Colonization

The only way to get to the Prospect Hill monument is a map or GPS. There is no signage to speak of, and the monument isn't what you might call stunning. It's big, but not huge. Both itself and what it commemorates seems little more than a footnote. Go on up and read it for yourself.

On Prospect Hill, Sheldon Jackson, T.C. Cleland and J.C. Elliott, strict Presbyterians all, pledged in prayer to beget a campaign, as the monument still claims, to “win the west for Christ."

Paul Hermans / Wikimedia Commons

They're sweet these days, as long as they stay in their banks. When and if they flood, they're a pain, and most do come spring, unless they're damned up somewhere and brow-beaten into behaving. Outside of swelling up after some gully-washer, rivers are little more than a sweet feature of our landscape, home to ducks and geese, and life itself for deer and coons and a whole gallery of neighboring wildlife. You can pump ‘em out and sprinkle what you get over parched land. But that's it: rivers are just, well, rivers. We notice them only when they get out of line.

Unknown author, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

To much of the world, Nebraska, alas, is fly-over country, even if you're in a mini-van, so boooooring because the landscape is so featureless. . .until you come up on petrified natural monuments like Chimney Rock, a site that pumps the traveler’s heart with pioneer hope.

All those old west Nebraska rock formations are something. They’re sandstone and hard clay, changing even as we speak. But when you're coming up the Trail, east to west, you get close to Chimney Rock and you can't help feeling you're getting somewhere. 

James C. Schaap

As late as the 1930s locals still found bones right here, on a flat spot of ground in what was once a wide river bed.  Bones--the skeletons of ponies that had belonged to Black Kettle's Cheyenne people. 

James C. Schaap

Out in the middle of nowhere, an old white frame building is all that remains of a heart-felt dream that, as an answer to prayer, opened its doors in 1893 to a dozen kids who wanted an education not otherwise available in the Dakota Territories before the turn of the century. 

Thomas M. Easterly

Had I gone to school in Iowa, perhaps, I’d have known a headman, a chief, named No Heart; after all, his people left their name behind when they travelled west and south. We're Iowans because of him--and them. They left their name behind, but little more we design to remember.

Nonetheless, you should know that No Heart’s descendants are a proud people who live in Oklahoma and have for years, despite their name. They call home just outside the town where my son's family lives, just across the Cimarron.