A Picnic Mishap

Solomon D. Butcher depicted an 1892 picnic in the cottonwood groves at the former site of Fort Kearny in Buffalo County. NSHS RG2608-2908

Solomon D. Butcher depicted an 1892 picnic in the cottonwood groves at the former site of Fort Kearny in Buffalo County. NSHS RG2608-2908

Picnicking is one of the most enjoyable summer pastimes, and Nebraskans more than one hundred years ago enjoyed it as much as we do today. Occasionally, however, these outings were marred by mishaps more serious than the presence of ants.  

An unusual accident befell a party of Albion picnickers in 1907. The Norfolk Weekly News-Journal of June 14, 1907, under the headline “Buggy Burns, Lunch Too,” reported that members of a “fishing party” of young people hosted by a local doctor “were enjoying the enticing pastime of landing the elusive trout and sunfish and were so engrossed in the pleasant pursuit that they were utterly unaware of the fact that the carriage in which they came to the brook was burning while standing with the horses hitched to it.  

“After [fishing] awhile the pangs of hunger drove the party to their base of supplies and when they arrived at where they hoped to partake of an elaborate out-of-door dinner they found the feast in ashes as were also their carriage, wraps and bonnets. The faithful horses still stood hitched to the buggy tongue with their tails slightly scorched, but otherwise no worse for the fate that had overtaken the feast, the wraps and the carriage.”  

John Nelson’s photograph of picnickers, dating to 1907-1917, included several horses and two buggies in the background. NSHS RG3542-102-13

John Nelson’s photograph of picnickers, dating to 1907-1917, included several horses and two buggies in the background. NSHS RG3542-102-13

Learn more about the important role large, community-wide picnics and celebrations played in the history of rural Nebraska in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries in Nathan B. Sanderson’s “More Than a Potluck: Shared Meals and Community Building in Rural Nebraska at the Turn of the Twentieth Century,” in the Fall 2008 issue of Nebraska History. Read an excerpt on the Nebraska State Historical Society website or buy the issue at the Society’s Landmark Stores. — Patricia C. Gaster, Assistant Editor for Research and Publications

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