significant moments throughout history. Here are seven notable events that have taken place near Grand Island, Nebraska.

1. The Mormon Pioneer Trail: In the mid-1800s, thousands of Mormons traveled across the Great Plains to reach their new settlement in Utah. One of the most famous routes taken by these pioneers was the Mormon Pioneer Trail, which passed through Grand Island on its way west. Today, visitors can still follow the trail and learn about the hardships endured by these early settlers.

2. The Homestead Act: In 1862, President Abraham Lincoln signed the Homestead Act, which granted 160 acres of land to anyone who was willing to settle and farm it for five years. This act helped fuel the westward expansion of the United States, and many homesteaders settled in the Grand Island area. Visitors can learn about the history of homesteading at the Stuhr Museum of the Prairie Pioneer in nearby Grand Island.

3. The Union Pacific Railroad: Grand Island played a key role in the development of the Union Pacific Railroad, which connected the eastern and western coasts of the United States in the late 1800s. The city served as a major shipping hub for cattle and grain, and visitors can see remnants of this history at the restored Union Pacific Depot in downtown Grand Island.

4. The Orphan Train: Between 1854 and 1929, an estimated 250,000 homeless and orphaned children were sent by train from the East Coast to families in the Midwest and West. Many of these children passed through Grand Island on their way to new homes, and the Grand Island Independent newspaper documented the arrival of several groups of Orphan Train riders.

5. World War II Prisoner of War Camps: During World War II, several prisoner of war camps were located in and around Grand Island. These camps housed German and Italian soldiers who had been captured in North Africa and Europe. Today, visitors can learn about this history at the Heartland Military Museum, which is located on the site of one of the former POW camps.

6. The Nebraska State Fair: Since 1868, the Nebraska State Fair has been held in Grand Island every year. The fair showcases the agricultural and industrial heritage of the state, and attracts visitors from across Nebraska and beyond.

7. The 1980 Tornado Outbreak: On June 3, 1980, a powerful tornado outbreak struck the Great Plains, including Grand Island. In all, seven tornadoes touched down in the area, causing extensive damage and killing five people. Today, visitors can see the remains of one of the destroyed homes at the Nebraska Firefighter's Museum and Education Center in Grand Island.

In conclusion, Grand Island, Nebraska, may not be as well-known as some other historical sites, but the area has witnessed a number of significant events over the years. From homesteading and the Mormon Pioneer Trail to World War II POW camps and devastating tornadoes, there is plenty of history to discover in this corner of the Great Plains.
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