Today, we discovered what a jewel of a small town Ogallala is … if one simply takes the time to explore a place they've likely never heard of before.
Our first stop was at the Petrified Wood & Art Gallery, owned by Harvey and Howard Kenfield. The Kenfield brothers were born on March 6, 1928 in Albion, Nebraska. In 1932 they moved with their family to Keith County, Brule area.
They graduated from Brule High School in 1946. They then moved to Ogallala and started work at Goodall Electric Mfg. Co. In 1950, both brothers were drafted into the army and attended basic training at Ft. Riley, Kansas. In 1951, they served together with the 24th Infantry Division in Korea. They received Honorable Discharges in 1952 and returned to work for Goodall Electric. In 1953, they began their rock hobby by collecting Native American artifacts. This led in 1954 to the cutting and polishing of rocks. They spent many years devoted to the grinding and polishing of rock, attended many Gem & Mineral Shows and spent many vacations hunting for petrified wood in Western Wyoming with friends George & Edith Steudler. On October 12, 1974, Harvey married Glenda Ross and on March 8, 1975, Howard married Glenva Keith. In 1976, they purchased one acre of land south of Ogallala and built their present homes and the Petrified Wood Gallery.
On March 31, 1980, Harvey and Howard retired from their jobs, which they held for 42 years.
Now 90 years old, neither of them wears glasses or needs hearing aids … and, while the both use walkers, they are sharp as a tack, informative (both taking considerable time with us) and anxious to share thier story and the backgrounds on the eclectic items in their gallery. An incredibly delightful pair of gentlemen!
Three sculptures dominate the outside of the gallery.
Entering you are greeted by a 7-foot cowboy boot.
Petrified wood is a type of fossil. It forms when organic wood is rapidly buried in sediments that protect it from decay. Groundwater rich in dissolved minerals then replaces the original plant material with minerals such as silica (quartz) in a process called permineralization.
- Internal structures such as tree rings and wood grains can often be seen in petrified wood.
- Petrified wood gets it’s often brilliant coloration from the different minerals that replace the organic material. Reds/browns/yellows often come from iron oxides, pinks/oranges from manganese, greens from copper, etc.
- Petrified wood a relatively common fossil, it is often polished as the polishing allows for the inner structures of the fossilized wood to be more easily seen.
- Often petrified wood preserves the trace fossils of other animals such as insect borings and sometime even the scars of ancient forest fires.
- A petrified forest refers to a whole forest that has become petrified. There are dozens of well known petrified forests around the world.
- Maybe the most well known petrified forest is the 225 million year old Arizona Petrified Forest which covers hundreds of square miles.
- The oldest known petrified forest is The Gilboa fossil forest, in the Catskill Mountains of upstate New York.
- Unlike most fossils which are only found in sedimentary rocks, petrified wood is often found in volcanic deposits. Often times complete forests can be covered with ash, mudflows or pyroclastic debris.
- Petrified driftwood has been found in many locations. One classic example is "peanut wood" from Australia that gets it's names white markings which are the filled in boreholes of marine clams
- Most petrified wood has very little monetary value. In the case of most petrified wood sold commercially, the cost is mostly in the polishing which is very labor intensive, not the raw material itself.
- Native Americans frequently used petrified wood to craft jewelry and even spear points.
A very small smapling of what they have on display includes:
Hickory – from Oregon
Other minerals and fossils include:
10 Million year old Fossilized Turtle Shells – from Nebraska
which will grow up to be a
Agates (below) are formed from minute crystals of quartz carried by water flowing through voids left by gas bubbles in a lava flow. The varied and brilliant coloring of agates is produced by trace amounts of impurities such as copper or iron that are also brought in by groundwater. The banding seen in many agates reflects changes in the type of impurity as the procees continues. Agates are found in numerous locations around the world. The lovely color patterns and banding make this translucent gemstone very unique. Agates can have many distinctive styles and patterns, but each Agate is unique in its own habit, with no two Agates being the same.
Sphere made from a Dinosaur Bone
These near-perfect spheres are made by Harvey and Howard … polishing by hand.
- Use a diamond saw to cut out a cube of desired size.
- Make a circlethe size of your sphereby cutting each corner and edge, resulting in an 18-sided object.
- Grind off the sharp points and corners to create a lumpy ball
- Build you own sphere grinding machine.
- Hand grind the lumpy ball for 30 to 80 hours until it is round.
- Hand sand the ball up to 5 hours until it is real smooth.
- With 40 to 90 hours of hand work a near-perfect sphere can result.for
By this time we had already noticed the 3-dimensional "pictures" hung everywhere.
We thought these were made from barnboard or some other easily available material and then painted. Actually, it turns out that each was made by Harvey or Howard and that every piece of each "picture" is cut from petrified wood, typically from small branches.
Others were framed by what we were told were wood replacements from two sites in Nevada. Replacement occurs when a branch is covered with silt or volcanic ash and, over time, the wood fibers have rotted. The cast made by the wood which is now hollow and is then filled with silica. Only the shape of the original wood remains … the wood structure not longer exists.
Then, there were their incredible music boxes.
Two other items of interest were a sculpture of a small girl on a tricycle
The is also a section of the gallary dedicated to the antiquity of plains Native Americans .. with all of the artifacts having been found within 25 miles Ogallala between 1950 and 1975. One campsite (the Omaha Beach area) was where many of the arrow points were found. This site was dated to the late 1600 and the plains Apache adn Sioux.
Other whole and broken arrowheads have been used to create unique "pictures".
There were several sculptures
and another replacement window box depcting a cliff dwelling typical of the Anasazi ("Ancient Ones"), thought to be ancestors of the modern Pueblo Indians, inhabited the Four Corners country of southern Utah, southwestern Colorado, northwestern New Mexico, and northern Arizona from about A.D. 200 to A.D. 1300,
The dwelling were made from the actual bricks used to build the 1888 Ogallala Court House. The courthouse brick was manufactured by the Reclor Brick Company in Ogallala … which also manufactured the brick used to construct the Mansion on the Hill (see below).
Across the street from the Gallery is Front Street,
We also discovered there were areas where the city streets were prone to flooding,
The Lincoln Highway was one of the earliest transcontinental highways for automobiles across the United States of America. It was formally dedicated October 31, 1913 and coast-to-coast through 14 states from Times Square in New York City west to Lincoln Park in San Francisco. The first officially recorded length of the entire Lincoln Highway in 1913 was 3,389 miles. Over the years, the road was improved and numerous realignments were made, and by 1924 the highway had been shortened to 3,142 miles.
and a former Standard Oil Co. gas station opened in 1920 and was restored in 2003 … one of just 20 Standard Oil stations still standing.
Our next stop was the Masnion on the HIll.
An authentic Victorian style home, the Mansion on the Hill was Ogallala’s finest residence when it was completed in 1887. The Mansion was built by L.A. Brandhoefer, and was made of red brick kilned at the local brick factory. The home was first occupied for any length of time by the H.L. McWilliams family. Mr. McWilliams was a local banker, and his wife enjoyed entertaining from the beautiful home.
Located at the corner of West 10th and Spruce Street, the mansion has many unique features, including ten foot ceilings, sixteen inch thick solid brick walls, walnut shuttered windows, and solid brass hardware throughout. Other attractions include two beautifully hand carved cherry wood fireplaces, carved corner blocks and panel inserts on doors and window frames, and ornate curved staircase leading to the second floor.
Music Room Mirror
Music Room Vintage Organ
Music Room Chandellier
Dining Room Clock
Notice the celery sprig in water in the center of the table. At the time, celery was an indicator of a family's wealth
Kitchen with a coal stove and an ice box "refrigerator"
Stairs to Second Floor
Bathroom – no toilet or shower!
Transom windows above bed and bath room doors
The Mansion also includes some unique items
Duarte Permanent Wave Machine (circa 1938)
Adjacent to the Mansion is the O'Brien-Lute one-room K-8 School … which taught students from 1902 up into the 1960s
Each teacher left her signature in teacher's desk drawer
and a typical Homestead-era Ranch
From the Masion, we headed out of town toward Kingsley Dam and Hydroelectric plant and Lake McConaughy. Leaving the city behind, we were struck by the beautiful starkness of much of the near treeless landscape … reminidng us of some scenes from "Dances with Wolves".
Stopping at the visitor's center,
It was designed to allow inspectors to dive to the bottom of the reservoir to inspect the am. However, the visibility was so poor at those depths that the concept was abandoned after one dive.
The lake, Nebraska's largest at 22 miles long, up to 4½ miles wide, with a maximum depth of 142 feet and containing 1,740,000 acre feet of water, is one of the states top tourist attractions.
Kingsley Dam is located on the east side of Lake McConaughy is the second largest hydraulic fill dam in the world. It was built as part of the New Deal project. The dam is 162 feet tall, 3.1 miles long, and 1,100 feet wide at its base. On the east side of the dam is Lake Ogallala and on the south side is the Kingsley Hydroelectricity Plant.
Our last stop for the day was at Boot Hill.
This statue pays tribute to those courageous men who came up the Texas Trail and recognizes the role the trail drives played in establishing the beef cattle industry in the northern plains.
Among some of Boot Hills permanent residents are:
Sarah Miller and Infant – Sarah was only 24 when she and her baby died during childbirth
"Rattlesnake" Ed Woley – was shot by a fellow gambler in a saloon in 1884 during an arguement of $9.00
Pedro – a horse thief was gunned down by lawnmen in September 1874
Henry Parker – was killed in the shootout with WIlliam Brewton
An Unknown Cheyenne Warrior – was apparently killed during an 1878 raid across the South Platte River
Amos Black – a Cowboy from Texas
Posts through out the Boot Hill Graveyard indicate where original graves were located